|[ Courtesy: Steve Glazer - 09-17-2013 ]
Delbert Norman Bumpus -- born on March 17, 1922, in Centralia, Illinois, to Roscoe Delbert Bumpus and Jennie Ethel (nee Wininger) Bumpus -- spent much of his youth in the Hessville section of Hammond. He lived at 1566 School Street in the early 1930s, moving to 6716 Carolina Avenue by 1935. In about 1939, Delbert and his family left Hammond, moving to Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Delbert's father, Roscoe (an Illinois native, but briefly employed in Arkansas during WWI), worked at several jobs to provide for his family during the Depression. He was an inspector at a lead company, a cook, and an insurance salesman. Delbert's father also kept several beagles confined in a kennel for occasional sale to hunters. Sometimes Roscoe hunted small game, such as rabbit, to put meat on the table for Jennie and their five children.
Delbert, as well as some of his siblings (Doris Lee and Floyd), attended Hammond's schools along with Shep. By all accounts, Delbert was popular and a good student. He was elected vice president of the student council at Morton Junior High School, where he earned a place on the honor roll. He sang baritone in the school choir. In addition, Delbert belonged to Boy Scout Troop 43, along with Shep confederates Ray Galambus and Alex Josway, with whom Delbert played baseball on the troop's team. He also played second base for the Tech Tigers in Hammond's Junior Baseball League. By high school, Delbert was playing saxophone in the school band.
After moving to Mount Vernon with his family in his junior year, Delbert finished high school in the Illinois town and obtained work at a local stove foundry. But war broke out, and on October 6, 1942, he was inducted into the Army as a private, being sent to Camp Bowie, Texas, for basic training. It was there that he married his pretty hometown sweetheart, Roberta Florence Smith, on July 6, 1943. Roberta had traveled from Mount Vernon as she approached her eighteenth birthday to become Delbert's bride, before he was sent overseas. The following month, Delbert -- as a member of the newly formed 745th Tank Battalion -- was sent to England aboard the liner Queen Elizabeth, converted to troopship duty during the war.
Delbert spent much of his time in England at Swindon, where the 745th trained for an amphibious assault that was sure to come. In April 1944, the battalion was attached to the 1st Infantry Division, also known as the "Big Red One." In early June, the 745th moved from its marshaling area at Weymouth, England, to board embarkation craft for the impending invasion. On June 6, 1944 -- D-Day -- Private First Class Delbert N. Bumpus was ferried across the English Channel as a tank crewman in Company B of the 745th. Its destination was Easy Red Sector on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.
Delbert's company was one of the first of the battalion to be put ashore on Omaha Beach. Delbert and his tank were in the second wave, which landed at about 3:00 pm on that historic day. Many of the tanks sank under their own weight, drowning men and equipment alike. Delbert and his tank survived the landing. His tank commander, however, was the battalion's first casualty after hitting the beach, killed instantly by a shell to the head. Under fire, Delbert was asked to take command, being promoted to sergeant on the spot. He and his tank successfully made it off the beach.
With Omaha Beach behind him, Delbert spent the summer of 1944 fighting his way through the hedgerows and villages of the French countryside. At one point, while commanding his tank, he was struck in the head by an enemy shell, his dented helmet having deflected the deadly metal. On other occasions, Delbert -- at great risk to his personal safety -- maneuvered his tank under enemy artillery and aircraft fire, protecting the lives of his crew. For his heroism under fire in Normandy, Sergeant Bumpus was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor.
As the 745th Tank Battalion approached the Siegfried Line in Germany in fall 1944, Delbert came down with pneumonia and severe exhaustion. He was evacuated from the front, eventually being sent to the States for medical treatment. For him, the war was over. On April 30, 1945, Delbert was given a medical discharge for disability. Like many men who saw too much of war, he left the service a different man than the one who entered.
Delbert had a sometimes difficult time adjusting back in the States. He would wake in the middle of the night at the sound of planes flying overhead, believing they were bombers attacking his home and loved ones, whom he would rush to protect in the darkness. In today's medical parlance, he was likely suffering from PTSD. Nevertheless, like so many of his generation, he quietly persevered, providing for wife Roberta and their growing family. Delbert did exceptionally well in a CPA course in St. Louis funded by the GI Bill. However, his silent wartime demons -- including terrible headaches -- were a frequent presence. He held a succession of postwar jobs, sometimes with family members, finally moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1959. There, Delbert eventually found a way again to serve his country. He became a master welder at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory Test Facility, where advanced munitions and underwater mines were developed. He received an official commendation for some of his innovations. Although he found much satisfaction in the work, Delbert was forced to retire in 1972 because of a serious neck injury. He and Roberta remained in Fort Lauderdale until 1981, when they moved to Vero Beach; in 2004, they moved to Ocala, Florida.
Delbert Norman Bumpus passed away on January 4, 2009, in Ocala, with wife Roberta and eldest daughter Nancy at his side. Twelve days later he received full military honors at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. In addition to exemplary service to his country, a loving wife, and five children, Delbert Bumpus left a legacy of nineteen grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild. He was truly a member of "the Greatest Generation."
Loving wife Roberta followed Delbert on December 22, 2016.