I was not here yet on June 6, 1944. I would not be born for another ten years. My father however was in England waiting for disembarkation the next day. He, along with thousands of other allied troops would land in Normandy on June 7, what they called D+1.
D-Day itself was horrific in so many ways. Those men who did not drown in the landing or whose landing craft did not hit a mine and was blown up ran down a ramp usually in to the ice cold water of the North Atlantic. Weighed down with a full pack, rifle, ammunition, and clothing they either swam or waded ashore. They were continuously strafed from the air by fighter planes and from the cliffs above by German machine gun nests. If the machine guns did not get them it might be the beach mines or the mortar shells. And on occasion if they were really unlucky a shell from the allied ships at sea would hit them by accident – “friendly fire”.
The ocean ran red with the blood of so many dead and wounded. Into this chaos and death ran thousands of allied troops, boys really; most were 18 – 22 years of age. As they moved inland they encountered more resistance including mines, tanks and machine gun nests.
The second day was not a whole lot better. On the one hand the allies had established a beach head by the 7th and some of the machine gun nests on the cliffs had been taken out, though not all of them. On the other hand the Germans, who had been surprised, were re-grouping and fighting back hard.
My father was relatively old for infantry – he was 30 years old just 15 days after he landed. His 30th birthday was spent in a fox hole with tracer bullets flying over his head a few miles inland. In the sky formations of allied bombers passed by to pound the enemy further east. It was hell.
My father was lucky. He was never wounded. He did get terribly ill and was placed in a hospital in France for a time. Then we went back into the fight. He was also lucky because he was in the Quartermaster Corps. He spent much of his time guarding trains, and doing depot work. As a corporal he did a lot of paper work as well as carry a gun.
He was eventually stationed in a small village in the eastern area of Belgium where he met my mother. Then in December he was caught up in the mass withdrawal during the Battle of the Bulge. Here he saw much more action. He spent days lying in muddy fox holes at night in the bitter cold. So cold that they could not dig through the frozen earth. For days there was no warm food.
I can only try to imagine how fearful they were. I can only try to imagine how difficult it all was. Try as I might though I can never know what it was like. Growing up I watched every WWII movie I could to see what it was like. But those are movies… those are not real life and death.
Every June 6th my father would retell the horrific story of D+1 and the days that followed. He would never let us forget.
I shall never forget what those brave young men did on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. None of us should.
To all those men, including my father, I say thank you. It is all I can say really. That, and promise to never forget what they sacrificed and what they did.
Thank you Dad.
Wishing you well,
Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.