Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day + 70

Claude Friddle - 1924-2011
During the past few weeks, I have been taking the opportunity to watch the many D-Day documentaries that have been on TV.  Some of them are a few years old, but several have been made in the past year.  I can't help thinking how great it is that some of these stories from these veterans are being recorded.  The youngest of these veterans is either 90 or close to 90.   I think that I read that there are only about one million of these World War II veterans still alive.

While neither of my grandfathers fought in World War II because they were farmers.  Someone had to stay home and grow food.  I had three great uncles on my Dad's side of the family and two great uncles on my Mom's side of the family who also fought.  All but one of them fought in the South Pacific.  Only Claude fought in Europe...I really never heard him talk that much about World War II and his experiences.  I assume that it wasn't a topic he liked to talk about especially with his young great niece.  I heard him tell a few stories through the years and I think the thing that might have bothered him most was seeing all of his buddies flying on bombing runs to Germany...and the sad fact that so many never came back.

I have to wonder what he was thinking on the eve of D-Day 70 years ago.  I imagine he really didn't have an idea what he was going to face.  I think that this was his first major battle and there is something to be said about not knowing what he was about to face.  Claude was a 20 year old man.  He had graduated in 1942 from Lewiston High School in Lewiston, ID.  He signed up in 1943 and was worried enough about how his mother would react that he asked his father to tell her.  Claude was a member of the Tank Destroyers in the 1st Army.  I think his division later became part of the 9th Army and fought under General Patton through the Battle of the Bulge. But on that long ago day, Claude was waiting just like so many other soldiers.  His division was on the second wave at Omaha Beach  From what I have read, the biggest difference between the first and second wave was sheer numbers  By the time the second wave came along, they still hadn't put out the guns on the cliffs above Normandy

It isn't like I have heard a lot of direct information from my great uncle...and since he passed in 2011, there is no further opportunity.  I can't help it that when I am watching these documentaries about D-Day - I still wonder if I will ever see a glimpse of Uncle Claude's face in any of those films.  I doubt it.  This is a significant anniversary - I wonder how many more years we will have where we will have living veterans from D-Day. So, today I will spend some time thinking about as my mother called him - her Uncle Buddy...and marvel at what he and all those other young men faced and accomplished 70 years ago on Omaha beach on the Normandy coast!