U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Cecil Blair, a WWII veteran, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
When Blair was born on February 28, 1923 his hometown was named Magic Springs; today it’s called Witts Springs. The lifelong Searcy County resident grew up on his family’s farm.
As a teenager, Blair worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps before being drafted into the Army in May 1943.
Blair was first sent to Camp Robinson where he received his initial issue of uniforms. He still laughs about his shoe fitting. “The ole boy there was telling me to ‘stand that way, stand that way.’ He had his finger under my foot and I stepped on his finger. I thought I was in trouble.”
Blair trained stateside at Fort Custer, Michigan and Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania before deploying to the European Theater. He was assigned to Battery “B” 551st Field Artillery. “We landed in Scotland and rode a train to England,” Blair said.
He didn’t know it at the time, but the training that he and his fellow troops were undergoing was in preparation for D-Day.
“We got on a boat and went across, but I didn’t make land. They hit the ship I was on and had to pull us back,” Blair said. It was another three days after D-Day before Blair landed in France. “That’s when all hell broke loose.”
Blair remembers the danger of combat wiping out most of his unit. The inexperience of a replacement soldier cost even more lives. “They had sent me down there to tell him to get in his foxhole and stay. Before I got back, he shot and that’s when they started dropping the bombs.” Blair was in the line of fire but escaped by jumping into a foxhole, a move that saved his life, but injured his neck.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Blair was briefly captured. “The Germans told us to put our hands behind our head and get out. The ole boy sitting in front of me, I guess he forgot. He reached down on the seat buckle and they just blew his head off.” Blair and the two surviving soldiers were forced out of the truck while the Germans continued their attack. “They came around and went through to see if we were all dead. I knew I was going to have to do something.” Blair was still armed with hand grenades and a small rifle which he used to escape his captors.
Blair earned five campaign stars in five major battles in the European Theater. He was discharged from military service on December 1, 1945. After being released from the military, he returned home and continued farming.
“Cecil Blair humbly served our nation in uniform, fighting on the frontlines to defend the world against tyranny. His memories offer a unique perspective of the selfless sacrifice of the men and women who put their lives on the line in duty to our country. I am pleased to preserve and share his memories of military service for future generations,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Blair’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.