News: WWII vets visit Molesworth
Story by Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins
RAF MOLESWORTH, England - As unforgiving waves crashed on the beach, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force raced against the sun to meet the shoreline while their comrades drowned, weighed down by their tactical gear, weapons and drenched clothes.
More than 30,000 vehicles and 160,000 service members from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada rushed in a 50-mile stretch onto the beaches of Normandy, France, to annihilate the enemy the morning of June 6, 1944.
As the years passed, so have the survivors of one of the most memorable events in history, D-Day. The remaining few continue to bear the legacy.
Retired U.S. and U.K. service members gathered to share their experiences of World War II and remember their fallen comrades, at RAF Molesworth, United Kingdom, May 27.
Retired “Bevin Boy” Dennis Hill, U.S. Army Sgt. Ernie Lamson, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Royal Navy Landing Craft Petty Officer Harry Eddy, and Royal Army Sgt. Jack Pentelow, 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry tank driver, all shared what happened behind the scenes of the Normandy invasion.
In contrast to the headlines of the times, their stories were light-hearted and full of courage.
Eddy, now 88 years old, began his story with a wide smile.
“I volunteered to join the Royal Navy, but my employer said, ‘No you can’t go, I can’t spare you,’” he said. “Eventually I had a big row with him and he reluctantly allowed me to join the Royal Navy in 1943.”
Eddy left for Scotland and began training as a wireman, who specializes in electrical equipment.
After learning the new trade, he began combat training.
“We got to Portsmouth and started training quite seriously, despite what you really see on the television,” he said. “As time was passing by, we didn’t know it, but D-Day was approaching.”
June 5th, Eddy and his team loaded their ships to travel to a place they had no knowledge of.
They landed on Sword Beach June 6 at about 8 a.m.
“Unfortunately at that time, one of our attack landing crafts took a direct hit on the quarter deck,” he continued, allowing the audience visuals with the motion of his arms. “We had to use a cable line to get onto the beach but we couldn’t because everything was on the quarter deck, so we had to tow [the raft] to the beach, and we towed it back up to Portsmouth. We got back to England and were at the dock for about two or three days, then it was back to the trench again. From then on, we were ferrying cargo from large American vessels.”
After the veterans told their stories, the crowd viewed a slideshow presentation about the Allied and Axis Forces’ combat missions and the comparison of weapons used during the invasion.
U.S. Army Sgt. Mahogany Morrisette, Joint Intelligence Operations Center, Europe Analytic Center human resources sergeant, said she attended the event to pay homage and respect to the people who paved the way for those in uniform today, and felt the event was a big eye-opener.
“Every service member should experience this presentation,” said Morrisette. “The slideshow gave me direct insight on the war beyond the things I've learned in school. It was very educational and detailed in information. The vets who visited us were as humble as they were humorous. It was an honor to meet them.”
With weary eyes behind their wrinkled smiles, the veterans remain diligent and happy to tell their tales, working to keep the memory of their fallen comrades alive.
Although the heroes can now laugh about their personal experiences, they are a part of the thousands who made it through the rough shoreline and heavy gunfire, and the hundreds still alive 70 years later to provide insight to the experiences behind the news headlines.
Now, decades after they first stormed the blood-stained beach, they stand proud for the sole purpose that “we will never forget.”