While working for Grimes Publications, I had the opportunity to interview so many incredible people – one of whom was Pine Mountain, Ga., resident and business owner, the late Mr. Al Boyd. He was part of the Normandy invasion and related the details of D-Day to me in 2006 – four months before he passed away
I will never forget the hour I spent with him.
Today, I want to share those memories with you.
Please reflect on what he said and where we are today.
On June 6, 1944, the BBC broadcast two lines from a poem written by French author, Paul Verlaine: “The violins of autumn wound my heart with monotonous languor.”
Those words signaled that D-Day was here.
The naval bombardment began at 0550 hours on the Normandy coast of France, detonating minefields along the shoreline, attempting to destroy enemy positions, and clearing the way for the wave of Allied infantrymen and paratroopers that followed.
The late Mr. Al Boyd of Pine Mountain was in that first wave of attack.
“I was part of the 11th Naval Amphibious Force, a special support group whose job it was to prepare the way for our boys. We had rocket ships, gunboats, flack barges, and underwater demolition teams. We had to take the demolition teams and loads of TNT within two miles of Omaha Beach and cut them loose.
“We were in 8-foot seas and towing something behind us that could blow us all away. The stern would go up into the air and crash back down just in time to take a hit from another 10-foot wave. We nearly bit the dust a time or two.
“After we cut loose the demolition teams, we kept going in and firing, trying to give cover so they could get in there and take out those enemy guns. We were there D-Day plus eight more.
“The seas were very rough, and some of the landing boats had a hard time getting close to shore. They just dropped those big doors, and the boys had to get out wherever they were. They had lots of gear and guns and were up to their chins or higher in the water and fighting those waves. Many of them didn’t make it – they never saw the beach. But the troops just kept coming, and we kept making those runs and firing.
“Omaha was a bloodbath. There were steep cliffs about 300 feet high on the left side where the big 88-millimeter guns were. On the other side was a more gently sloping terrain, where the bunkers and machine gun installations were.
“The first waves of our boys were mowed down like wheat.”
Mr. Boyd grew quiet for a moment as if to pay respect to his comrades he saw perish that day. His eyes had a faraway look that reflected things only he could see.
“The beach was full of the dead and wounded, but there were boys still trying to scale those cliffs. They needed to get up there and throw grenades into the slips of the bunkers and get rid of those big guns.
“You never forget what happened, but you can’t help but wonder why. When you study history, however, you learn the reasons.
“It has always been about man’s inhumanity to man…about man’s greed. It doesn’t make sense, but it all boils down to that one word…greed.
“Our boys succeeded on D-Day by pure tenacity – backbone. Many of the enemy troops on Omaha were prisoners of war that the Germans had captured. They were only fighting for their lives…we were fighting for the life of our country. We believed in what we were doing.”
Mr. Boyd’s words illuminate the difference is being great and talking great — action.
In honor of all who have served and defended our country, we must believe in the life of our country again.
We must find our backbone and tenacity.
We must remember what courage is.
Before it is too late.