“Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”
— Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, part of the message sent prior to the Normandy Invasion
Despite the 68 years that has passed, George Benson, 89, remembers his time in the U.S. Army like it was yesterday.
At the age of 19, he was drafted into the Army. He later travelled to Boston, Mass., for training before loading up on a boat to go to Liverpool, England.
“My job was in the crow’s nest,” Benson said. “It took eight days and nights to cross the Atlantic Ocean.”
Benson was part of the 40,000 soldiers and 40,000 nurses making the voyage. Shortly after arriving in England, Benson and the other combat engineers started setting up camp.
On June 3, 1944, Benson and the other soldiers in his group prepared for the invasion and waited in their ship in the English Channel for their orders. Each soldier was loaded up with their gear and about 40 pounds of TNT. The soldiers waited in the channel for three days and three nights.
“We were mad, we were all geared up and ready to go but we had to wait,” Benson said. “We were in the ship waiting to received the word to hit the beach.”
At 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, the soldiers got their orders and began making their way to shore in the landing ships. Their mission was to blow up the obstacles that were on the beach. As the tailgate of the landing ship was released, Benson and the other soldiers started to storm the beach.
“I made it about 40 feet on the beach when I got shot in the knee,” Benson said. “I just laid there on the beach for three days and three nights as the invasion continued — bombs were going off all around me.”
The medics were attending to the wounded soldiers as fast as they could by priority of their injuries.
“I thought I was going to be killed,” Benson said. “When I hit the beach in that first wave, more than 30,000 soldiers were killed.”
The wounded Benson laid on the beach for three days and nights and recalls having to follow the tide as it came in. Finally, medics were able to attend to him and remove him from the beach.
Three months later, Benson was able to return to Texas and spent the next year in the hospitals in San Antonio and Houston.
Benson received the Purple Heart for his service along with a few other medals.
After leaving the Army, Benson moved back to Brown County with his wife, Edith. He started working with horses — training and breaking them. It wasn’t long before they started their family, two sons and a daughter.
Benson’s oldest son, Dennis, never heard the details from his father’s time in the service nor his part in the Normandy Beach Invasion.
“Growing up, he never talked about his time in the Army,” Dennis Benson said. “My mom was the one who told me about it.”
Dennis Benson heard his father’s story for the first time during the second annual veterans’ dinner host by the Bangs Lions Club on Thursday. He couldn’t imagine going through the events he father had been through and understood why he never wanted to talk about it.
The veterans’ dinner was the first Veterans Day related events George Benson has taken part in since his service. Since George Benson was drafted into the Army, he has felt different than the soldiers who chose to enlist.
“I didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done,” Benson said. “I think it’s wonderful that the Bangs Lion Club held the dinner for us.”