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Battle for Normandy beaches still haunts Franklinton vet

Posted May 23, 2014

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— Seventy years later, the memories of serving in World War II are still fresh and tough to handle for Willie Williams.

Williams, 93, landed in Normandy on June 7, 1944, the day after D-Day. Allied forces had taken the beaches by then, but German artillery still had them pinned down.

"I couldn't see too much of nothing. They were shelling so bad," he said recently at his Franklinton home. "You could see shells hit here and yonder in the water."

Once ashore, he said, he saw the body of one of the 35 young men the small town of Bedford, Va., would lose in the battle.

"First guy I saw dead was one of them laying on the side of the road with that 29th Division patch," he said. "Blood (was) running out of his head down his face."

Williams was the messenger for his unit, keeping his platoon in step with headquarters by walkie-talkie. The fighting was intense, and he said he often feared he wouldn't make it out alive.

"You get up in the morning and say, 'Made it one more day, one more day. Thank the Lord, one more day,'" he said.

Williams made it 54 days at Normandy and went on to serve in three more battles during the war. Normandy is the place he remembers most., however, and he is still haunted by the memories.

"You think about all that stuff. I tell you, you can go crazy if you think about it too much," he said. "It was all real. There were no ifs ands or buts about it. It was real."

Ten years ago, he returned to Omaha Beach, with the hell of war still evident in his mind.

"I walked up there by myself (and) looked back out across there," he said, pausing to collect himself and keep his emotions in check. "I'm sorry, people just don't know what we had to go through up there."


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