I’m reposting an aritcle titled, D-Day Plus 70 Years, from June 6, 2014.
I saw a show on the History Channel this past weekend and it got me thinking about the men who were involved in the Normandy invasion code-named Operation Overlord, especially my uncle Bill. Staff Sergeant William Sackenheim, was a paratrooper in Company E 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment 82nd Airborne Division. He jumped into Normandy approximately 1:30 am on June 6 1944 with the mission to take the town of Ste.-Mere-Eglise.
When I was growing up I just knew my Uncle Bill as a man who seemed larger than life, was really funny, and lit up the room he was in. I was always laughing within seconds of seeing him. My mom told me he was a paratrooper in WWII and was awarded a purple heart, but I didn’t know much more than that until I was much older. About the time of the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 94, my brother and I were talking to my uncle at a funeral, and a man named Earl came up and they started talking. My uncle said ” Earl remember where the hell we were 50 years ago.” And Earl smiled and said “yes”. So I asked if he was a paratrooper like my uncle, and he said “no”. My uncle said “Earl was in one of those ships he flew over crossing the channel to make his jump.” I said you landed on one of the beaches on D-Day and he said “yes, Omaha”. My uncle said Earl was captured by the Germans, and I asked “what happened”, thinking he had maybe been a prisoner the whole war, and Earl said “oh, I escaped, I had to get the hell out of there”. I’m thinking you just don’t leave, there has to be a great story here. But I didn’t get to ask any more questions because Earl had already started talking to other people.
So my brother and I talked to my uncle a little more about D-Day and then asked if we could come over to his house in a couple of days, and he could tell us about D-Day and the war. Two days later we talked with my Uncle Bill for four hours about the war. One theme that always came up was how soldiers next to him got killed. He would always say “why was it him and not me”. I finally understood why my uncle seemed larger than life, it’s because he actually was larger than life.
Not only did my Uncle Bill jump on D-Day, he jumped in Operation Market Garden in Holland, and was in the Battle of the Bulge in The Ardennes in Belgium. He also saw the atrocities at Buchenwald. My uncle Bill passed away a few years ago, and soon the living monument that is the WWII generation will be gone, and we will only be able to read their stories. My brother and I were lucky that we got to listen and see our Uncle Bill tell us about his experience.
TIME LAPSE MAP OF WWII IN EUROPE