With all the writing on inheritances and what they can or cannot be, I would like to relate part of the inheritance that my husband and I acquired from his parents. I already mentioned the small scrapbook of poetry that came from his grandmother. Several tattered and torn Bibles were gathered and saved. Gorgeous hand knitted bed coverings and “throws” had been meticulously crafted by my husband’s mother. A collection of figurines and old plates were packed carefully into boxes and brought home. We had no way of knowing how collectible they were but again this was part of my husband’s mother’s life. They were material possessions that we could feel and touch and reflect on the impact that both of these people had on our life.
The story of World War II and the information gathered from our Dad is an inheritance that takes us back in time where we can gain a better understanding of the past. For years we heard him talk about the reality of the war and some of the more memorable stories that he recalled. From an era that ended at the time both my husband and I were born, we have a precious insight into the hardships and struggles of a war that involved the death of literally millions of people. Before that history was buried deep in the past at the time of his father’s death, we asked questions and recorded his recollections. You could just see the change in his facial appearance, intent and focused on years ago when he was just a young man deemed ready to defend his country. My purpose with this article is to put down on paper exactly what he related to us so that our own children can one day read them and learn.
Application: Psalm 27:10 “When my mother and my father forsake me then the Lord will take me up” (KJV)
Part VI: A SOLDIER’S ACCOUNT OF WWII
NORMANDY AND OPERATION OVERLORD
Overview: June 6, 1944---Waves of GI’s landed on Normandy in preparation for the mission. On July 24, a second wave of soldiers landed and Operation OVERLORD begins. After Normandy in the mission named OPERATION COBRA, the troops moved throughout the countries of France, England, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland.
One by one the newly recruited soldiers moved briskly onto the landing barges that begin the journey to France. The heavy landing barges prepared to move across the ocean with determined GI’s who had been trained for the mission. The goal was to successfully enter the northern coast of France near Normandy. Other GI’s would land later on and move into areas on other beaches along the coastline. As we reached the coast we knew that the hard part, the action and fighting, would begin. Everyone had to be cautious and each man was to keep an eye open for signs of danger. Timing was everything and all the details had been worked out by the “brass” with President Eisenhower signing into order the “go-ahead”. Each troop was assigned a specific area where they would land and later on they would come together and methodically scour the countryside.
Darkness covered the terrain along the beach and shores off the coastline of France. We had talked of nothing else for the past few days but there was no more time left. We were told to prepare for the landing, reminded to proceed with caution and put all our training into practice. All the bravery of the past few days seemed to slip away. Would this be the time that sniper bullets would pellet the ground and stop our advance? Would the Germans secretly hide in wait for the landing only to destroy the complete unit?
The heavy barges loaded down with hesitant soldiers, cumbersome tanks, and military vehicles creaked and groaned as they drug along the ground and stopped abruptly. Rather than have any assistance from the tide, the water had receded so much that the bumpy and jerky stop came a little before expected. Pulling the barge onto land, unloading the infantry, and moving the vehicles took some time but with the early morning darkness of 5:00 AM there was some protective cover. Everyone knew that it would be a matter of time before the confrontation would occur. All the preparation and training of the past few months would be tested in an environment definitely outside of the classroom.
No one chanced to talk of the risk until one soldier quietly said to the soldier immediately next to him, “I’m scared”. Little by little the soldiers began to admit that they were afraid and that they had no idea what to expect. They were young, eighteen to twenty years old and deemed ready to defend and protect the area from further German advancement into other areas of Europe. The war was a reality. It was time to muster up courage and realize that although you were a member of a troop many times you might actually be on your own.
While the soldiers were landing along France, in other areas paratroopers were dotting the black skies laden with food and supplies. Heavy artillery was getting into position for the troops and military planes were scanning the air. Coordinating everything with exact precision was crucial to the success of the mission. Some earlier communication reports had gotten through that several of the air troopers had been spotted and many of them were shot down. No matter what had happened previously it was time for this group of tense and somewhat eager soldiers to begin their mission. This group was the 142nd infantry. I was assigned to the gun battalion.
Silent prayers went up from those who believed that God was with them. Hearts pounding in their chest, the newly trained soldiers waited for the start of gunfire that would bring each of them to their knees. Weeks of drill and maneuvers had toughened and stretched the endurance of each recruit. It wasn’t the actual physical stamina that concerned everyone. No, it was the uncertainty and mental challenge that each man faced that would be tested. This was no time for cowards, The difficulty was staying constantly alert.
For some miraculous reason the gunfire never came. The soldiers gave a long sigh and relaxed their shoulders slightly. The men were still somewhat tense but no longer quite as terrified and afraid. One whizzing bullet overhead would change that immediately. Silence. So far, so good. The Allies were on the ground and stopping the German invasion into Europe became priority number one. Okay, let’s move out and find some Germans.