Remembering D Day and my dad

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(This column was first published in 2018)

On this day 75 years ago, William Vick Rainey looked around and witnessed an armada of ships and planes as far as he could see.

A member of the Fourth Infantry Division, my father came ashore on Utah Beach as a radio operator in an armored car.

The Fourth was fortunate that day. The 101st Airborne’s Easy Company, featured in the TV series “Band of Brothers,” had taken out key gun emplacements and allied bombardments proved to be effective.

As dad always noted, things were not the same at nearby Omaha Beach, where the landing proved to be difficult and bloody. At other beaches, British and Canadian forces also had higher casualties, although nothing that approached the number at Omaha.

Shortly after getting off the beach, German shelling started. Still, there were about 200 casualties from the assault, compared to thousands at Omaha.

Once inland, he admitted to his unit “liberating” a cask of hard cider, or applejack as he called it, from a Normandy farmhouse and finding a way to take it along.

The division later rolled into Paris.

The battle-tested Fourth would take thousands of casualties with the division holding the line and eventually advancing in the Battle of the Bulge. He talked about spending Christmas with a family in Luxembourg and wondering if the line would hold.

A student of history, my dad often mentioned the largely forgotten Battle of Hurtgen Forest, which lasted months as Germany prepared for a final offensive.

With the crew attached to the general’s headquarters, my dad downplayed the risks, although one of the jobs of the vehicle’s crew was reconnaissance.

He noted that the lightly armored vehicle was a sitting duck if a stray tank had been in the area. He had one narrow miss when a fuel truck in a convoy near the armored car was set ablaze by fire from an American-built aircraft. The story at the time was that the Germans had captured the plane.

I pass along the memories, not only because I am proud and humbled by his service, but also because so few members of his “Greatest Generation” are still with us. Dad passed away in 2000.

Their world-changing accomplishments and sacrifices are remembered today, and I hope this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten. – Doug Rainey, publisher.

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