On June 6, 1944 more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a fifty-mile stretch to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft banded together for the D-Day invasion. At the end of the day more than 9,000 soldiers were killed or wounded but their sacrifice led to the defeat of Adolf Hitler.
Seventy-three years ago Uncle Dewey was one of those 160,000 soldiers who was part of D-Day. He was inducted into the Army on June 4, 1943. One year and two days later he landed on the beaches of Normandy along with the thousands of other troops ready to move forward as an Army private in uniform. He was a soldier, but he also was a twenty-one year old man from a small town in Missouri with a young wife and sixteen month old son waiting for him to return, and thankfully he did.
We have a photo of him in his uniform and an Honorable Discharge paper signed by a 1st Lieutenant WAC. He received the Honorable Discharge on December 25, 1945 for serving in the 967th QM Service Company.
He never told of his experience to anyone so all we know about his military service is what was recorded on that document. The paper records that his civilian occupation was as a Machinist. He was assigned as a Duty Soldier and was qualified to be a Rifle Marksman and fought in the battle of Normandy, Northern France. He earned the honors of Croix de Guerre w/Palm, two Bronze Stars and a Merit Award for good conduct. It also gives his pay data and insurance notice. The Note section contains: “3 Days lost under AW 107. Lapel Button Issued. Entitled to wear Victory Rib on European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon. 3 Overseas Bars.” Research will need to be done to better understand how he earned the honors.
As my mother (Dewey’s sister) had always told me, Uncle Dewey never spoke of his experience of D-Day. I don’t know if anybody had tried to question him or record his story. It would have been an honor to record his story of future generations to know of his service and to honor him for his courage and sacrifice that he gave for his country. He died in 1989 when he was sixty-six years old and his memories of that day were taken with him.
If you were or are a soldier, now is the time to pull out your paper and pen or open up your laptop and start Keeping Your Memories of your military experiences. It would be a priceless gift to leave your descendants for them to read how you were a part of the history of our country. Don’t let them only remember you with a picture and a copy of your Honorable Discharge. Leave for them your story of how you heroically fought for our country and for our freedom. Start with the following questions:
- Where did you serve?
- What unit were you in?
- What were you trained to do?
- Where were you when the war ended?
- How did you feel emotionally when you got word that the war had ended?