Four of the 46 West Virginia war veterans I interviewed as part of the West Virginia Voices of War project landed on the beaches of France as part of the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1994, commonly referred to as D Day. What follows are excerpts from their oral histories included in the companion book Common Valor. Two of the men were involved in the invasion on June 6 and the other two followed soon after as Allied Forces began the build up to retake France.
We took off at midnight on D-Day with a load of 82ndairborne paratroopers including General James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin, the commander of troops for the 82nd Airborne Division. The weather was real bad, flying through clouds. A formation of 1000 planes. We were supposed to drop our troops off at Sainte-Mère-Église. I went back through the plane and saw a man I went to school with. After the war I asked him if we dropped him right and he said “right on the money” so my troops got dropped right. They were loaded down and the Germans flooded swamps. If the paratroopers hit that they just sunk.
Paul Wesley Harris
Up on the hill was a little church. Out from it was a graveyard. One day, I went up there. What I saw was military personnel soaked with oil where they had fished them out of the surf. I didn’t stay long. It was heartbreaking. That was the only time I went up there.
Jesse Allen Frazier
We went inland to an old camp and then the next morning they got us up bright and early, there was a catholic chaplain and a protestant chaplain. One of them said, “Where we’re going some of you will make it and some of you won’t.” You heard some groans but that was about it.
They took us back to Plymouth and we boarded a ship, #226 on June 4. On #2 hold, it was stacked with 5 gallon jerry cans full of gas. And some of them were leaking. The whole company got on that ship. We were on the channel two full days. We were supposed to land on the fifth but a storm came up and we landed on June 6th. The channel was rough and I was sick.
I don’t know what time, but an LCP pulled up beside our ship and that was our ride to the beach. It bottomed out and we waded in with water clear up under our armpits. We were in a single line. If there had been a machine gun there it could have mowed every one of us down. We were sitting ducks but the beach had done been taken at that time.
Utah Beach was cut into three beaches. We were supposed to land on Tarry Green and I don’t know where we landed. The captain said if you get lost, go to the IP, Initial Point. I don’t know where that initial point is to this day. But none of us got lost. We all stayed together..