On April 1, longtime Payson resident and World War II veteran, Floyd Landers, 94, gathered with family and friends around the fireplace at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino’s “Fireside Room” to put the exclamation mark on an event that occurred some 68 years ago.
The gathering of family and friends witnessed a presentation ceremony during which Landers, with the assistance of Senator John McCain, received the medals, ribbons and awards he earned on the beaches of Normandy during WWII.
Marine Major Phil Prince presented the awards, which included the Purple Heart Medal for wounds sustained in combat, the American Campaign Medal, the European/ African Campaign Medal (with star), the WWII Victory Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and other associated decorations and awards.
Also presented was a Certificate of Appreciation by the Rim Country Detachment of the Marine Corps League recognizing Landers for “Loyalty and patriotism to our country as exemplified by his loyal and unswerving service during WWII. By his performance, he brought great credit upon himself, upheld the highest traditions of the United States Army and distinguished all who served.”
Among those present were retired U.S. Air Force Col. Art Stone, himself a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, retired Marine Col. Bill Sahno, retired Marine Maj. Phil Prince, as well as several friends and neighbors from the community.
Landers remains a resident of Payson and was accompanied to the presentation by daughter, Lisa Boyle, granddaughter, Stephanie, and great-grandchildren, TheaRee and Joey.
His daughter wrote an account of his actions in the assault on the Normandy beaches as part of his 3rd Army, 28th Infantry regiment.
“When the landing craft they were aboard sank, they all had to swim to shore. Floyd knew he would drown as he was carrying a BAR rifle, but he took off walking on the floor of the bloody ocean. Each time he thought he couldn’t hold his breath any longer, he would come upon a sand bar and stick his head out to get a breath of air.
“They were under tremendous machine gun fire as well as many hand grenades. Hundreds of dead or wounded soldiers lay all over the beach, in and out of the water. At one point, he laid down next to a dead soldier and faked being dead to fool an enemy shooting at them.
“After the landings, the regiment made its way almost into Brest, France. On Aug. 10, 1944 they were pinned down in a potato field by machine gun fire.
Floyd, being the BAR man, was told to go ahead and see if he could find where the shots were coming from. He was crawling along on his knees getting ready to fire when he found he had a bad round in his rifle. At that moment, he was hit by five shots. One in the hip knocked a chunk from his hip bone. One left a slash under his left eye and another kicked his forearm and left side. Had that one been two inches closer, we would not all be here. Another shot shattered his right elbow. He dug in and waited until dark, after packing the worst injury with mud from that field to keep from bleeding to death.
After dark he made his way to an air field they had taken a few days earlier. Three days after that, he saw a field ambulance coming up the road and stumbled out and sat in the middle of the road to get the driver’s attention. When the ambulance stopped, the driver told him there was no room, Floyd told the driver he could ride on the hood, so they opened the back door and he fell on the floor. There were four guys who had been badly burned in a tank fire also aboard that ambulance. He was taken to a field hospital and stabilized then to a hospital in Cherbourg, France then to Wooster, England, then to New York. He received his honorable discharge due to his injuries in 1945.”