SLC WWII Veteran Had A Front Row Seat To History

Jun 24, 2020, 11:31 PM | Updated: 11:47 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mark Heyrend didn’t want the attention. Didn’t want to make a big deal about it.

But, when family asks to take pictures of you, in your military uniform in front of a tank, any good grandfather will say yes.

“I feel like an animal in a cage,” said Heyrend with a laugh.

Heyrend, who is 102 years old, posed in front of a tank at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City.

His wife of 72 years joined him for some photos.

“Happy years,” she said.

The family decided to take the photos at Fort Douglas because that’s where Heyrend started his military career when he was drafted into service during World War II.

Instead of a gun, though, Heyrend was good with a typewriter.

So, his Army commanders promoted him to sergeant, and he was able to skip basic training.

“He could type 120 words a minute, and take shorthand,” said Ray Elliott, who is Heyrend’s son-in-law. “They went, you’re in forward command.”

It was at forward command when Heyrend bumped into a certain general he would become a clerk for.

“I was on my side of the hallway and he about knocked me over,” said Heyrend. “I turned to the MP and said, who’s that joker? He said watch your tongue, sergeant. That’s old blood and guts Patton.”

Patton, as in General George S. Patton, the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe during the war.

“He was into discipline,” said Heyrend. “That’s when I took dictation from him.”

Heyrend would soon be in several war rooms where Patton and others were planning military operations.

It was up to Heyrend to dictating what was said.

He also took part in four D-Days, such as the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Naples and southern France.

“He was part of every one of those plans and preparations for each landing,” said Elliott.

Heyrend was even part of the Battle of the Bulge.

“It was cold there,” said Heyrend.

Mark Heyrend

And when Nazi commander Hermann Goring, who was part of Hitler’s inner circle, surrendered to American forces, Heyrend was in the room where Goring was brought to dictate notes.

“I sure was. And that was something,” said Heyrend. “The general wouldn’t shake his hand. He just stared at him.”

After the war, Heyrend, who lives in Salt Lake City, continued his career as a clerk for Union Pacific Railroad.

“I was in the army for three years. And all of it but five months, I was overseas,” he said.

To this day, he doesn’t like to take credit for his service since he wasn’t on the front lines.

“He is reluctant to bring attention to himself,” said Elliott. “Even though he was right in the thick of things from the start, he didn’t pull a trigger. So, he was always reluctant to take any credit.”

That’s why his family brought him to Fort Douglas to take pictures.

They wanted to hear his stories and memories before it’s too late.

Heyrend can still give his military serial number without a second thought, and said he remembers certain events like they were yesterday.

“I remember every time we liberated a town in France, families would come out with a little table or something to sell trinkets they had made,” said Heyrend. “I remember they didn’t have much food at the time, so I would give them a knapsack of some of the food I had.”

When asked if Patton allowed that, Heyrend laughed and said, “I didn’t ask for permission.”

He may not have pulled any triggers during the way, but he had a front seat to history.

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SLC WWII Veteran Had A Front Row Seat To History