Login NowClose 
Sign In to newsexaminer.com           
Forgot Password
or if you have not registered since 8/22/18
Click Here to Create an Account
Close

Memories of D-Day

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Few people alive today are old enough to remember D-Day, the day Allied forces began the western offensive to end World War II. But here are some memories of that day and others from World War II. 

Formal U.S. involvement in the war started after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and ended with victory over Japan on Aug. 14, 1945. D-Day began the Allies’ major push in Europe, culminating in the surrender of the Axis powers, led by Nazi Germany, on May 7, 1945.

Both VE Day and VJ Day were memorialized with Extra editions of the Connersville News-Examiner. Those dates, along with Pearl Harbor and D-Day, stand out in the memories of people who were alive then. Here are a few local recollections of the war years.

 

Normandy veteran, a POW

The late Albert Selke was like most of the Greatest Generation: He enlisted, he fought, he came home, he went to work, started a family and did not discuss his service. His son, Mike Selke, said a brother talked his dad into writing his memories down for his grandchildren and future generations. The following is from those memories, provided by Mike Selke.

Albert Selke joined the Army like many 18 year olds. During training, he saw a notice for a machine gunner for a unit shipping out for overseas duty, so he volunteered. He went to England in the fall of 1943, where he trained for D-Day.

His 36th Armored Infantry Division landed on Omaha Beach five days after D-Day. His division then bogged down in Saint Lo, France, commonly known as hedgerow country.

About a month later, orders came for Operation “Breakthrough at Saint Lo.”

“Planes bombed the front line for 24 hours which was suppose to soften up the resistance,” Selke wrote. “It was quite a sight to see. My officer said not to worry about being the point tank, as there would be a 7-mile column behind us.”

The attack came shortly after daylight with five men, including Selke, riding on the back of a Sherman tank heading down the road.

“We passed a recon jeep along the side of the road and they waved and said ‘good luck.’ We had just started around a curve in the road when there was a loud boom and we knew we were hit,” he wrote.

A German 88 antitank shell hit the front of the tank and went through the back, killing one of the men. Three of them jumped into a ditch but later the Germans located them. One of the GIs could speak German and heard them say they were to take the Americans into the woods and shoot them.

However, they ended up in boxcar on a train of 30 boxcars for about two weeks. Allied aircraft often shot at them, not knowing about the POWs inside.

“You would hear the strafing start and you would just roll up in a ball with your head covered and pray,” Selke wrote.

He spent the rest of the war as a POW and was very happy to get back home. He married Virginia Endicott and worked at Stant 45 years. He died in 1999.

“Most guys would say the same thing, they wouldn’t take anything for the experience but wouldn’t want to do it again,” Selke concluded. “I think it taught me to look out for myself as nobody will do it as well as me. I think it also taught me to appreciate things a little more. At the time, it was awful to live like an animal but the years seem to lessen it all. War is something that nobody should have to go through but I doubt it will ever cease. Be thankful for what we all have. Wealth means a lot more than money.”

Brother of a soldier

Gene Worley had turned 11 a few weeks before D-Day. He had a brother serving in the Army but his parents did not know where the Army had him stationed.

Even at 11, he knew about the war and kept track of events.

That morning his mother woke him at 6 a.m., crying and frightened about the news on the Grunow radio.

“My parents were fearful that he was involved in the invasion that day,” he wrote. “As it turned out, he was in the South Pacific and was involved in actions for which he was awarded five Bronze Stars.”

 

“Mother told me the invasion had begun and the voices and noise we were hearing were from gunfire and broadcasters on the beach and that hundreds or maybe thousands of young men were fighting and dying,” he recalled. “My dad was at work but Mother and I spent the hours of the day listening to the invasion on short wave radio.”

Years later, she said D-Day should never be forgotten and had her son listen to the radio that morning so he could hear and remember what the young men did that day.

 

“True to her word, I never forgot that day, nor will I as long as I live,” Worley said. “D-Day, 6 June, 1944 was a special day and every 6 June that has followed is and shall forever be so.”

World War II veteran

World War II veteran Richard Pea served with the Army in Italy on June 6, 1944. He likely heard about the D-Day invasion over the Armed Forces Radio.

After receiving an injury in combat, the military had reclassified him so he could no longer serve in combat. He worked with a hospital unit and later drove an officer around Italy.

On D-Day, Allied forces he served with had been set to attack Rome but combatants declared it an open city. He said his unit then boarded a destroyer and went to Livorno, north of Rome.

“When I heard about it, I thought ‘Man we’re going to get some help, they’re coming in the other way,’” he said. “We were going up through Italy and that put them coming down through France. It made me real happy. I wanted to get it over with and come home.”

The Italian government had surrendered in October 1943 but Germany still maintained control as the Allies moved northward. Former Dictator Benito Mussolini fled to the north and his countrymen killed him in April 1945.

“I did see Mussolini hanging in a filling station (in Milan),” he said. “There was a convoy of us going that way and everyone got excited.”

After the war ended in Europe, he boarded a ship for the South Pacific.

 

“Everybody began screaming and hollering because they had just told some of them Japan had surrendered,” Pea said. “We went on to the States. I got seasick as the devil, but I was sure glad to get back home. Four years is a long time, especially when you’re not sure you’re going to come back.”

High school student

Carolyn Konstanzer, long-time Connersville News-Examiner Lifestyle editor, did not recall many facts of that day.

“I was a junior in high school and I don’t remember as much about that as I do Pearl Harbor Day, because that was on a Sunday,” she recalled. “I was on my way to the church for the young people’s meeting. When I got to the church, everybody was shaking and nervous and everyone was so upset and so worried.”

Her dad had been in World War I. He tried to enlist for duty in World War II but the military declared him too old, she remembered. He received an appointment to the draft board.

Konstanzer visited the News-Examiner office Monday and looked at the large copies of old newspapers displayed on the walls, including a VE Day edition dated Monday, May 7, 1945.

“That was right before I graduated,” she said. “E.I. Higgs was editor and he knew I was going to come to work here so he called me and said ‘We’re going to put out an extra so come on over and be part of it.’ I was here for the next one (announcing Japan had surrendered) too.”

Rosie the Riveter

Women began doing many of the jobs men formerly did before they headed to war, working in factories, managing farms and operating stores.

Lizzie Mae Barrett is 102 years old. She does not remember much about D-Day.

She graduated college in 1941 and started working at a Crosley Corporation plant in Cincinnati, putting radios in big metal boxes. Later, she calibrated gun sights for the Navy and did that through the end of the war.

She remembers the rationing of shoes and butter.

“My sister was a smoker and I remember standing in line with her to get cigarettes,” she recalled. “I remember ration stamps real well.”

During the war, her husband-to-be came home on furlough from Alaska. They got engaged and a year later and when he came home from the war, they married. He worked at Cincinnati Milling Machine so she quit her job. The family came to Rush County in 1946, where he farmed. He then got a job at Rex Buggy Co. in Connersville and they moved here.

Many people remember her as a schoolteacher. She began as a fill-in teacher in Laurel and then at Bentonville School for a year before going to the then-new Frazee Elementary School. She remained there until retirement, about 1975.