History with Chuck: Wyncote native and airborne paratrooper Guy Whidden survived D-Day invasion, passed away last year at 99

Wyncote native and Cheltenham High School class of 1940 Guy Whidden was one of many American soldiers to storm Normandy’s beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944, during the Allied invasion of France.

Sergeant Whidden, an airborne paratrooper, landed in one of Normandy’s hedgerows and was knocked unconscious by an equipment bag. When he awoke, an American soldier approached him.

In a haze, Whidden couldn’t find his clicker or remember the code word which was used to identify American paratroopers. Orders were to shoot anyone who didn’t have a clicker or the code word.

In lieu of the code word, he started shouting: “I went to Cheltenham High! I had a girlfriend with red hair!” According to Chuck, those words saved his life.

Courtesy of The United States Department of Veterans Affairs

From the VA’s “Veteran of the Day” article:

While in Best, Holland, Whidden’s unit was facing heavy mortar fire, which killed several fellow soldiers and severely injured Whidden. Doctors told him that he would need his leg amputated due to his injuries, but Whidden was able to convince his doctor to save his leg. In an interview with the American Veterans Center he noted, “I always felt like I owed him something. He took the time…It was easier to amputate than it was to preserve.”

Whidden went on to make 20 jumps during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Good Conduct Medal. After the war, Whidden became a teacher and an award-winning wrestling coach who established the wrestling program at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Maryland.

Guy Whidden passed in 2022 at the age of 99. For more on Whidden’s military service, you can read the VA’s “Veteran of the Day” article here.

Information and feature photo courtesy of local historian Chuck Langerman