D-Day

I grew up hearing about D-Day. This was because, while my father was too young to join the Armed Forces, my Uncle Roger had joined the Army Air Corps in 1942, as soon as he could. He got his flight training at Randolph Air Base, in San Antonio, which was a relief for my grandparents, as they lived in San Antonio then. They were able to see Uncle Roger up until the time he was shipped overseas to England in 1943 for deployment with a bomber detachment.

He was trained to fly the B-17, not a glamorous single engagement fighter plane like the P-38, or the Mustang, or any of the others, British or American. The B-17 was a bomber and/ or a troop carrier, loaded either with armaments or paratroops. At the time, there were not any paratroops to send, so he went on bombing runs. Little did he know he was helping set the stage for what was coming, softening up the French targets the Nazis had taken over.

On the fifth of June, 1944, in the early evening, he took off with the rest of his squadron for the first run, a bombing run. Of course, he and his squadron were met with stiff resistance, and they lost several planes, but he returned, albeit with a few holes, and was promptly gassed up and turned around, this time with a stick, or squad, of paratroopers that he and several others would drop on preselected targets. They were mixed in with bombers, and a few fighters, so as to camouflage their intent. Once again, they were met with stiff opposition, but he dropped his troops where he was supposed to and began his return flight to the base.

By this time, the morning was fast approaching, and he was gassed up and sent on a bombing run, his third of the night. As he crossed the English Channel, he could now see what the night had obscured- the largest armada ever assembled for an invasion. He later told me his heart was in his throat, and after seeing the newsreels of that time, I understand some of his emotion. I will never be able to understand the totality of his feelings, though. No one who was not there will ever be able to come close to knowing the depth of these emotions.

My uncle flew four runs across the English Channel that night and the next day in support of the brave men on the ground, and despite losing many of his friends on those runs, he was able to come home safe and physically unscarred, although I can say without a doubt that he felt deep emotion for the men he lost, all good friends, and those also who were able to come home.

For the next fifty years, he would go to the annual reunions that his squadron would have, generally near an Air Museum that would house “their” aircraft and those of that era. There they would reminisce about the past that they were a part of- both the bad and the good. They would salute those who didn’t make it home, and those who did but were, for one reason or another, unable to attend.

And they would end every gathering with a fervent prayer that this “world at war” would never happen again, because they knew, better than anyone who just casually read about this, just how horrendous war could be.

My uncle died last year- he was 84 years old, and he had lived a full life, a good life. He never regretted joining the Army Air Corps, he just regretted the loss of people he cared for.

Our “Greatest Generation” is passing away at the rate of about a thousand people a day, and this is doubly sad, as these people are family and friends, and also because as these people die, the lesson of this horrible war will, unfortunately begin to fade into obscurity, as all wars seem to- otherwise we would not keep repeating the same mistakes.

We should honor their memories by never forgetting how members of our families were a part of this struggle. Whether they were a part of D-Day, or they fought in Italy, or the Pacific theater, we need to honor them every day.

Because without them, our future might have been very, very different. And not in a good way.

God Bless Our Troops, Past, Present, and Future.
Blake

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3 Responses to “D-Day”

  1. Katy the mean old lady says:

    Thanks Big Dog!
    My Uncle was one of the rangers up the cliff at Omaha.Made it, but not as lucky in Belgium.He is buried at the beautiful cemetary in Ardennes

  2. Robert Hayman says:

    Excellent article. I grew up during that time. Had an uncle in the S. Pacific (Navy).

    I use to follow the exploits of Gen George S. Patton, thought he was the greatest.

    Robert

  3. Blake says:

    Thank you for the compliment, but the real thanks go to all of those who fought in that and other wars. I just tried to (poorly) tell my uncle’s story.