Furlow receives recognition certificate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 10, 2001

from French government


Features Editor

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During the last year, the Office of Intergovernmental and International Affairs has been coordinating with the French government in their efforts to recognize World War II veterans who participated in the landing at Normandy and the liberation of France from 1944 -1945.

Last week, Gerald K. Furlow, a Henderson native who now lives in Houston, was the first

member of the Alabama National Guard 117th Field Artillery Unit (Troy) of the 31st Dixie Division to receive the certificate.

Furlow applied for the certificate through the Pike County Veterans Affairs Office but, because his residence is in Houston, he was included in a presentation ceremony there, July 2.

His son and two grandchildren joined him for the ceremony which honored 82 veterans.

"The French consulate presented the certificates, along with the head of the Veterans Administration and several Houston dignitaries," Furlow said. "It was a very impressive ceremony and I was very honored that France would recognize us for our service. There was a reception after the ceremony and I had a great time, although I didn’t know a one of the other veterans."

Furlow said he would have preferred to receive the certificate when other members of his National Guard unit – the 117th Field Artillery – receive theirs.

"There were about 90 of us in that unit," he said. "None of us had ever seen a war and we were more than apprehensive. We sailed on the Edmund B. Alexander, a steamer, and my cousin, John R. Furlow, and I were standing there on the deck as we pulled out. He said he had a feeling that one of us would not be coming back."

John F. Furlow was killed as were four other members of the 117th, Furlow said.

"There’s still a soft spot in my heart for those men," he said. "It was a sad thing to lose friends, and what made it even harder was that four of them were killed by friendly fire. I had been with my cousin only minutes before a projectile from our artillery

exploded about 100 yards out and blew back on our men. Eleven were killed."

Furlow said that war is devastating, but everyone he knew as willing to serve and proud to serve.

The 117th Artillery was mobilized Nov. 25, 1940 and Furlow became a member of the 933rd Field Artillery unit when his unit was triangulated in 1942.

He first served in North Africa and then in Italy. He saw his first combat in December 1943 and fought in southern France with the First French Army from Sept. 1944 until Feb. 1945.

"The 933rd was called in to clear out the Colmar Pocket and the Battle of the Bulge," Furlow said. "We fought through France and on into Germany. The 933rd Artillery was in combat for more than 420 days – the third longest time in combat of any unit in World War II. We were in Germany in 1945 when the war ended."

According to Furlow, a nest of machine guns had been spotted and the Germans wouldn’t surrender.

"Seven machine gun rounds were fired into the nest and, when that was over, it was announced that the war was over and the scene was one of jubilation," Furlow said.

Although the horrors of war are still vivid in Furlow’s mind, he said being in the military was the greatest thing that ever happened to him.

"I was a boy fresh off the farm in Henderson," he said. "The Army opened the world to me and I’ll always be appreciative of that."

Editor’s Note: Randy Ross, veterans service officer for Pike County, said his office has not received any notification of plans for a ceremony to present recognition certificates to veterans who served in France from 1944-45. However, a large number of applications were given out through the Pike County office and some announcement should be forthcoming.