Staff Sergeant Harold John Ward
- Unit: 101st Airborne Division, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment
- Service Number: 20701156
- Date of Birth: January 27, 1918
- Entered the Military: February 10, 1941
- Date of Death: June 28, 1944
- Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa
- Place of Death: near Montebourg, France
- Award(s): Bronze Star, Purple Heart
- Cemetery: Plot D, Row 6, Grave 35. Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Mentored by Mrs. Kelly Steffen
Vinton-Shellburg High School
Harold John Ward was born on January 27, 1918, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to William and Dora Ward. Harold was the youngest of five children. He had two brothers, Leo and Glen, and two sisters, Helen and Vera. Harold attended the Cedar Falls Community School District through his junior year of high school. After high school, Harold worked as a carpenter for a construction company and machinist at Viking Pump in Cedar Falls.
On February 10, 1941, Harold Ward enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Like the rest of Iowa and the United States, at the beginning of the war, Cedar Falls was still feeling the effects of the Great Depression. Throughout these challenging times, the city and surrounding towns were very community-based, supporting the Ma and Pop stores that filled their hometowns, venturing away from home only if necessary. All social classes were suffering from economic difficulties, especially farmers and laborers. It was considered a matter of “civic loyalty” to the community to support local businesses.
A Surge to Serve
As war broke out across the world and America became more and more involved, Cedar Falls citizens wanted to do their part. Some citizens enlisted in the military. Others sought jobs in factories throughout the city producing goods such as textiles, tires, and trucks, which were necessary for the war effort. Still, others spent hours a day slaving away behind a plow, producing food for a continuously growing military. Civilians not holding jobs in factories or on farms bought war bonds to provide funds so the military could obtain vital supplies necessary to win the war.
“Servicemen are News”
Being a fairly small town, Cedar Falls was very community-oriented in the midst of World War II. The community wanted to know how their boys were doing worldwide, from the Aleutians to Tripoli, from Normandy to Guadalcanal. The Cedar Falls Daily Record ran a daily segment, relaying news soldiers sent in letters home to their families.
401st Glider Infantry Regiment
Private Harold Ward served in the 401st Glider Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. In August 1942, the 401st Infantry Regiment was deactivated as an infantry regiment and reactivated as an airborne infantry regiment. The regiment included two infantry battalions that would enter the field of battle through gliders or other transport aircraft.
The 401st Glider Infantry Regiment trained at posts across the southern and southeastern United States when they were shipped off to New York. On September 4, 1943, the unit embarked for Liverpool, England. From Liverpool, the soldiers took a blacked-out train overnight to a training facility in Reading.
The unit took part in Exercises Eagle, Beaver, and Tiger. In March 1944, the regiment was split. The 1st Battalion remained in the 101st Airborne Division but became the 3rd Battalion of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment. The 2nd Battalion became the 3rd Battalion of the 328th Glider Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 1st Battalion landed on the “Uncle Red” sector of Utah Beach, attached to the 4th Infantry Division. Altogether, they spent 33 days in combat.
Staff Sergeant Ward was killed in action on June 28, 1944, likely near the French village of Montebourg, most likely by a German artillery round. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his actions.
I am sad to say that I never had the pleasure of meeting Harold John Ward. Harold was a patriot, a soldier, a son, and a brother. Staff Sergeant Harold Ward gave his life to the great country that is the United States of America so that its people may forever enjoy the three unalienable rights stated in its Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Then, on that fateful day of June 28, 1944, Staff Sergeant Harold Ward was killed fighting on the defensive line near the village of Montebourg, halfway up the peninsula between Carentan and Cherbourg, most likely by an artillery round fired from the fortress port of Cherbourg. Harold left behind a father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters in his hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Staff Sergeant Ward has proven to me that real heroes do not have superpowers and dress in fancy costumes to fight villains, but ordinary men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect ordinary people like you and me.
Harold Ward: there is no way for anyone in the world to thank you for the selfless sacrifice you made for your country and your world. I only hope that I can help people to remember you and your fellow soldiers.
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“Closes Shop to Enlist in Navy.” Cedar Falls Daily Record, July 24, 1942.
“D.B. Johnson Promoted to Major’s Rank.” Cedar Falls Daily Record, August 11, 1942.
“Don’t Let Refusals Get You Down!.” Cedar Falls Daily Record, January 5, 1942.
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“For Victory.” Cedar Falls Daily Record, February 14, 1942.
Harold John Ward. 1937. Photograph. Red and Black. Cedar Falls Public High School Yearbook.
Harold John Ward. Iowa World War II Bonus Case Files for Beneficiaries, 1947-1959. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
Harold John Ward. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. ancestry.com.
“Hermann’s Getting Cautious!” Cedar Falls Daily Record, May 6, 1942.
Iowa. Black Hawk County. 1920 U.S. Federal Census. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
Iowa. Black Hawk County. 1930 U.S. Federal Census. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
Iowa. Black Hawk County. 1940 U.S. Federal Census. Digital Images. ancestry.com.
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“Sgt. Harold Ward Killed in Action.” Cedar Falls Daily Record, July 29, 1944.
“War Bulletins.” Cedar Falls Daily Record, June 8, 1944.
“The 401st Glider Infantry Regiment.” The 101st Airborne, World War II. Accessed February 19, 2021. www.ww2-airborne.us/units/401/401.html.
Beevor, Antony. D-Day. New York: Penguin Group, 2009.
Stokesbury, James L. A Short History of World War II. New York: HarperCollins, 1980.
“Harold J. Ward.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed February 19, 2021. www.abmc.gov/decedent-search/ward%3Dharold-1.