D-Day veteran recalls invasion 69 years ago
June 5, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.
To see a video about the D-Day Invasion, click on the link.
DID YOU KNOW?
Deception was a major part of the invasion of Normandy. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff created a mythical 1st Army Group. Construction crews built dummy installations of plywood and canvas and dotted them with an array of inflatable tanks and vehicles. They also anchored a vast armada of rubber landing craft where German reconnaissance aircraft were certain to spot them. Eisenhower assigned George S. Patton, the American general the Germans most respected, to command the phantom army and saw to it that known enemy agents received information on the status of Patton's force.
To protect the date of the invasion from prying German eyes, the Allies called it D-Day, which carried no implications of any sort.
"I was 18 and scared to death."
Donald Easley, now 87, of Victoria, was a U.S. Army private in the 190th Field Artillery Battalion on June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded Normandy, France.
"We boarded landing craft early that morning and took off across the English Channel," Easley recalled.
He and about 160,000 other Allied soldiers were about to embark on the invasion of Normandy, France - D-Day - a crucial battle during World War II.
"There were thousands of boats on the water and planes in the sky," Easley recalled. "It was kind of hectic."
Easley wasn't exaggerating.
There were 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supporting the invasion along 50 miles of beach. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, according to Army records.
Not in the first wave of soldiers who hit the beaches of Normandy, Easley floated aboard the landing craft for two more days.
"We hit the beach just about dark on the 8th," he said. "I immediately got into a ditch. We were getting bombed and shelled the whole time.
"We were lucky," said the switchboard operator. "None of our unit got killed at Normandy."
Fighting along the beaches at Normandy lasted 18 days.
Six months later, Easley took part in the Battle of the Bulge, another significant battle in the war.
"We fired for three days straight, day and night, as fast as we could pull the levers."
During his time in the Army, Easley was in five major battles and earned a Silver Star, the third-highest award for bravery in combat given by the United States military.
"I made it through D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, almost a year of combat in all and never got wounded," Easley said. "God was watching over me."