War Hero, Melvin Virgil Denham, My Great Grandfather

submitted by: Peyton Wilken

SUP CC Chapter 4th Grade Ancestor Awards

War Hero
Melvin Virgil Denham
My Great Grandfather

Peyton Wilcken
4th Grade
Enoch Elementary First Place
March 1, 2023

Melvin Virgil Denham, My Great Grandfather

Melvin Denham was born in Shumway, AZ. He started school at age 4 in a one room school house. His mom was the school master so she started him early. I got to visit that school house last summer. He graduated at the age of 15 and started college at the University of Arizona. One year later the United States was brought into World War 2. He was filled with patriotism to help his country. He was willing to give up his schooling, family, and even his life, if needed. All his friends were being drafted to serve in the war. You had to be 18 to be drafted and he was too young. He lied about his age and joined the Army at age 17.

Melvin was in the Infantry and Paratroopers. He was stationed in many places during his time in the military. He spent time in France, Germany and Japan. He served his country honorably for 3 1/2 years. He earned 3 purple hearts for the wounds he received. He also earned 2 Silver Stars and a cluster for his bravery and then a Combat Infantry Badge-the highest award for an infantryman. I want to share some experiences he had while fighting in the war.

One of his first experiences in Germany was delivering a little German boy. A young German girl ran up to him asking for hep for her mom. Melvin had delivered may baby cows, so fitured he would try to help. He succeeded and the mother was very happy for his help.

It was very cold during the winters in Germany. Melvin had been in combat for 28 days straight. He had not taken his socks or shoes off the whole time. He was marching one night and his feet just quit. He fell down in a swampy meadow and could not move. His fellow soldier, named Webb, would not leave him Webb drug him to the side of a mountain where they stayed the night. In the morning the pain in his feet was very bad. He took off his boots and his feet were swollen and purple. They were behind enemy lines and Webb said he would go get help. Webb left Melvin on a little rock edge. He laid there all day. The Germans saw him several times and threw mortar shells a him. They bounced all around him and never hit him. That night Web came back with two guys and a stretcher and carried him out. Webb saved his life.

Melvin was taken to a hospital in France. he next morning was Thanksgiving Day. The doctor came to him and told him he had trench foot and had to cut his feet off. Because it was Thanksgiving, the doctor said he would do it the next day. The Germans invaded the town that night and the hospital was evacuated. He was sent to another hospital in France. The doctors there were trying something new for trench foot where they would freeze his feet for 2-hours than put them in hot water to thaw. He did this cycle over and over for 20 days. It worked! His feet eventually healed and got the feeling restored and so he was sent back out to fight.

On Christmas Day (a few days after going back into battle) the Germans came and surrounded his unit. There was no way to get out and he became a prisoner of war. The battle was called the Battle of the Bulge. The German's kept Melvin's unit in a little dip in the side of the mountain. They made them dig big holes in the ground all day long. His feet were still healing so it was very painful to stand and dig all day long. The Germans er not bad to them though. They did not hurt them. However, they did not give them much to eat. All they had to eat were carrot peels and potato peals. He was a prisoner of war for 29 days. The American's made a big push and the Germans had to pull out so quickly that they just left his unit there and the America's recaptured them.

Melvin was injured a few more times while he was in the war. His last injury was when he was shot through his cheek. He was carried out of that battle and had a few surgeries to repair his lower jaw and face. He thought for sure he would finally get to go hoe. However, before he had even healed properly, he was sent back out to work in the army postal unit in Japan. That is where he finished out his Army service. At least it was light dut and he didn't have to see any more combat.

When the war was over and Melvin finally came home, he was sent by ship. He crossed the Panama Canal. As the ship was passing Florida, he could see a milk man delivering milk in a neighborhood. The milk man was doing something so normal. The tears couldn't be contained. Melvin was home in the country he loved and fought to keep free.

Melvin Denham was a hero in my eyes. He served our country honorably and then went on to live a long full life. e remained very patriotic throughout his life. I wish I had been able to know him. I'm glad he shared his stories so our family has them to remember all he went through and the many times his life was saved. His legacy will continue to live on with each generation.