Robert Platt Boyd, Jr.
Robert Platt Boyd, Jr. was born in 1911, in Montgomery, Alabama. Boyd received his degree in civil engineering, becoming the second of four men named Robert Platt Boyd to graduate from Auburn University in the 20th Century. In 1999, Boyd ensured that the name would continue at Auburn by establishing the Robert Platt Boyd Scholarship Endowment. The scholarship fund recognizes four generations of an Auburn family and will benefit Auburn students into the future.
Boyd majored in civil engineering at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). After graduating in 1932, he worked for the State of Alabama until he began his career with the U.S. Army in 1940. His Auburn training served him well as he commanded several engineering battalions during his career.
Boyd served for 10 months in the Yukon Territory as a company commander helping to construct the Alcan Highway, the first road connection between Alaska and the United States. For this task he formed Company C of the 93rd Engineers Battalion.
Bob Sanders wrote in the Opelika-Auburn News that “the men assigned to him were about the most unlikely bunch imaginable. They were very poor young men...many of them were illiterate.” In fact, Lieutenant Boyd had to teach 27 of his men to write their names so they could sign the payroll for their $21 a month.
Boyd introduced his men to the tools and materials of road, bridge and culvert construction. He also taught them platoon tactics, mine laying, and camouflage. In short, he taught them how to be Army Engineers. He wrote about his experiences in the book Me and Company C.
Company C successfully built its 240 miles of the Alcan Highway despite the obstacles presented by the cold, not to mention canyons, rivers, mountains and bears. “Company C was my baby,” Boyd wrote. “I formed it, nurtured it through its infancy, fed it, clothed it, helped it develop its personality and taught it everything it needed to know.”
Because of his Yukon Territory experiences, Boyd was designated an Arctic Expert and joined the 10th Mountain Division in 1943 where he served with the 126th Mountain Engineering Battalion at Camp Hale, Colorado. When the 10th Mountain Division deployed, they performed a series of daring assaults against the German army in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy. The 126th Engineers Battalion built aerial tramways and suspension bridges to support combat operations in mountainous terrain.
Major Boyd served briefly as Battalion Commander when the commanding officer of the 126th Engineers was wounded by a sniper. He was in command as the 126th Engineers manned assault boats for the Po River crossing. According to his Silver Star award citation, he faced 88 and 20 mm flak and machine gun and rifle fire. As boats were lost, Boyd rallied crews, reorganized engineer parties and helped move casualties to safety. He made four trips across the river under heavy enemy fire, and his courage was a source of inspiration to all who witnessed his action.
After World War II, Boyd married Winifred Hill in 1949. They spent the next 17 years traveling together for his military assignments while raising their three children, Robert Platt Boyd, III, Winnie, Jr. and Carolyn. Boyd rose to the rank of Colonel in the Army, serving in Alaska, England, Cambodia and Germany.
After his retirement from the army in 1966, Colonel Boyd became an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Auburn where he taught for 15 years. It was said that he never missed a home football game. He was also active in the community, a member of Kiwanis and a member and leader at Auburn United Methodist Church, where he could always be found in the aisle seat on the sixth row.
Boyd retired from Auburn University at age 70 and continued to enjoy both life in Auburn and travel with the love of his life, Winnie.
Colonel Robert Platt Boyd, Jr. died on November 22, 2000, at the age of 89 at the East Alabama Medical Center. He was preceded in death by his son, Major Robert Platt Boyd, III, and survived by his wife, daughters, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
His beloved wife, Winifred Hill Boyd, died on May 11, 2016, at the age of 93. She had spoken with excitement about honoring her husband with the Heroes Remembered Award since the day she learned he had been chosen for the honor.
Today we honor her as well. She was a great supporter of the Auburn Veterans Committee and a great humanitarian, serving as the European Director of the Red Cross Volunteers while in Germany. She was a partner in life with Colonel Robert Platt Boyd, Jr., Auburn’s 2016 Hero Remembered.