Opinion & Editorial

Through the Eyes of the Colonel: After 74 years, D-Day is still etched in my memory

I remember 74 years ago so vividly. I had just turned 20 years old two weeks earlier.
The 5th of June I was returning from a weekend of rest and recuperation after having been in a ”dogfight” over Germany and getting pretty badly shot up. The enemy had suffered more than I, thank God. While we were waiting our turn to land, the engine quit and we made an emergency landing in a plowed field. All went well, but I was ready to go back to the rest camp.
Anyhow, we noticed that all the aircraft had black and white stripes on them so we knew something strange was happening. Right after returning to my home station, we were assembled for a briefing telling us the invasion was on!
We took off in our P-38s at about 10:30 p.m. that night and flew south to our designated area. We were there to protect the paratroopers and troops in gliders landing in Northern France about 10 to 15 miles inland from the beaches where the main body of the force would be landing six hours later.
It was very dark, but the Germans were firing so much at the planes that we would see our targets and attempted to destroy the enemy. We weren’t very effective, but we made certain that no enemy aircraft got there.
As it turned out, there were only two enemy airplanes that ever got over the invasion forces and they never fired a shot. Watching the firing, flares and explosions was tough; those troops took such a beating, but they pushed on and got to their objectives and won the battles.
Other fighters came to replace us after a couple hours. We returned to our bases, had our planes checked, re-fueled, re-armed and took off again so as to be over the beaches when the landings started at 0600.
We stayed overhead until other fighters arrived, then home again. I took off again late afternoon for my third sortie in 24 hours. We in our fighters had it easy; not so for the troops on the ground. We could see the fierce fighting, the landing craft blowing up, explosions on the ground and troops in the water. All so difficult to describe but burned indelibly into my memory so that after 74 years it is still there as if it were yesterday.
Those men were heroes through and through. They fought for our freedom and the freedom of the world. There aren’t many of us left that were there to make the invasion.
My memory of what happened is clouded on certain things and I hope I haven’t exaggerated. Just trying to tell it like it was.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos