Foy Wright: An American hero

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“They have earned our undying gratitude,” President Harry S Truman once said. “America will never forget their sacrifices.”

These words are carved in stone at the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. as a testament to the heroic men and women who served in the Second World War.

Yet Demopolis holds its own living testament to the bravery displayed in WWII in the life Foy A. Wright.

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A native of Franklin County, Ala., Wright was drafted into the Army 67 years ago.

“I welcomed it. There was never a dread in my mind,” Wright said. “They sent for me, and I went and that’s all there was to it.”

Wright served in the signal company of the communications division of the 48th Armored Infantry Battalion. During his training at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Wright recalled his commanding officer addressing the company about Hitler’s attack on England.

“He told us England couldn’t defend their coast, and he asked for volunteers to step forward to go over and help,” Wright said. “All 250 men in the company stepped forward.”

Wright traveled to England aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the largest ships in the world at that time.

“There was a storm on the North Sea, and [the ship] went over the waves and then under water, even as big as it was,” Wright recalled. “We worked our way through the North Sea like a black snake, dodging German submarines.”

After fighting the Battle of Great Britain, Wright took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He remembers German artillery shells zeroing in on his ship, and the ship captain’s last minute decision to move.

“We barely got out of the way,” Wright said.

Soon after Wright’s ship moved, another ship was destroyed with the artillery shells intended for his boat.

“I came off the ship on a rope ladder with everything I owned tied to me, and they got to shooting at us,” Wright said. “I could see the Germans sitting on the beach looking at us.”

Wright also fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Even though he left the trenches during the 5,000-plane air raid, he miraculously survived.

“The sky had turned black, and shrapnel was just raining down,” Wright said. “We came out of the foxholes and didn’t get hit. The Lord just took care of us.”

Later, on the same day the rest of the world was mourning the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Wright and his fellow soldiers were mourning a different kind of tragedy when they found the concentration camp at Nordhausen, Germany.

“There were some survivors… Some didn’t have clothes on; they didn’t have enough to keep warm. You could count their ribs.”

Although Wright’s WWII experiences occurred more than 60 years ago, he continues to relive them on a regular basis.

“You feel a lot different when you’ve climbed and walked over the dead,” Wright said. “Many a night I’m awake all night long reliving what happened. [The memories] will never go away.”

Until recently, Wright chose not to share his experiences with anyone.

“I went 60 years without telling my wife or children anything,” he said. “When I was 82, I had open-heart surgery. Lying on my back split open, all this stuff came back to me.”

Wright earned a Silver Star in honor of his service in the European Theater, spanning the Battle of Great Britain to the Battle of Berlin. He also earned a Medal for Good Conduct and five gold bars, each representing six months of combat.

Wright met his wife of 62 years, Hettie Lee, while traveling home through Demopolis in 1945. He has two children, Foy Wright Jr. and Bernice Cork.