September 27, 1918|
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||January 21, 1995
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Unit||E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Bronze Star (2) (w.OLC)
Purple Heart (2)
Presidential Unit Citation (w.OLC)
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Kevin (son, predeceased)
|Other work||Tax Collector, Director of Pupils, and teacher in the Wilkes-Barre high school district|
First Lieutenant Harry F. Welsh (September 27, 1918 – January 21, 1995) was a commissioned officer of the United States Army who served with Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, during World War II. Welsh was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Rick Warden.
Welsh was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a notable mining town in the northeast. He attended E. L. Meyers High School. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the American entry into World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army, and volunteered for the paratroopers, part of the army's newly created airborne forces, sometime in 1942. He was assigned to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 504th, commanded by Colonel Reuben Tucker, was part of the 82nd Airborne Division ("The All Americans"), under Major General Matthew Ridgway. While an enlisted man, Welsh was reportedly made a sergeant and then "busted" (demoted) to private six times for fighting. Three of his commanding officers saw his potential and recommended him for Officer Candidate School (OCS).
After graduating from OCS, Welsh was transferred to Company 'E' of the 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, and quickly became friends with First Lieutenant Richard Winters. The 506th, commanded by Colonel Robert Sink, having recently been assigned to the 101st Airborne Division ("The Screaming Eagles"), under Major General William C. Lee (later replaced by Brigadier General Maxwell D. Taylor), soon departed for England, to prepare for the Allied invasion of Normandy and, after arriving in September 1943, settled in Aldbourne, Wiltshire, remaining there in training until late May 1944.
Welsh, along with most of the rest of the 101st, jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 and did not find his company until the next morning, shortly before it was given the task of taking Carentan. When he joined the rest of his company, he was placed in charge of the 1st platoon after Richard Winters took charge of the company after First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan III was killed.
On June 12, 1944, he led his platoon on a direct assault into Carentan. He was pinned down until the rest of Easy Company moved into the town, and after taking the town, 'E' Company moved against a German counterattack south of Omaha Beach. His platoon held the line with Easy Company; during the Battle of Bloody Gulch, Welsh ran into an open field with an enlisted gunner, John McGrath, and knocked out a Sturmgeschütz III, a German armored vehicle, with a bazooka. Elements of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division arrived in force and drove off the remaining Germans.
On September 17, 1944, Welsh dropped into the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden and remained there for the duration of the operation. After its failure, Welsh and the rest of Easy Company returned to Mourmelon-le-Grand, France to await their next assignment.
On December 16, 1944, German armored divisions broke through the American lines in the Ardennes Forest. At this point, Welsh had been reassigned to Headquarters Company of 2nd Battalion; his division was then assigned to the defense of the town of Bastogne. During a battle on Christmas Day, Welsh was severely wounded. Welsh was awarded two Bronze Stars for valor during his combat action, and two purple hearts for being wounded. Welsh and the company did not see any more major combat service for the rest of the war.
Medals and decorations
|Combat Infantryman Badge|
|Parachutist Badge with two combat stars|
|Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Presidential Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster|
|American Defense Service Medal|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three service stars and arrow device|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|Army of Occupation Medal|
Welsh returned home and married Catherine "Kitty" Grogan. For her wedding dress, she used silk from Welsh's reserve parachute. They had one son, Kevin, who died before Welsh. Welsh spent time after the war at different jobs including a teacher at Wilkes-Barre area schools, a tax collector for Luzerne County, he finally became a director of pupils for the Wilkes-Barre area. He retired in 1983. Welsh died of heart failure on January 21, 1995, on his good friend Richard Winters' 77th birthday. His wife Catherine died three years later in 1998. He is buried in the Wilkes-Barre City Cemetery.
- Winters, Major Dick, with Cole C. Kingseed (2006). Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. Berkley Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-425-20813-7.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1992). Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7434-6411-6.