He is ninety-three years old. My husband and I met him only recently. I didn’t ask if I could use his name so it is omitted here. He is a veteran of World War II and remembers vividly his time of service in the Army. He retells his experiences at the Battle of Normandy, 68 years ago in 1944.
As he talked, he smiled much and told of his recent experiences of being in the hospital and letting himself out. He still clearly has a mind of his own and has opinions about the world situation today.
He remembers that he was drafted into the infantry for what was to be one year of service.
But then, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and his stint in the Army lasted for five years. He clearly remembers the Battle of Normandy, in France, during the summer of 1944. Even today, it remains the largest seaborne invasion in history. It involved nearly three million troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy in occupied France.
His hair is white and wavy, his blue eyes still bright with excitement and his smile, warm and friendly.His service for his country is not, yet, forgotten. It’s reported that less than fifteen percent of the Allied forces coming aboard the ships had ever seen combat. With remorse he recalled how once some soldiers killed their first enemy, they were unable to do it again. “They would wander over the battlefield until they were killed,” he said.
He recalled being dropped at the Normandy coast in eight feet of water. Operation
Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion phase. When a secure foothold was made it became known as Operation Neptune. Twelve allied nations provided fighting units and the battle began months before the invasion when bombers began to pound the Normandy coast to destroy transportation links and disrupt the German army’s build-up of their military strength.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower moved his forces 100 miles across the English Channel, a task of magnitude never attempted before. His enemy was the weapon-and-tank-superior German army commanded by Erwin Rommel, one of the most brilliant generals of the war. Military intelligence was an important part of the Normandy invasion. British and American cryptographers working in London deciphered coded messages believed to be unbreakable.
A number of years ago, we visited the coast of Normandy where the troops came
ashore on June 6, 1944. Evidence of the concrete bunkers in which the Germans were entrenched still remain today. There is no official casualty figures for D-Day but it is estimated that more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the battle. The Allied cemetery at Normandy with its breathe taking rows and rows of thousands of white crosses is a stark reminder of the lives given to secure our freedom here in America and for twelve other nations.
The old gentleman has vivid memories. Indeed, this soldier will never forget the Battle of Normandy, neither should we!