On this day, 78 years ago, my father was one of 160,000 Allied troops who landed in Normandy as part of the effort to defeat Adolph Hitler and the Axis forces. At the time he was serving in the British Army and landed in the British sector on the Normandy coast as a member of the Royal Tank Regiment.
As someone with an engineering background (he graduated from LSU in 1933 with a degree in Mechanical and Agricultural Engineering), his responsibility upon landing safely was to scour the countryside for German field equipment for recovery and return to Britain. There it would be evaluated and analyzed for any tactical deficiencies that might exist to the benefit of British troops.
Though having initially enlisted in the Grenadier Guards in October of 1939, on May 24, 1940, he was a Lance-corporal with The Lincolnshire Regiment as a tank commander in northwest France with the British Expeditionary Forces. A day later, March 25, 1940, he was given an emergency commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, one day before the Battle of Dunkirk which saw the attempted evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces and other allied forces.
By June 4th, a total of 338,000 British and French troops had been saved from Dunkirk. My father was one of them. However, 40,000 Allied troops were cut off by the German forces, were trapped in the town of Dunkirk and had to surrender. That so many were able to cross the channel to safety allowed most of them to survive and fight another day which contributed to the ultimate victory in 1945.
He was fortunate to have lasted the entire war more or less unscathed and was released on the 1st of March 1946 with the rank of Lt. Colonel. For the rest of his life which ended in 1982, he rarely spoke of his military exploits, other than to say he was lucky.
One memory I have is him telling me he and his crew slept under the tank whenever they could. It offered some protection from shells and other bits of exploding ordinance from falling on them as they tried to sleep. Here’s two photos of him from those days, including one where me, his infant son, is seen.