June 6, 1944: D-Day
Seventy years ago today, Allied troops landed and fought their way up the beaches of France, leading what would be the final invasion of France and Germany, as well as an Allied victory in Europe. More than 2,700 ships and landing crafts, as well as 10,000 aircraft were involved. In a 24 period, over 25,000 flights were logged. Anywhere from 130,000 to 156,000 troops landed in that period and stormed the beaches. Some never returned.
Of the thousands that took part in the invasion, some of those people were from Elkhart County. I found some recollections from these soldiers and to commemorate this day I thought I would share some of these stories:
Don Carter Jr.
Carter was in the 147th Combat Engineers and was part of the first wave to hit Omaha Beach. His wave’s mission was to clear mine fields, obstacles and German pillboxes to make way for the main invasion.
Many of the soldiers in his company drowned when they landed due to their heavy equipment. Carter was able to get rid of his gear and made it to the beach.
“You know how the dry sand on a beach looks when it first starts raining hard? That’s the way it looked that morning, only it was the Germans shooting at us” Carter remembered.
He and his outfit were able to clear a German pillbox that had a clear view of the beach.
“I was never so scared in my life,” he said. “Thank God for the training. Everything was automatic. You just do it. There’s no time to think about it, you just act.”
Crebbs was also at Omaha Beach. He remembered he wasn't able to hear from the noise from the ships, planes and gunfire.
He remembered his captain telling him before they landed, “Now, we may all be here. We may all be gone, but this is our job to do.”
Upon landing at the beach Crebbs didn’t remember anything.
“I reached the beach, and the next thing I knew I was in a hospital in England,” Crebbs said. Crebbs was struck in the head and was one of the fortunate soldiers able to be taken from the beaches.
“How the medics got me, how I got to the hospital, I’ll never know,” Crebbs said.
Back in Elkhart
While Carter, Crebbs and thousands of others were thousands of miles away on the beaches of France, here in Elkhart, word of the invasion arrived at 3 a.m. with the message: ”Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing Allied armies this morning on the coast of France.“
While most people were sleeping, church bells in the area were rung to inform people an attack had begun. Churches were filled during the day as people prayed for friends and loved ones who may have been involved in the attack. Factories in the area, converted to producing war materials at the time, used their public address systems to broadcast bulletins and developments throughout the day.
As we look back, there were many memorable events in World War II that have been ingrained in the minds and hearts of our people and our history.
D-Day is one of those days and is one of the most memorable, as it signified the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.
As the number of people who lived during that time or fought on the beaches of Normandy grow smaller and smaller, it is important we look back to remember these events and the bravery of those involved.