The sacrifices of D-Day

June 07, 2005

On June 6, 1944, four years after Nazi Germany had occupied France, America and its allies launched Operation Overlord, the largest military operation of World War II. What happened during that must never be forgotten.

The soldiers who stormed the beach included members of Hagerstown's Company B, a National Guard unit commanded by Capt Leroy "Bud" Weddle.

In 1988, survivors of the company described the experience of landing on the beach and coming ashore as Germans on the bluffs above fired at them.

As they pushed the Germans back over the cliffs, then into the countryside, those who survived watched daily as their comrades were picked off by rifle fire or blown up by hand grenades.


Weddle told Diana J. Sims, then a Herald-Mail writer, that the worst thing about it was seeing the boys that he had trained die.

Though they were personal friends, Weddle said, there was no time to grieve for them then.

Weddle and the others interviewed at the time - Max Grim, Harry Hull, Bob Fritz and Kenny Jones - said that the experience of watching fellow soldiers die was one that stayed with them forever, despite the passage of more than 40 years since the historic invasion.

Because of what soldiers such as these endured, the Germans' attempt to conquer Europe was thwarted and the Nazis' attempt to ethnically cleanse the continent of Jewish people was ended.

Without that sacrifice, the people of Europe might have suffered, as the residents of the Soviet Union did, for decades under a murderous dictatorship.

Without that sacrifice, the U.S. itself might have been threatened, if a victorious Germany had been able to continue its development of missiles and jet aircraft.

The bounty of America's present was purchased at great price by people like Weddle and his fellow soldiers. In 1988, they described themselves as ordinary men who, by working as a team, did extraordinary things.

It would be impossible to repay them for all they did, but beyond remembering them, citizens can honor their memory by excercising the right to vote that they fought for.

Is voting too much trouble? Not as much, we would venture, as crawling onto a beach with bullets raining down on you. They did their duty then; we hope citizens can do theirs now.

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