D-Day, aka ‘Operation Overlord’

“At the altar where I first joined the sanctuary of God I ask to seek divine guidance for me in the great struggle that looms ahead.” General Douglas MacArthur would write that to Dr. W.P. Witsell, rector of Christ Episcopal Church at Little Rock, Ark., prior to the Normandy invasion.

D-Day was an event that riveted the world, turning U.S. country bumpkins into national heroes in a matter of weeks. It’s code name was “Operation Overlord,” and it was the largest amphibious invasion throughout the annals of wartime history.

I have a list of 134 young men and a few women serving their country from the town of North East back then, which pretty much exhausted the young male population of our small northeastern Dutchess County town. My father, Martin Conklin, and my friend Bill Robert’s dad, Harry, hit those beaches of Normandy.

They experienced sheer terror, brutality and heroism, as did most of the soldiers who were a part of D-Day. Many involved hardly ever uttered a word of their experiences, my dad being one of them, although Harry, my pal Bill’s dad, did so toward the end of his life when interviewed by a reporter.

Harry Robert was the first Army Ranger to scale the cliffs of Normandy to neutralize enemy positions slaughtering those crossing the beaches. Though he was seriously wounded, Harry fought on, later being nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he refused.

His words were: “I’m proud I served, but I don’t have to be proud of the people who try to glorify it. The heroes are the ones who died. For every medal I received, someone had to die in front of me and behind me.”

My father would not discuss his time in hell, though I believe if he had, it would have been a proud legacy for his family. I can perfectly understand that revisiting past traumatic events could likely rekindle past demons, and no one wants that.

D-Day — a day when the greatest armada of ships, the greatest fleet of airplanes and the greatest infantry of troops landing on five beaches in Normandy during the WWII era was assembled to rescue our allies from infamy and preserve our own freedoms.

God bless those brave men and women and you, all of our patriotic readers and your families. Continue to stay safe and healthy and enjoy this summer together.


Town of North East resident Larry Conklin is a Vietnam War veteran and a member of both the Millerton American Legion Post 178 and the VFW Post 6851 in North Canaan, Conn.

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