Battle makes a lifelong hero out of WWII vet Barfoot

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - There is still no white flag of surrender from either side of a Henrico flagpole dispute, but another Friday deadline is looming. This morning, the attorney for Colonel Van Barfoot, indicated a compromise on his flagpole was at least "possible" by this evening, but at this point, the talks continue.

What we've been reporting since Veterans Day is that this story involves a man who received the military's highest award.

Even at 90 years old, Colonel Van Barfoot commands respect, wherever veterans meet. In November, it was at a Veterans Day service at the Virginia War Memorial. A month later -- they are still talking about him, on Pearl Harbor Day.

"Colonel Barfoot is a great American," said Jon Hatfield, Executive Director of the Virginia War Memorial.

These days, of course, it's because the Colonel wants to keep his flagpole against the demand of the Sussex Square Neighborhood, where he lives. The story is national news and coverage far surpasses what people know about Colonel Barfoot -- the soldier.

"What he did was a wonderful job. He offered to give his life for his country," said Max Green, Pearl Harbor survivor.

In 1944, Barfoot was 25 years old. He's received the Medal of Honor, in France. About four months earlier, he was in Italy. Barfoot's platoon was taking heavy fire, so he moved off alone; killing two enemy soldiers with a hand grenade and five more with his tommy gun.

Eventually, the enemy started giving up. He took 17 prisoners and fired a bazooka at an oncoming enemy tank. Three more Germans died.

"An unbelievable feat for one man in one small amount of time," said Hatfield.

He did all of that, and then carried two of his own injured men 1,700 yards to safety. He received the military's highest award, and today, is one of just 92 people alive who can say that.

"Certainly, Col. Barfoot's bravery and valor in the face of the enemy is pretty unusual. I believe it is our duty as a nation to honor all of our heroes, and Col. Barfoot is one of them," said Hatfield.

On Veteran's Day, we interviewed Col. Barfoot and his daughter, about the flagpole weeks before it became a national sensation. Then, she said her dad was recognized for a single day of heroism. But in reality, she explained almost every day was like that during the war. 

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