Oral History Review

Veterans’ Stories: Remembering the D-Day Invasion

“Into the Jaws of Death — U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire”, circa 1944-06-06.Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. By Robert F. Sargent.

This Oral History Interview from the Wisdom Project if episode 3 is called Veterans’ Stories: Remembering the D-Day Invasion. This episode is narrated and produced by Doug Boyd and starts off by explaining the significance of Veteran’s Day and the history behind it. He explains how the closer we are to the date for Veteran’s Day the more war movies tv start to play or that Netflix suggest. He explains how he was watching Saving Private Ryan and how it reminded him of two interviews he listened to conducted by William J Marshall and about Jesse Beazley and Louis Bower. He explains how these two veterans’ interviews about World War II and more specifically D-Day invasion were interesting and breath-taking stories. 

The first interview this podcast focuses on is with Jesse Beazley. Beazley’s interview was conducted in 1994. He is from Kentucky and was a private in the army and took part in the D-day invasion, more specifically on Omaha Beach. Beazley recalls that there was prep before the invasion and recalls Patton saying that the first group that would get off the boat would probably die. I personally found this jarring, since it is so straight-forward and frightening. Marshall asks Beazley what he was thinking about, while he was floating on the boat prior to the invasion? Beazley explains how he remembers right before going on the ship it was dark and that fellow soldiers were making jokes and it was light-spirited. He then states how he was thinking about if and how he was going to die and how he thought of his home and dog and family and cousins and he wondered if he would ever see them again.

“You was talking about what was I thinking about? I was thinking about, would I get killed the first thing? Would I make it to the beach? How would I get killed? Would it be by a shell or would I get a bullet or? All kinds of things like that started going through my head. And I looked around on the ship, we were terribly crowded there, we were sitting on the floor, and crowded, and all at once there was a blank expression on everybody’s face. You look at a fella maybe 18, 19 years old and there was nearly a death look, no talking, no kidding, no nothing.”

-Jesse Beazley

The second veteran is Louis Bower from Kentucky as well. Bower explains how there are misconceptions about D-day and he explains how it was just the beginning and how it got worse. He explains how the worst day was the third day of July 1944 in Normandy. The invasion was one month old, his division went to an enemy strong point. He states that his division was practically annihilated, and the German radio said that their division was annihilated. He explains the war in great detail and is very specific on his perspective and their plans. He explains how the weapons the Germans used were very advanced and that they used the weapons effectively. Marshall asks a question about the valley to get to the hill. Bower explains how he was trying to get him and his men across the valley and explains that the valley was wide and long. He thought about the biblical passage “though I walked through the valley in the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” He explains how this is right to a certain extent and how he did feel fear and explains how it was very intense. Boyd explains that Bower eventually crossed the valley, he estimates he lost half of his command. 

Bower explains his encounter with a German Officer. They fired at each other. He shot the officer and he was still alive. He explains how young the officer was. He explains how he couldn’t move and how the bullet hit his spine. They looked at each other and Bower explained how he felt sick and horrified. Bower had some morphine in him and he saw that the officer was going to die so he gave him a shot of morphine. He explains how this experience has affected his life. He explains how before the war he used to hunt, but after the war he refuses to. 

The importance of listening to these stories and interviews are so important to understanding what people go through. Like Boyd said in the beginning and end of the podcast, how we watch Tv and movies of war, but this is a first hand account of someone’s experience through war. We get a little bit of perspective into what it is like for someone and we understand their choices and especially these types of stories and the impact these men’s actions had on history is extraordinary.

Below is the link to the podcast from University of Kentucky’s The Wisdom Project called “Veterans’ Stories: Remembering the D-Day Invasion”

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