National Geographic : 2002 Oct
Forum jIM June 2002 Dozens of veterans sent D-Day memories. Some of their stories were i heartbreaking.Equallypoignantwas the letterfrom a veteran's son who had no idea hisfather had survived D-Day until after hisfather's death. "Pleasetell people to ask relatives about theirwar experiences," he wrote. "Once those souls depart this life, you'll never know theirstories, and we'll all be poorerfor it." Untold Stories of D-Day My father, Sgt. Henry L. Gilliam, was one of the hundreds of brave paratroopers who preceded the daytime landings in Normandy. My father's group of the 507th Parachute Infantry jumped in darkness six hours before the seaborne attack, landing two miles inland. He and his jump partner-a friend since basic training-landed among hedge rows. His buddy began to scream from the other side of a row. Crawling up to see, my father found his partner fouled in a tree and hanging over an enemy machine gun nest. The men in the nest had thrown gasoline on the stranded man and set him afire. Doing the only thing that could be done, my father tossed two grenades into the pit, killing the enemy soldiers and ending his friend's agony. At the end of the battle, half-crippled from shrapnel, my father made his way toward shore. He awoke to find himself naked on the ground, covered with blood. MEMBERSHIP Please call 1-800 -NGS-LINE (1-800 -647-5463). Special device for the hearing-impaired (TDD) 1-800-548-9797. Online: nationalgeographic.com/ngm AOL Keyword: NatGeoMag A medic eventually found him. Later, in a hospital in England, he defied a nurse's orders to stay put and made his way down to the basement showers to clean himself of the dirt, sweat, and blood that was D-Day. He said it was the coldest, most painful shower he'd ever taken, but he finally felt clean. My father lived to a comfort able old age and passed away in peace. Every day I am reminded of this story, and that it was told only once: to a son, by his hero. DAN GILLIAM Gansevoort,New York No words can express the feel ings of those of us who were there: the pride for all our troops and the sorrow for those we lost. I was a young U.S. Army nurse in the 94th General Hospital, sta tioned near Bristol, England. My husband was a lieutenant with the 709th Tank Batallion, which landed on Omaha Beach. Our hospital had doubled in size by the 25th of May 1944-we knew that the date was not far off for the invasion. I was on duty on the night of June 5, and a group of us were walking to our ward just before 11 p.m. We were accustomed to seeing large flights of planes overhead, but this night was different. Some of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * OCTOBER 2002 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY "For the increase and diffusion of geographicknowledge." The National Geographic Society is chartered in Washington, D.C ., as a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. 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