Veteran remembers sacrifices on D-Day

June 5, 2012 at 1:05 a.m.
Updated June 6, 2012 at 1:06 a.m.

Ed Warren, 87, recalls June 6, 1944, the Normandy invasion. About 160,000 troops were in the battle, and about 10,000 Allied troops died that day.

Ed Warren, 87, recalls June 6, 1944, the Normandy invasion. About 160,000 troops were in the battle, and about 10,000 Allied troops died that day.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

After 68 years, the memory of that day is still vivid.

Ed Warren's mischievous grin fades and his eyes darken remembering what D-Day was like.

The water slapped the boats around like toys in a bathtub.

Little was going according to plan and they weren't landing where they were supposed to land.

"I still don't know where we actually came ashore at," he said, shaking his head.

It was June 6, 1944, and after months of preparation and planning, the Allied invasion of Europe was under way. More than 160,000 Allied troops would land on a 50-mile stretch on the coast of France, beginning the invasion of Europe.

Ed Warren, just 18 years old, peeked over the side of his boat, to get a glimpse of the beach they were about to assault.

Just months before, Warren was a student at the University of Louisville, a fraternity member in love with his first girlfriend, Fran. The war seemed very far away.

Then he was drafted and found himself carrying a 50-pound field pack, waiting to jump into the water and attack Omaha Beach along with the rest of the 3rd Battalion of 116th Regiment.

"I was still a baby," he said.

They had been practicing for months to prepare for this moment, running for miles in full field dress, practicing jumping from the boat and wading to shore.

As the boat moved into the shore, getting the men close enough that they could wade onto the beach, Warren heard an explosion and felt as if his leg had been hit with a sledgehammer. They sprang to life. The men began scrambling from the boat, splashing through the water, while bullets whizzed around them and artillery fire screamed overhead.

The entrenched Germans ferociously defended Omaha Beach, and scores of men died there.

Warren took shelter behind a tank trap, a set of metal beams propped on the beach in the shape of a cross.

Crouching there, he looked over and saw his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Meeks, next to him.

"I followed him and when he ran, I ran," Warren said.

They made it to the sea wall, still under heavy artillery fire. The sea wall protected them, but they weren't moving forward and screams of wounded and dying men filled their ears.

"Let's get the hell out of here," Meeks said, as he began to lead the men up the hill.

While they were making their way up the hill, land mines began exploding.

Men were being injured and killed all around him. Warren was standing next to a supply officer when a bullet tore through his hand. He was telling his sergeant a man injured by a land mine was beyond hope when a bullet sailed through the sergeant's temple.

After that, Warren turned and headed back down to the beach.

The next thing he knew, he was on a ship headed back across the Atlantic. Then he was in a hospital, while doctors tried to make the gaping wound in his thigh heal.

That was just the beginning of Warren's war. He went back into combat. His regiment was in some of the fiercest fighting, he said.

His girlfriend, Fran, wrote him 353 letters. When he arrived home in fall 1945, he married her and they are still married today.

The story is still printed in his mind, decades later.

On this anniversary, he remembers the men who fought with him, the men who died.

His feelings about war crystallized after what he lived through. He went off to fight as a boy and came back a man embittered.

"I'm a pacifist. I don't think any war is worth fighting," he said.

But Warren still misses the camaraderie of those days, of what it meant to serve. As the years tick by, fewer and fewer veterans remain who fought in World War II, who can say they were there on D-Day. Someday, the reality of what D-Day was, what it was like to be a part of it, will only be something recorded in history books.

On the 68th anniversary, Warren will observe it the way he always does, buying rounds of drinks for his friends at the club. He said that is enough.

"Time moves on. I think that's just the way people are. It's human nature to forget," Warren said.



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