My father came ashore on Omaha Beach in 1944, not on D-Day but two weeks later, as part of the 3rd Armored Division. For almost a year, Daddy and his fellow soldiers fought across northern Europe. By the time World War II was over, the division had accrued five battle stars: Normandy, France, the Hürtgen Forest, the Ardennes and Central Germany. My father had been a part of the 3rd Armored Division since its modern incarnation in early 1941, before Pearl Harbor, and he was with it for the duration. I’d wager there weren’t many of his peers who could have said that in May, 1945.
I was poking around the Web on the subject of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, when I found this amazing video. It is a two-minute film, in color, of ships landing on Omaha Beach carrying the 3rd Armored Division. My father would have been on one of these ships. This was after the fighting of June 6, but the film gives a very clear picture of the beach and the effort being made to establish a foothold in France. The narrator makes one mistake. At one point, he refers to the 3rd as “the 3rd Army.” This, of course, would have been Patton’s army, which was not yet in France. Even during the war, this mistake was common. Correspondents on occasion credited the colorful Patton and his 3rd Army with feats actually performed by the 1st Army’s “Spearhead Division,” which in reality took a backseat to no one. You can look it up.