The first men on Utah Beach

D-Day, Utah, soldiers ashoreSoldiers come ashore on Utah Beach on D-Day (National Archives)

By George Morris

In the dim but rising light of about 6:30 a.m., Leonce Haydel, of Gramercy, Louisiana, became one of the first Allied soldiers to step on the French beach. He was not expected to return.

“It was a suicide mission,” Haydel said. “What they sent us in on, we weren’t supposed to survive at all.”

If German Gen. Erwin Rommel had his way, that’s how it would have worked out.

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The clock ticks down to D-Day

D-Day, ready to board ships at Weymouth
Soldiers march toward the ships they’ll board for the Normandy Invasion. (National Archives)

By George Morris

They all knew it was coming. It was the reason they were in Great Britain, training for the great invasion of Western Europe. On April 6, all leave had been cancelled for the invasion troops. It was getting closer. But when would it be?

Nobody knew. Even as the towns, woods and roads of southern England filled with more and more men and machines, many of the troops had no inkling of how close the invasion was.

“We were one unit in that town, and we were not allowed to go just any place we wanted to,” said Mike Simpson, a medic with the 4th Infantry Division. “So, we didn’t know the magnitude of what was going on.”

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Band of Brothers

By George Morris

You never expect anyone outside the skinhead community to say anything good about Adolf Hitler, and certainly not at an Army reunion. But in a conference room of a New Orleans hotel in 1992, I asked Don Malarkey to explain the camaraderie he shared with the men he fought beside.

He stopped, rubbed his eyes and apologized for the emotion before he attempted an answer.

“I thank Adolf Hitler for every day that I had with these people,” Malarkey said. “We’re closer than family.”

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