In 1944, US Army Signal Corps Cpl. Herbert F. Geller was serving as a radio repairman attached to the Eighth Army Air Force in Burtonwood, England. This is his reminiscence of D-Day.
D-Day, the Allied invasion of France was no military secret in England before the real D-Day. We all heard on the radio and read in the British and American newspapers that a huge Allied invasion being organized in England was going to take place in June 1944.
How could anyone in England not know that this was going to happen very soon? Anyone driving on M-1, the main highway through central England to the Channel, could see that one lane of the highway was blocked by hundreds or maybe thousands of U.S, Army trucks, Jeeps and command cars.
Millions, not thousands, of American soldiers were landing in Scotland and in other British ports to take part in the invasion. Of course, more millions of fighting men and women were coming from Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and even the British and French African colonies. Adding to this huge Army and Navy were the British Armed Forces and Free French, Polish, Dutch, Czech, Dutch, Norwegian and other men who escaped from Nazi Occupied Europe to fight the enemy.
I personally saw and heard about all of this huge effort to defeat the Nazi enemy when I was stationed at Burtonwood Air Base in Lancashire that June. I was lucky enough to be assigned to accompany a truck driver delivering secret radar equipment in East Anglia, the hump of England near the North Sea where most of the American Air Bases were located.
We drove to Cottesmore, a Ninth Air Force base where paratroopers were getting ready to board planes to parachute into Normandy. I spoke to many of the paratroopers about their families and their home towns in the United States. They were nice, friendly young guys and I’ve often wondered how many survived the battles to capture Normandy.
When we we got back to Burtonwood we were told all passes and furloughs were cancelled and we had to work seven days without a break. Everyone griped but we knew we had it very easy compared to the guys that were fighting and dying in the Normandy hedgerows.
Herbert F. Geller is a newspaper journalist, author, playwright, editor and New York democratic committeeman. He’s been honored many times for his work and remains active in the American Legion as commander of Post 1866.
(Featured Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)