Albert Chalmus Lewis was a true hero of World War II. As an Army scout, he obtained information as to the movement of the enemy forces and reported to his commanding officer. In the winter of 1944, he was severely wounded by enemy fire in his left arm and hand. For his heroism, he received not only a Purple Heart, but a Unit Citation and two bronze stars. His brave actions helped to save American lives in the campaign for Italy.
As a paratrooper in the 509th, he was dropped into the campaigns for North Africa, Sicily, and in Italy, Venafro, Avellino, and Anzio. His unit was then assigned a critical defensive position, which they held despite heavy losses. For its heroic actions in stopping the desperate German counterattck at Carano, Italy, the 509th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the first parachute unit so honored. On February 15, 1944 however, during this fighting, Albert was severely wounded in his left arm and hand from stepping on a landmine.
How did PVT Lewis get wounded?
Daddy was assigned to the Headquarters Company, 509th Paratrooper Infantry BN to do reconnaissance and gather intelligence behind enemy lines. He had permission to enter the War Room to give reports. On February 15, 1944, during the battle for Anzio, Daddy was on patrol behind German lines with a forward double grip Tommy machine gun, an M1 and a 45 on his hip when he was wounded. The patrol ran across land mines on a string. “It knocked us down,” he said, “but I was lucky on the hit.” He tied his left arm up with a tourniquet and headed for help. He lined up with others waiting to get treated. He was in much pain waiting for, as he put it, “the more severely wounded to be treated.” He related the story of the Mississippi doctor who treated him and said he said that when his turn for medical assistance came, the doctor was not very hopeful that he could save the injured arm. Massive amounts of muscle were removed from the forearm and palm of his hand. He then related the following conversation with the doctor who said to him, “I think we can save this arm after all.” My Daddy responded in his wonderful way, “I would appreciate it if you would. I might need it sometime.”
He was in the hospital for a week to 10 days and then to the 118th station hospital in Naples for pins in his arm and a cast. He was then sent to Tunis for passage on a freighter to Norfolk, VA and in May of 1944, once stateside, to the Ashford Army Hospital at the Greenbrier Hotel complex in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia for a year of surgeries and rehabilitation.
Only 21 of Daddy’s original outfit came back. The 509th Regiment was disbanded and became the 2nd Battalion 509th. Besides the Purple Heart, Pvt Lewis earned 3 bronze stars and 1 arrowhead. He heard of the war’s end on the radio as he was being released from the hospital. He left the Army after 5 years, 4 months and 23 days in service. After almost 3 months he was returned to the US in May of 1944 and spent a year at Ashford General Hospital in West Virginia undergoing surgeries. His arm was in and out of a cast for another year. He married my mother, Ruby Nichols Lewis, from Wilson on Auguest 6, 1945 (a day famous for another monumental WWII event – dropping of the atomis bomb on Hiroshima) and I came along in April of 1949. Although declared disabled due to his injuries, he never exhibited nor relied on this designation as he lived his life. He passed away on January 17, 2005. Geronimo!
We honor you, Albert Lewis.
(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)