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Tribute to Byers


Tribute to Byers

     The first time I met Dick Byers was at Camp Van Dorn MS, in December 1942. We both were assigned to the detail section of C Battery, 371st Field Artillery. My recollections now are that he was always curious and also very observant. He also was very interested in promotions and was among the first draftees to be promoted to corporal in our battery.

     Along with our basic training, we would spend many afternoons running practice surveys. We used an aiming circle instead of a transit. So Byers thought we should try to do a perfect survey. We took accumulative readings on the angles and very careful checks on the distances. After eight or nine legs, we came back to our starting spot. After carefully computing our measurements (we used a log book — no computers then), we found we had the exact coordinates we started with. That was the only time it came out exact.

     When we went overseas Byers was assigned to Lt. Harold Mayer's forward observer party and I went to Lt. Warren Springer's party. When we went on line, our FO parties alternated so we did not see each other very often. Our FO party was at Lanzerath when the Battle of the Bulge began. I won't go into the events of that day. It has been written about many times — sometimes factual and sometimes fictional.

     I saw Byers once after we were liberated by the 99th. It was at Camp Lucky Strike in France. I did not see or hear from him until late 1989. I believe it was 1988 when Will Cavanagh contacted Byers for information about C Battery 371st and that is how he began his long quest for accurate information about C Battery and all of the 99th. He traveled to England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany many times.

     In time he became recognized as a source for accurate information. Many authors talked to him before they wrote their stories. I never bought a book without asking his opinion. As a result, some books I did not buy. In my opinion, Will Cavanagh's "Dauntless" was one of the more definitive books written.

     I did not see Byers very often after he became ill. I saw him when we were in Cleveland and once on the way home from our Philadelphia reunion. We did talk quite often on the phone. The last time we talked, his voice was just a whisper. True friendship knows no boundaries. With Byers, that's the way it was for me. The 99th lost one of its anchors. Fortunately, we have one more — Bill Meyer.

     I was fortunate to have a copy of Byers' own story and I will close with the past paragraph:

     "During our private ceremonies in the Ardennes commemorating Dec. 16, 1944, at the scene of Dietrich's initial attack, a German veteran said to us: 'Most Americans think they won the Bulge at Bastogne, but we Germans know we lost it on Elsenborn Ridge'."

— Peter Gacki, C/371