Skaggs, Howard L. (634th)

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Biography:  Howard Lee Skaggs was born on March 15, 1923, in Hart County, Kentucky. He was the son of Leighlan Thomas Skaggs and Mary Elizabeth Druen and attended local schools through the 6th grade. He then worked as a farmer and sharecropper.

On May 22, 1943. Howard married the former Elizabeth Lucille Bailey who was also born in Hart Co. and was the daughter of Raymond Lee Bailey and Lovey Dye. 

Service Time:  Howard entered the Army on December 10, 1943, at Louisville, KY, and did his basic training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. He received additional training at Camp McClellan, Alabama, and earned a Marksman rating with the rifle. 

The 634th had shipped out from the New York port on December 29, 1943, and arrived in England on January 8, 1944. By the end of June, they had landed on Utah beach, equipped with M10 tank destroyers, and entered battle near Carentan, France. The unit joined the Cobra Breakout and helped capture Mayenne and defeat the Mortain counteroffensive in early August.

Howard and Lucille would celebrate the birth of their first son, James, born in June of 1944. It was only a short time later when Howard was sent overseas as a replacement and was assigned to Company A of the 634th Tank Destroyer Battalion, in July.

They raced east to Mons, Belgium, and supported operations against the Siegfried Line and the capture of Aachen, Germany, in October, before fighting in the Hürtgen Forest in November. They moved back to Belgium in December, and then raced south to the Ardennes in late December. Crossing the Roer River on February 25, 1945, they pushed to the Rhine River at Bonn, by March 9th, and then crossed the river at Remagen, on March 15th, which happened to be Howard’s 22nd birthday.

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One of Howard’s duties included driving the Company Commander, Cpt. Thomas B. Anderson, and the Executive officer, 1st Lt. Sam L. Daniels, around in his jeep. The photo above right shows Howard in the driver’s seat but we are unsure of who his passengers are.

Howard recalled that while in Germany, the unit rolled into a small town and set up their Headquarters. One of the men saw a cow standing in a corral and told the other men they were gonna have beef tonight. The soldier approached the cow to shoot her but before he could do it, the owner came running out swinging a bucket and hollering in German, which hardly anyone could understand. Another soldier told him that the German wanted to milk the cow before they killed it. The soldier didn’t have the heart to kill the cow after that but they did get some fresh milk that day.

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The 634th’s last actions were to support the envelopment of the Ruhr Pocket before driving east to the Harz Mountains in early April and then another 200 miles to the Czechoslovak border by the end of the month. The 634th received credit for campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes, Central Europe. Howard was awarded the Bronze Star and the Good Conduct Medals and left the service at the rank of corporal.

He returned home to Lucille and son, James. The family made their home in the Hammonsville community in Hart County, KY, and they had four more children, Imogene, born in 1946, Gerald in 1948, Eloise in 1951, and Mellony in 1968.  Howard worked as a farmer and carpenter and also did custom farming for others. His past-time interests included hunting, fishing, singing and woodworking.

In 1974, Howard sold his farm due to health reasons and moved to Upton, KY, which led him to turn his woodworking interests into a business making furniture. He also drove aschool bus for many years.

He was active in his Baptist Church and served as a deacon and choir director. He was also a member of the National Farmers Organization and Farm Bureau. Howard passed away on May 27, 2018, at the age of 95. He was buried in the Three Forks Bacon Creek Cemetery in Hart Co. KY.

I want to thank Howard’s son, Gerald, for providing the information and photos for this tribute.

Howard L. Skaggs 5Both of Howard’s sons served in the military; James serving in Vietnam as a radio repairman attached to the 1st Infantry Divison, which was also known as the “Big Red One”. This is the same Division that the 634th was attached to during WWII. Gerald also served during the Vietnam war but was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. He was involved with the Chaparral-Vulcan Missile System being developed there. Sadly, James passed away in 2015 from the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. Thank you to each of the Skaggs men for their service and sacrifice to this country.