To others the significance of this day is undeniable. Particularly if your parents were part of America's Greatest Generation.
His all expense paid tour of France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium began on June 7, 1944. His trip ended in a snow-choked field in Belgium on December 23rd, 1944 when a landmine shattered his faithful tank, killing all but him.
His Sherman was the first tank off their LST. When he drove down the ramp, the waters of the Channel covered his periscope. He was fearful the ship had turned the wrong way and was discharging the column into the sea. He thought they were sinking. Suddenly, he felt the tracks grind upon French soil at the edge of the beach. The water receded from the periscope.
He didn't talk much about that day. Just a couple of things he would recount.
One highlight was seeing an American P-38 Lightning and a British Spitfire make a low-level strafing run on a German artillery installation.
Also, he would tell of his tank crew capturing a German Colonel and his staff the night of the 8th of June. By now having advanced in-land, that evening they rumbled to within sight of a French farm-house.
Dad placed his helmet upon his head, eliciting many giggles from his crewmen. The bright Lieutenant's bar gleamed in the darkness. Not trusting any action to just his Colt sidearm, he also took his modified Thompson sub-machine gun. It was modified by having the shoulder stock removed, which made it much easier to pass through the hatch of a tank..
Quietly, the trio advanced, carbines and sub-machine guns at the ready. Suddenly, they kicked open the door, firearms leveled at a very surprised German Colonel and his staff. One foolishly went for his side arm, a burst of gunfire persuaded the remaining Germans to raise their hands.
Now, Dad was not a big man, about 5'8”, a bit stockier than average build. When talking with his crewmen, turning his head, the steel helmet stayed in one place! It was so large, his head would turn within the helmet, while the Lieutenant's bar remained stationary, fixed upon the now German prisoners.
This in turn caused the Germans to smile. This irritated Dad a bit.
He kept turning his head in order to ask George what they were saying. George tried to explain the prisoners thought he looked comical with the too-large helmet.
The smiles began to become snickers, then chuckles. Before long, there were 5 German officers, leaning against a wall, laughing in near hysterics. Nothing in Officers Candidate School covered how to handle prisoners laughing in hysterics.
Turning to George, Dad told him to ask the stunned man, "Who is laughing now?”
Order now restored, the three American tankers marched the prisoners from the farm-house. There was a group of U.S. Infantry about ½ a mile away. Dad turned his charges over to an American Major.
That long-gone officer's shoulder board is tucked away in a manila envelope, stashed in my dresser somewhere.
And... I will say a very heart-felt “Thank you”, not to Dad alone, but to all the English, Canadians, and Americans, who gave of themselves upon the beaches of Normandy.