I am awestruck. This weekend I met a man who not only served in the US Army, he was in the first wave at Utah Beach at Normandy. I feel very honored to have met him.
Charlie was a scout for Headquarters Company, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
The 4th is notable in several respects. Nicknamed the “Ivy” Division, “The 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division claimed being the first surface-borne Allied unit (as opposed to the parachutist formations that were air-dropped earlier) to hit the beaches at Normandy on D-day, 6 June 1944.” [Wikipedia]
A number of famous people served in or with the 4th: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was assigned to the staff of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division to help lead the Normandy invasion. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his brave actions in leading the 8th Infantry Regiment on D-Day, events which are portrayed in The Longest Day, a 1962 film in which he was played by actor Henry Fonda.
Furthermore, the 4th relieved the isolated 82d Airborne Division at Sainte-Mère-Église, cleared the Cotentin peninsula, and took part in the capture of Cherbourg. The division broke through the left flank of the German Seventh Army, helped stem the German counter-attack, and by the end of August 1944 had liberated Paris.
During the liberation of the French capital, Ernest Hemingway took on a self-appointed role as a civilian scout, and he was with the 22nd Infantry Regiment when it moved from Paris, northeast through Belgium, and into Germany.
Also of interest is that writer J.D. Salinger served with the 4th from 1942 to 1945.
Charlie showed me a book about WWII service history of the 22nd Regiment of the 4th Division, produced by the US Army and given to him and his fellow soldiers. Yearbook-style, it contains the names and pictures of soldiers, and Charlie is of course in there; a couple of photos to the right is his best friend, Joe. A side-view of Charlie’s face can also be seen in a photo of three members of the Regiment during a break in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest along the border between Belgium and Germany.
According to Wikipedia, “The Battle of Hürtgen Forest is the name given to the series of fierce battles fought between U.S. and German forces during World War II in the Hürtgen Forest, which became the longest battle on German ground during World War II, and the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought in its history.” The battles took place from September 14 1944 until -10 February 1945 over 50 square miles east of the Belgian–German border.
I’m impressed and amazed that Charlie survived all of the fighting in which his regiment was involved. Naturally, with the course of time, there are few of his breed left.
Charlie’s family would like to make a video recording about him and his life. I hope they do and that I can help in some way to make it happen. I have not heard his stories about D-Day yet, but I look forward to the opportunity to do so. Such stories ought to be recorded for posterity, as they represent a heroic chapter in our nation’s history.