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A century in his shoes: WWII veteran, Walkersville resident turns 100

Frederick News-Post - 5/10/2024

On the afternoon of June 6, 1944, Harry Scyphers, 20 years old at the time, landed on Utah Beach in northwestern France.

“I was a reserve. We had backup equipment and clothes and shoes and everything for the ones that lost everything getting on the shore,” he said sitting in his favorite chair at his Walkersville home.

Scyphers has witnessed, experienced, and taken part in decades of history. On Thursday, he turns 100 years old.

Scyphers was born on May 9, 1924, in Abingdon, Va., a small town in the southwestern part of the state.

His family moved to a farm in Poolesville in Montgomery County in 1938. He attended Poolesville High School until he was drafted in the Army in February 1943 for the war abroad. He was 18.

He left for Europe with the First Army’s 348th Quartermaster Depot Company in July 1943, after he completed training.

In less than a year, he found himself a part of a pivotal moment in World War II.

He and others departed for Normandy in the early morning hours of D-Day. They were supposed to land on Omaha Beach, he said, but couldn’t. So they landed on Utah Beach.

Scyphers and the rest of the troops spent the night on the beach, he said. The next morning, the troops continued moving south in France.

Scyphers said he followed the infantry as they pushed deeper into France and Belgium.

The most exciting part for him and his fellow soldiers was the breakthrough in Bastogne, Belgium, known as the Battle of the Bulge.

In a last-ditch effort, the Germans launched an attack against the American front in the Ardennes Forest, which stretches through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. It was December 1944, and troops were fighting in snow a foot deep, Scyphers said.

“They was gonna rip us apart and separate us,” he said. “But it didn’t work that way because [Lieut. General George Patton Jr.] came up with his tanks and we were north with troops, ground troops, and we had tanks and everything, too.”

After that battle, Scyphers and the other troops continued through Europe until the Germans surrendered in May 1945. Scyphers said he was in Austria on Victory in Europe Day.

“We celebrated pretty good,” Scyphers said with a chuckle.

His son, Mike Scyphers, laughed with his wife, Brenda Scyphers, who was sitting next to him.

“I don’t know if I want to hear this,” Mike Scyphers said.

“We have to cover our ears over here,” Brenda Scyphers added.

Harry Scyphers kept smiling. His officers had been planning the celebration, he said, since they knew the end of the war was imminent.

“We did all of our celebrating in the camp. ... It was all in the barracks,” he said.

Scyphers left Europe a few months later, and arrived home in southwest Virginia — they had moved back from Poolesville — a week before Christmas.

After the homecoming, Scyphers moved to Washington, D.C., to find work. That’s where he met his late wife, Cleo Daughtery, in 1946.

“I met this little southern belle from Knoxville, Tennessee,” he said.

He was working in an airplane factory in Washington, D.C., at the time, he said. He and his cousin were living together.

And with the money he got from the Army — $500 — Scyphers bought a 1939 Studebaker so they could get around.

“I didn’t like it,” he said.

So, he sold the Studebaker to his cousin and bought himself a Chevrolet club coupe instead.

Scyphers said his cousin was thrilled about the Studebaker, and immediately wanted to wash it to get dust and grime off it. They asked their landlord for a couple of buckets of water and a hose, and got to washing the Studebaker in the street outside their home.

While they were washing, a group of four girls who lived across the street from them shouted out the window “Take us for a ride!”

One of those girls, he said, was Cleo.

And so, with his cousin and two girls in the front and Scyphers with the two others in the back, the group went for a ride.

“Big spenders that we were, we went out to Silver Spring ... bought them an ice cream cone,” he said. “We treated them first class.”

When they got back to their street, Scyphers said he asked Cleo out to the movies, which was three blocks away. And the rest was history.

They were married 68 years before she died in November 2015, he said.

“The only time I’ve thought about how long I would live is when my wife died and I was by myself,” he said.

After the airplane factory shut down, Scyphers went to work at Safeway. But then, Giant made him a better offer, he said, and he left to work there. He worked for Giant for 34 years, he said.

During that time, the couple had their three children — Mike, Diane Blake and Cheryl Standifer.

Scyphers said he moved to Walkersville in 1993 and has stayed ever since.

All three of his children help him out today, each one having their own dedicated day of the week for their father. His children are superb, he said, and he’s lucky to have them.

“They all have their own home and their families and everything and they’ve got their own responsibility, but they always think of me first,” he said.

Sycphers said he doesn’t have a secret to reaching 100.

He’s lucky that he’s always been healthy. There was a shoulder operation and a knee replacement, but he never had any serious illness, he said.

He’s also never thought about reaching the milestone age. But he has set a new goal.

“I feel like I’d just like to make it 101,” he said.


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