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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Remembering George Harkins, Greenwood Native had full and rich life

By Sid Riley

In the early 1900’s A.D. Harkins moved to Jackson County from South Carolina. Within a few years he opened “Greenwood Products Company” a peanut shelling mill which was needed for peanut farming which was steadily increasing in the area. A.D. encouraged his brother Paul who was still living in South Carolina to ‘come on down to Florida’, and become one of the prospering peanut farmers of Jackson County.

So Paul sold his interest in South Carolina, and moved to the Greenwood area and bought some acreage and became a peanut farmer. A.D. had one son, Jimmy Harkins and three daughters, while Paul, had one son, George, and six daughters. This story is about that son, George.

George attended Greenwood High through the tenth grade. Then, in 1938, at the height of the Great Depression, he left school and joined the CCC (Civilian Construction Corps.) to begin to earn some money and help his family. He was only sixteen at the time.

George was sent to Oregon where he was part of a CCC crew which was busy building state parks. After a couple of years George returned to Greenwood and went to work for H.C. Neel as a truck driver. Then World War II began.

Harkins enlisted in 1942, at the age of 20. After initial training he was sent to Europe as a paratrooper in the legendary 101st Airborne Division. In a document provided to the Jackson County Times by the Harkins family, the story of his exploits during the Battle of the Bulge was disclosed by his son, Wayne Harkins.

As his unit was parachuting behind enemy lines on the ridges of Normandy on D Day, George was waiting his turn to stand in the doorway for his jump when the man in front of him was struck by an enemy bullet, splattering George with blood. George wiped his face clean and jumped into battle.

During the bloody conflicts which followed, George often came face to face with the enemy, and potential death. George was decorated with the Bronze Star for his heroic actions which kept the Germans from making it to a critical bridge which they wanted to destroy to stop the advancing Allied Forces.

George Harkins survived the war, and was honorably discharged in 1945, as the war ended. He then returned to Greenwood, and resumed his job as a truck driver. When George was in his early 40’s he lost his leg due to injuries from an accidental gunshot. He lived to be 81 years old, when he died peacefully in 2003.

George Harkins was a hard working, ordinary man who answered the call of his nation when he was most needed. He valiantly defended our beliefs and ideals when they were threatened from abroad. He certainly was a member of what is now deemed to be America’s “Greatest Generation”. Jackson County can be proud of his contributions.

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