D-Day Oral Histories
Manfred Rommel-Son of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
“He was very surprised because he relied on the expert view of the German Kriegsmarine (Navy) that nobody could land under such weather conditions. It was a very courageous decision of General Eisenhower and very successful. My father was away from the theatre and some others (were) as well.
He said this is very painful that they are landing while I am not there.
The British and Americans were more courageous than the Germans concerning the weather.
In the morning around 8 o’clock there was still no clear picture of the situation in my father’s and (General) Von Rundstedt’s headquarters. They were still doubtful that if this really had been the landing.
But this changed in one-hour and my father began …when he heard it… he began to call his driver and prepare himself for departing for France.”
Ernie Corvese-US Naval Combat Demolition Engineer/Omaha Beach on D-Day
“I just volunteered that’s all.
Our job was to blow up these obstacles. Then had what they call Hedgehogs, and then they had these telephone poles with a ramp and on top of the telephone pole was a mine. That was for when the tide came in, the boats would just slide up there and the mine would explode. Our job was to blow a 50 yard gaps so the infantry could land.
I carried a rifle and a wet belt with canteen, ammunition and a rifle and I forgot how many pounds of explosives I had on my back. I believe they called it tetra tol. As I got to the ramp of the small boat that I was in to land us, just as I jumped into the water, there was this explosion.
While I was in the water, maybe a couple of seconds, someone pulled me out and I couldn’t find anything. I couldn’t find any of the crew I was attached to. The number of the small boat we were on was 13.
I found out later that they were all killed. I was the only one left.
I managed to crawl up the beach. I looked back and could see these tanks that were supposed to float.
They just sank. They went right to the bottom. As I was laying there, I couldn’t find any navy men.
You could tell the navy men because on our helmets we had a blue stripe that went around the helmet.
There was some army men 10 or 15 feet from me, laying down with a medic and an 88, they called them 88’s-the shells-hit them and they were gone.”
Richard Fazzio – US Navy Coxswain, first wave at Omaha Beach-Easy Red sector
“We headed into the beach, it was still dark but then as we headed into the beach, all the ships start firing, it was one awesome sight. All of a sudden, bullets were hitting on the side of the ship and the water and I looked into the well of the boat and there was 35 soldiers in there and I don’t think there was an atheist in there because every one of them was making the sign of the cross as we were going in and I happened to look….I looked to the right and I seen a boat get hit…and that’s when I realized what we were going into. As I hit the beach, Wally Lawton lowered the ramp and the soldiers start pouring out and I seen them droppin’, I seen them getting shot, I seen their faces blown off, God, it’s a sight I’ll never forget, it’s been in my mind since. This is the first time I ever talked about it, I hope its my last…As they were going off, there was one soldier there who didn’t want to leave, I guess he froze, he seen what happened in front of him and we were instructed not to take anybody back unless they were wounded or dead. As I lifted up my arm to tell him to get off, I was shot over here and it came out my back.”
“Two days before Normandy , all coxswains and captains of the ships, we had a meeting in what they called this pavilion, it was an airplane hangar. That hangar must have been about a half a mile long and it was wide anyway and they had the whole replica of Normandy beachhead…exactly like it was…and my position was..I had to head right straight.. gotta watch for a church.. and head right straight for that church. That day they assigned us our boats, the boat number and the wave. I won the lottery I was first boat, fifth wa…, first wave, fifth boat…”
“I can remember the soldiers telling me, “go all the way in I don’t want to get wet, I don’t want to get wet, you know? They didn’t get wet, they got killed.”
French residents of Normandy recall D-Day at Utah Beach
Janine Gazengel Lot
“We had the feeling we were going to die..the next shell is going to hit us and we’re going to die…We would have stayed in the house but it was crumbling all around us, all the plaster, all the windows crumbling and smashing. We couldn’t stay in the house anymore so we decided to move outside to a trench that belonged to another family and to be together there.”
“Of course the Germans were firing back and the duel was starting up between them and the American ships..We were right in the cross-fire and could hear everything.”
Cecile Pasquette Osmont
“We prayed all night.” It was shocking. Everything was moving in the house. The earth was shaking from all the shelling. We were right in the middle of the battle. We could hear the bullets passing everywhere.”
“They were doing some firing to support the troops inland..One could imagine the battle going on behind Utah Beach and on the Cotentin peninsula. The ships were aiming at different places because the paratroopers were asking for support.”
Philip O’Connell – U.S. Army Heavy Machine Gunner
“I wasn’t as scared as I thought I’d be but I had a funny feeling in my stomach. At that time I didn’t know what it was, but later on I found out they call them Butterflies. I did have Butterflies in my stomach.”
Wilson Delasanta – U.S. Army Truck Driver
“You’re scared all the time you do something. I was anyway. I imagine all the others were too.”
Frank Chomka – U.S. Navy Tugboat Crew (Brought over Mulberry Harbors)
“I honestly never thought of oh God ya know? No. I was. Like as numb as I was but I never witnessed or felt any fear of going into battle or anything like that.”
Leo Heroux – U.S. Army Amphibious Engineer
“Everybody was scared. Hey, we were only a bunch of kids, 20, 21, 19..Nobody knew what the hell war was at that time, but now I know.”
Richard Fazzio – US Navy Higgins Boat Coxswain, 1st Wave, Omaha Beach
“We went to see Saving Private Ryan. I think that was the last war picture I saw. I mean that picture was, the landing on the beach that day was almost like they were there filming, exactly like that, even worse.”
Leo Heroux – US Army
“Something big was coming, that we knew. When we were told that we would be leaving and to go to Southhampton, I said Southampton, that’s right on the coast to go to France . So we knew we were gonna go to France.”
Chris Heisler – US Army Paratrooper 82nd Airborne
“When we finally got over the shore, I looked down and saw the beach of France and I thought beautiful beach down there. Before it got very much further, maybe a minute, maybe five minutes, I don’t know, I started seeing flak coming up at the plane. It wasn’t very long after that that somebody said Stout has been hit. I got back there and put him on the bucket seat and laid him down. At that point somebody yelled at me, the green light is on Lt.. Now, I’d already had the boys half stand-up and hook-up because the red light had been on earlier and at that point I turned and hollered to the group Geronimo! Lets go! And I turned and went out.”
“I don’t remember anything until I hit the ground, it was the softest landing I ever had. My feet just touched the ground as I went down…I was hung up in a tree.”
“I had no inkling of where I was.”
“I was all alone, the only thing I got scared of really, ran into because I avoided roads and so-forth was cows. I was sneaking up on cows because I thought they may be some of our men.”
“I could hear the guns on the shore opening up with the bombardment. I could hear that all the time, every morning noon and night during that period.”
“I was looking over the hedgerow, over the hedgeway to see what was going on there and as I sat down, a German walked right in front of me that I hadn’t seen and he hadn’t seen me. Fortunately, I had my Tommy Gun cocked and when he came around the tree, I’m trying to remember if he had his gun slung over, I think so, but I just stitched him all the way up with the machine gun. That was the most difficult period I had in all my career because I thought he was the point of a squad and I was standing there expecting any minute to get shot, saying to myself I wonder if I know when I die, if I feel the bullets when they go in me or anything. Pretty soon I realized, I better get the hell out of here so I moved to another hide and it was at that hide that I was captured.”
“I just can’t explain, there are no words that can describe it, how much gratitude the people have for what we did. The one guy that I thought expressed it best said, he said, I never could understand, when he sent some pictures, why good American men would give up their families to come over and come to France and sacrifice, but I want you to know that we really appreciate it.”
World War II 1939-1945-The Home Front
by Donald A. McCall/Rhode Island
“On December 7, 1941 my mother, father, brother and I were at my uncle’s home in East Freetown, MA on a pre Christmas visit. As our usual Sunday early evening family time we were listening to one of our favorite radio show programs when President Franklin D. Roosevelt interrupted the program to announce that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and that we were now at war. I had turned 10 years of age in May of that year and the full impact of a war wasn’t fully understood at that time. It wasn’t very long afterward that the whole of America was in union with each other to get involved and take care of the situation.
We were not only at war with Japan but also with Nazi Germany in Europe being allied with England . The response to the call to war was intense; our young men were lining up at the recruiting centers all over the country to enlist into the armed forces. Many that were not quite the legal age to enlist lied about their age just to get enlisted. America was in a very high defense mode.
As school children we were encouraged to purchase 10 cent stamps at our schools which were then placed into a booklet that once filled to $18.70, would purchase a “Victory Bond” in your name which would gain interest to a value of $25.00 at maturity. (I still have a partially filled book from that era.) This allowed even the children become involved with the war effort by helping with the funding for our military through these bonds.
In the later years of the war there was concern for the possibility of an air raid attack on our country, so a Civilian Defense system was created. There were several lookout posts established in Rhode Island where volunteers would stand watch in shifts around the clock reporting all sightings of aircraft and its description. A picture chart was available at the posts to assist in recognizing the type of aircraft sighted.
Once sighted a call was placed by phone to a central location. Along with this effort there were several air raid sirens in many locations on top of a telephone pole to be used as an alert in the event of an air raid. One of these sirens was located on a pole at the corner of Trimtown Rd. and Rockland Rd. (Finding a way to turn it on was a typical Halloween prank by us kids.) In order to reduce location identification at night by aircraft we were encouraged to have blackout curtains on our home windows, and have the top halves of auto headlights painted out with black paint to prevent the light from shining upwards.
To help with clothing, printed patterns were made on bags of laying mash for chickens, and other farm grains. When emptied and washed the bags were used to create shirts and blouses for wear. My cousin’s husband worked at a chicken farm and she made good use of the bag materials that he brought home. Back then the bags were made of good cotton material.
The news of the progress of the war was slow in reaching the people. Unlike today with our instant coverage, we had to wait days or weeks to get news of what happening on the war fronts. News reels were shown at the movie theaters once a week. Newspapers provided the most recent news in print.
I still remember one of the leading war correspondences who wrote excellent articles. He was Ernie Pyle, Number 30 who was killed in the line of duty. (I still have newspaper clippings of him in my collection.) I was much impressed with his coverage because his articles related to many of the troops individually. To sum it up, the one thing that helped us all is that we were truly united behind what had to be done to save our America against the threat.”
What you’ll hear from most World War II veterans when you ask them if they’re heroes:
“I was actually proud of being part of it.” “I’m not a hero, I’m not hero. I’m just a survivor.”
“I always felt bad and I do today for all the servicemen that got killed in action. I think about it all the time.”
“I remember that day after I got wounded. The four of us was there and we were all crying.”
“Anybody would have done what I did I suppose. So I didn’t think of it as being a great hero. It had to be done and everybody did what they had to do.”
“A Hero? What does it mean, a hero? Can you tell me? Just because he did something which is very important? He had a job to do and that’s what I did. I had a job to do and I did it. I’m not a hero, I wouldn’t call myself a hero.”