LIVINGSTON – For many local veterans, Memorial Day brings back memories of friends and comrades who shared foxholes and fear as they fought across battlefields in Europe, Asia or the Middle East.
On Monday, special tributes ranging from services at the Livingston Veterans of Foreign Wars Post at 11 a.m. to a special flag raising ceremony at 9 a.m. will mark this year’s Memorial Day. The flag program, hosted by the Livingston Rotary Club and the City of Livingston, will include the raising of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Prisoner of War flags on newly constructed polls locate at the fountain pond at the intersection of U.S. 190 and U.S. 59 Loop.
One of the local veterans who will be remembering fallen comrades on Monday is Gordie H. “Bud” Robinett, 95, of Livingston.
A paratrooper with the elite 82nd Airborne Division during World War II, Robinett saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Italy before jumping into France as part of the airborne D-Day contingent on June 6, 1944
Born Nov. 2, 1921, in Livingston, the son of Jay and Mettie Robinett, he attended Onalaska schools until the eighth grade. His family of six were raised as farmers.
In 1940, Robinett decided to join the U.S. Army, initially as part of the cavalry but soon transferred to become a paratrooper. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).
After completing training, Robinett and his fellow paratroopers were sent to Camp Shanks, the port of embarkation in New York and were immediately loaded onto transports and shipped to Casablanca in North Africa. While there, he and his unit made numerous parachute jumps behind enemy lines with the goal of cutting off the retreating German forces who were at that point trying to flee from Africa.
During those missions, the paratroopers cut supply and communication lines to help pave the way for the ground troops as they engaged units of the German “Afrika Korps.”
When U.S. and British forces launched the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, Robinett jumped into that battleground and remained there until that island was captured.
In January 1944, his unit landed on the beach at Anzio in Italy where they were ordered to knock out big German guns that were aimed at the beach. The unit took part in heavy combat along the Mussolini Canal and Robinett recalled that the cost in lives was immense. It was the 504th PIR’s fierce fighting that earned the unit the nickname
“Devils in Baggy Pants,” which was taken from an entry in a German officer’s diary.
Throughout this fighting, he made 57 jumps often working as a sniper who was sent behind enemy lines to engage German officers. He then had to return to American lines on his own.
While fighting in France following D-Day, Robinett was wounded near Bastogne, Belgium. He was hit in the left thigh by a piece of shrapnel but due to the intensity of the fighting in the freezing cold weather he could not receive medical attention for three to four hours.
The wound became infected and extensive surgery was subsequently required. Initially, he was treated in a field hospital in North Africa and later transferred to a hospital in Temple, Texas where he remained until he was discharged in 1944.
During the war, two of his bothers, Audry and Pergie Robinett were killed.
After he returned to Polk County, he worked as a welder for 35 years and today he owns and operates his craft shop on Highway 146 where he builds a variety of wooden craft items.
He married Hazel Cotton in 1950 and they remained together until her death in 2004. He has three daughters, Shirley, Pat and Terrie, as well as eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.