J.P. Parker says he's already seen much of Europe. The only problem was that it wasn't on a sightseeing trip. It was during WWII, walking across entire countries and fighting all the way. joan hallmark brings us parker's story in tonights "Freedom Fighters."
Fresh from the piney woods of East Texas, J.P. Parker arrived on Normandy Beach June 12th, 1944, six days after D-day when over 200,000 allied soldiers had lost their lives.
"Every few days you'd get some new soldiers coming into your outfit because you'd lose so many men would get killed and get wounded. It wasn't just 3 or 4, it was hundreds of people dying every day," said Parker. "People that's never been there don't know what it's all about, couldn't visualize it."
As a first scout, Parker would go behind enemy lines at night to assess enemy strength. The battles would begin at dawn. Parker's first big battle was at St. Lowes, followed by the battle of the bulge.
"We met the germans and it was hell," said Parker. "That's when the bulge started. They were attacking the same time we were attacking head on, their tanks and our tanks."
It was there that Parker would find out what "hand to hand combat" really meant.
"I seen it was a German and I was this close to him in the dark. Well, I couldn't get my rifle down to shoot him. I hit him. I hit him. With your fist? my fist right in the mouth. I mean I hit him just as hard as I could. That's the only thing I could do."
The German soldier was taken prisoner, and ironically would serve parker his first meal on returning to the U.S. after the war.
"I understand that the battle of the bulge was the coldest winter europe had known. Oh yeh, we like to froze to death."
But if the Battle of the Bulge was costly for parker and his men, the battle of the Seigfreid Line was even more deadly.
"You said there were only six of you left. That first day we went into Germany, at the Seigfreid Line. My company of a hundred something men, only six of us left, rest of them were wounded or killed. You had a lot of near misses didn't you? Oh yeh, every day every day."
Parker's bronze star was awarded for one of those "near misses."
"I went back to check on my buddies and snipers began to shoot at us, shot at me, shot my helmet off, didn't hit me, knocked my helmet off, shot it off, hit me right between the eyes right here."
In spite of the danger, Parker went on to check on his men and to help the wounded ones. He insists his survival was by the grace of God, and yet even today, 55 years later, J.P. Parker says would do it all over again for his country.
"I'd do it again. I'd do it again if I had to, or try."