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Remembering D-Day – and Beyond

D-Day

They were unsung, these local World War II vets, whether they threw themselves at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 – 75 years ago, ended up at Anzio, were at the Argonne, flew the Pacific in a TBM Avenger, served as a navy signalman, or landed at Iwo Jima.  In a rural town of 500, it always seemed we were blessed by World War II veterans.

As I got older, these locals seemed two people – the cheerful one I grew up with, worked for, was taught by, and thought I knew – and another, more mysterious person, a boy who grew up too fast, saw too much, and worked not to remember what is hard to un-remember.

On days like D-Day, which unfolded 75 years ago this week, we celebrate the courage, can-do and victory of these unstoppable young men – the ones who lived and ones who did not.  They literally saved the world in which we live.  Without them, freedoms we take for granted would not exist at all or, at best, would be circumscribed by evil.  We owe them everything. 

D-Day was an epic battle, American forces numbering 73,000, 34,250 boys headed for Omaha Beach – a five-mile-wide tract of sand overhung by a 150-foot vertical cliff, and 23,250 boys deployed to Utah Beach.  To that, add 15,500 airborne troops.  

German artillery, mortars and interlocking machine gun fire riddled anything that moved.  By the time D-Day was over, 1,465 American boys lay dead on Omaha Beach, another 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing, 26 missing – but the beachhead belonged to freedom. 

Hard-bitten fighting followed, Germans behind hedgerows all the way to Paris, where Americans arrived late August 1944.  The Battle of the Bulge still lay ahead, the Argonne, Bastogne and more casualties, but they were in Paris. 

Meantime, others were fighting and winning back Italy, some inserted from Sicily, others Naples and Anzio.  Eventually, they took Rome on June 4, 1944, then pressed the fight across the Arno River, liberated Florence, worked their way methodically north.  

In the Pacific, the US Navy and Marines saw much of the worst, from the Solomon Islands and Okinawa to Iwo Jima.  On sea, land and in the air, the human toll required for victory was inordinately high – but Americans won those beachheads for freedom, too.

Then, the boys came home – the ones who survived.

Where I grew up, one local had been a first scout in Italy, saw 344 days of combat, and did not talk about it until 92.  He won the Bronze Star.  Every Battle north of Naples, he was in.  His three brothers fought too – and all came home.  One served as our postmaster for 40 years.  

Another local saw combat on Omaha Beach, was promoted to captain on the beach when others fell, won the Croix de Gare with a Silver Star for heroism at the Bulge, never spoke about it.  I only learned about my English teacher’s past after his death.  His brother-in-law won the Distinguished Service Cross in Sicily and died defending his company from a Panzer attack.

Another high school teacher found himself at Iwo Jima, a fact not mentioned until he was in his 90’s.  He is crisp, eyesight and mind sharp still, but some sharp places he will not take me, and perhaps that is as it should be.  Each of these veterans protected us over there, and again on their return – in easily missed ways.  

In this little town, three World War II vets were my bosses, one the TBM Avenger turret gunner, the second that Navy signalman in the Pacific, a third who never spoke of what he did.  None talked war. 

The turret gunner had napalm scars; you could not miss them.  The signalman built houses, you could not make him angry.  The third was a farmer and talking was not required.  All were mentors, not mentioned the war.  Not self-impressed, they just felt no need to go there. 

All this said, several of them spoke as they entered their 90s.  For this reason, if no other, paying a visit, listening, saying thank you to World War II veterans again, is worth every minute.  We are blessed to still have some with us.  This D-Day is as good a time as any to have a conversation.  

On such days, we try to imagine what those we know saw, did and lived through – something terrifying yet necessary, innately honorable yet horrible, something they had to do, did not want to do, but did anyway – and in many cases, could not communicate to anyone once they got home.

So, for those who risked all on our account, thank you – once again.  Thank you cannot be said often enough.  D-Day is unique, but also emblematic.  High risks attached throughout the war for most combat veterans, and if these boys – and they were boys – had not done what we did, we could not live in the peace we do today.  Where I grew up – and across the nation – World War II vets are unsung.  Time to remember – on D-Day and beyond.  

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Tim D.

Please listen to President Trumps speech from France. It is very moving and FILLED with honor toward those who were a part of this world changing event! My Father-in-law was an Iwo Jima survivor and NEVER spoke about it until about a year before he passed. Give honor to those who have kept us safe and free!

Phyllis

May we never forget the cost of freedom.

Paul W

“The Greatest Generation.”

Robert Thielhelm

That entire generation was heroic, and we owe a debt we can never repay. The home front equalled military bravery and sacrifice. There was no internet, no snap chat, no face time. You could be reading mail from a loved one who died a week before. Barely out of childhood, too young men and women, were instantly slammed into adulthood and became immersed in terrifying violence, brutality, and an uncertain future. What if they failed? They earned, and deserve, every award, every accolade, every benefit bestowed by our country. We owe them everything, and nothing less.

Frank S.

On days like this, important anniversaries of significant battles, I make it a point to reflect on the sacrifices of those who served, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As a 32+ year USAF retiree (served 1975-2007), all these people hold a special place in my heart. My dad, God rest his soul, was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge (he passed away in 1997). He was a medic with the 106th Infantry Division, which was essentially overrun by the Germans a week after they were put on the front line, albeit in a sector that was supposed to be “safe.” Dad’s nephew, my first cousin, was killed in Anzio (1944), I have another cousin who was killed in Vietnam (1967), his named proudly displayed on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. In early 2007 I was returning from Iraq for my mid-tour R&R, when I had a… Read more »

Kim

In a culture where many do not hesitate to steer the conversation toward “me”, my father and his two brothers spoke not one word of the sacrifices they made or the horrors they experienced in World War II, when they all served in the U.S. Navy. They and so many of the brave men and women who served with them were curiously quiet on the matter, as we grew up in this free and beautiful country, wanting for nothing. Our eternal thanks to those who declined vainglorious recognition and instead placed the ideals of freedom and patriotism above all else.

Steve

Thank you to all of the veterans from D-Day, those that came home and the ones that did not. They are some of the bravest people that this earth has ever known.

TomB

My Father and five uncles (3 brothers, 2 brother-in-laws) fought WWII in the Pacific. They were the sons of two coal miners and their wives, who immigrated (not merit based) to the U.S. from Poland. These men rarely mentioned their experiences, but heavily influenced the character of our families. Their contributions will never be forgotten.

Wingleader69

May father quit high school in the middle of his senior year and joined the Marines. He was sent to Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history! When he returned home he married my mother whose husband was killed at the battle of Okinawa. She already had two young children. He was a good man and wonderful father and i miss him. He passed away in 1999. ALL AMERICANS AND ALL THE WORLD SHOULD THANK GOD FOR GIVING US MEN LIKE THESE!

Glenn Lego

I have an uncle who never talked about his life in the army during World War 2. All I knew was he was in the War but I was not allowed to ask him about it and I never knew about it until I saw his obituary after he passed away. That he was in some great battle and was decorated for his experience there. RIP Uncle Russell!

Todd Taylor

We would best honor the men who gave their lives on D-Day by standing for the very thing they defended our freedom; under the shadow of the unwavering American flag. Long live their honor, long live the United States, long live the Republic. God bless America!

Jack Muckey

From these hero’s, we hit our low point of guys burning their draft cards and running to Canada. I hope they enjoy their lives.

Helen Corey

Every person who defended freedoms we enjoy is a hero in my eyes. Why people come from other countries which are not free to speak, fly a flag to US and want to recreate in US the oppressive governments they fled from is incomprehensible to me. Free stuff isn’t free. It comes with the price of oppression by authoritative politicians. Sometimes this oppression is applied gradually. Vote and don’t fall for free stuff from politicians who just want to control your life. Remember this freedom was bought by the people who fought and gave their lives for us.

Rick J.

My Dad went across Omha. He died about 11/2 yrs ago, and suffered from dementia the last 8 yrs of his life.
I’m sure he would be disappointed to see what this country has become.

Melissa

Thank God for men who loved our country and its freedoms to go to war for the rest of us. God bless them! They deserve our heart-filled thanks!

Robert Deighton

Thank you. They must never be forgotten.

Robert Deighton

Thank you, they must never be forgotten.

des

was 5 at this time but had many vets of WW11 around me some POW’s some from Korea one in particular that pumped gas at the local station that was a Japanese POW
he never talked much and was in pour health must have had a really brutal experience
THANK YOU ALL WHO GAVE SO MUCH FOR THE USA

Diana Erbio

Forever grateful to those who fought so courageously for freedom! We must never forget, and we must pass on the history to the next generations so they never forget and continue to pass on that history. ???

Brenda Blunt

Thank you one and all for your service. Many blessings to you all.

=======
Veterans News

Remembering D-Day – and Beyond

D-Day

They were unsung, these local World War II vets, whether they threw themselves at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 – 75 years ago, ended up at Anzio, were at the Argonne, flew the Pacific in a TBM Avenger, served as a navy signalman, or landed at Iwo Jima.  In a rural town of 500, it always seemed we were blessed by World War II veterans.

As I got older, these locals seemed two people – the cheerful one I grew up with, worked for, was taught by, and thought I knew – and another, more mysterious person, a boy who grew up too fast, saw too much, and worked not to remember what is hard to un-remember.

On days like D-Day, which unfolded 75 years ago this week, we celebrate the courage, can-do and victory of these unstoppable young men – the ones who lived and ones who did not.  They literally saved the world in which we live.  Without them, freedoms we take for granted would not exist at all or, at best, would be circumscribed by evil.  We owe them everything. 

D-Day was an epic battle, American forces numbering 73,000, 34,250 boys headed for Omaha Beach – a five-mile-wide tract of sand overhung by a 150-foot vertical cliff, and 23,250 boys deployed to Utah Beach.  To that, add 15,500 airborne troops.  

German artillery, mortars and interlocking machine gun fire riddled anything that moved.  By the time D-Day was over, 1,465 American boys lay dead on Omaha Beach, another 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing, 26 missing – but the beachhead belonged to freedom. 

Hard-bitten fighting followed, Germans behind hedgerows all the way to Paris, where Americans arrived late August 1944.  The Battle of the Bulge still lay ahead, the Argonne, Bastogne and more casualties, but they were in Paris. 

Meantime, others were fighting and winning back Italy, some inserted from Sicily, others Naples and Anzio.  Eventually, they took Rome on June 4, 1944, then pressed the fight across the Arno River, liberated Florence, worked their way methodically north.  

In the Pacific, the US Navy and Marines saw much of the worst, from the Solomon Islands and Okinawa to Iwo Jima.  On sea, land and in the air, the human toll required for victory was inordinately high – but Americans won those beachheads for freedom, too.

Then, the boys came home – the ones who survived.

Where I grew up, one local had been a first scout in Italy, saw 344 days of combat, and did not talk about it until 92.  He won the Bronze Star.  Every Battle north of Naples, he was in.  His three brothers fought too – and all came home.  One served as our postmaster for 40 years.  

Another local saw combat on Omaha Beach, was promoted to captain on the beach when others fell, won the Croix de Gare with a Silver Star for heroism at the Bulge, never spoke about it.  I only learned about my English teacher’s past after his death.  His brother-in-law won the Distinguished Service Cross in Sicily and died defending his company from a Panzer attack.

Another high school teacher found himself at Iwo Jima, a fact not mentioned until he was in his 90’s.  He is crisp, eyesight and mind sharp still, but some sharp places he will not take me, and perhaps that is as it should be.  Each of these veterans protected us over there, and again on their return – in easily missed ways.  

In this little town, three World War II vets were my bosses, one the TBM Avenger turret gunner, the second that Navy signalman in the Pacific, a third who never spoke of what he did.  None talked war. 

The turret gunner had napalm scars; you could not miss them.  The signalman built houses, you could not make him angry.  The third was a farmer and talking was not required.  All were mentors, not mentioned the war.  Not self-impressed, they just felt no need to go there. 

All this said, several of them spoke as they entered their 90s.  For this reason, if no other, paying a visit, listening, saying thank you to World War II veterans again, is worth every minute.  We are blessed to still have some with us.  This D-Day is as good a time as any to have a conversation.  

On such days, we try to imagine what those we know saw, did and lived through – something terrifying yet necessary, innately honorable yet horrible, something they had to do, did not want to do, but did anyway – and in many cases, could not communicate to anyone once they got home.

So, for those who risked all on our account, thank you – once again.  Thank you cannot be said often enough.  D-Day is unique, but also emblematic.  High risks attached throughout the war for most combat veterans, and if these boys – and they were boys – had not done what we did, we could not live in the peace we do today.  Where I grew up – and across the nation – World War II vets are unsung.  Time to remember – on D-Day and beyond.  

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Sign Up Today
Read more articles by Robert B. Charles

44
Leave a Reply

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Tim D.

Please listen to President Trumps speech from France. It is very moving and FILLED with honor toward those who were a part of this world changing event! My Father-in-law was an Iwo Jima survivor and NEVER spoke about it until about a year before he passed. Give honor to those who have kept us safe and free!

Phyllis

May we never forget the cost of freedom.

Paul W

“The Greatest Generation.”

Robert Thielhelm

That entire generation was heroic, and we owe a debt we can never repay. The home front equalled military bravery and sacrifice. There was no internet, no snap chat, no face time. You could be reading mail from a loved one who died a week before. Barely out of childhood, too young men and women, were instantly slammed into adulthood and became immersed in terrifying violence, brutality, and an uncertain future. What if they failed? They earned, and deserve, every award, every accolade, every benefit bestowed by our country. We owe them everything, and nothing less.

Frank S.

On days like this, important anniversaries of significant battles, I make it a point to reflect on the sacrifices of those who served, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As a 32+ year USAF retiree (served 1975-2007), all these people hold a special place in my heart. My dad, God rest his soul, was a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge (he passed away in 1997). He was a medic with the 106th Infantry Division, which was essentially overrun by the Germans a week after they were put on the front line, albeit in a sector that was supposed to be “safe.” Dad’s nephew, my first cousin, was killed in Anzio (1944), I have another cousin who was killed in Vietnam (1967), his named proudly displayed on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. In early 2007 I was returning from Iraq for my mid-tour R&R, when I had a… Read more »

Kim

In a culture where many do not hesitate to steer the conversation toward “me”, my father and his two brothers spoke not one word of the sacrifices they made or the horrors they experienced in World War II, when they all served in the U.S. Navy. They and so many of the brave men and women who served with them were curiously quiet on the matter, as we grew up in this free and beautiful country, wanting for nothing. Our eternal thanks to those who declined vainglorious recognition and instead placed the ideals of freedom and patriotism above all else.

Steve

Thank you to all of the veterans from D-Day, those that came home and the ones that did not. They are some of the bravest people that this earth has ever known.

TomB

My Father and five uncles (3 brothers, 2 brother-in-laws) fought WWII in the Pacific. They were the sons of two coal miners and their wives, who immigrated (not merit based) to the U.S. from Poland. These men rarely mentioned their experiences, but heavily influenced the character of our families. Their contributions will never be forgotten.

Wingleader69

May father quit high school in the middle of his senior year and joined the Marines. He was sent to Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima, the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history! When he returned home he married my mother whose husband was killed at the battle of Okinawa. She already had two young children. He was a good man and wonderful father and i miss him. He passed away in 1999. ALL AMERICANS AND ALL THE WORLD SHOULD THANK GOD FOR GIVING US MEN LIKE THESE!

Glenn Lego

I have an uncle who never talked about his life in the army during World War 2. All I knew was he was in the War but I was not allowed to ask him about it and I never knew about it until I saw his obituary after he passed away. That he was in some great battle and was decorated for his experience there. RIP Uncle Russell!

Todd Taylor

We would best honor the men who gave their lives on D-Day by standing for the very thing they defended our freedom; under the shadow of the unwavering American flag. Long live their honor, long live the United States, long live the Republic. God bless America!

Jack Muckey

From these hero’s, we hit our low point of guys burning their draft cards and running to Canada. I hope they enjoy their lives.

Helen Corey

Every person who defended freedoms we enjoy is a hero in my eyes. Why people come from other countries which are not free to speak, fly a flag to US and want to recreate in US the oppressive governments they fled from is incomprehensible to me. Free stuff isn’t free. It comes with the price of oppression by authoritative politicians. Sometimes this oppression is applied gradually. Vote and don’t fall for free stuff from politicians who just want to control your life. Remember this freedom was bought by the people who fought and gave their lives for us.

Rick J.

My Dad went across Omha. He died about 11/2 yrs ago, and suffered from dementia the last 8 yrs of his life.
I’m sure he would be disappointed to see what this country has become.

Melissa

Thank God for men who loved our country and its freedoms to go to war for the rest of us. God bless them! They deserve our heart-filled thanks!

Robert Deighton

Thank you. They must never be forgotten.

Robert Deighton

Thank you, they must never be forgotten.

des

was 5 at this time but had many vets of WW11 around me some POW’s some from Korea one in particular that pumped gas at the local station that was a Japanese POW
he never talked much and was in pour health must have had a really brutal experience
THANK YOU ALL WHO GAVE SO MUCH FOR THE USA

Diana Erbio

Forever grateful to those who fought so courageously for freedom! We must never forget, and we must pass on the history to the next generations so they never forget and continue to pass on that history. ???

Brenda Blunt

Thank you one and all for your service. Many blessings to you all.

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