By Shawn J. Soper, News Editor
Originally published June 5, 2009
OCEAN CITY – Sixty-five years ago tomorrow, on June 6, 1944, the invasion of Normandy on the northwest coast of France began. Code-named Operation Overlord, the mission included thousands of ships, aircraft and men in perhaps the largest invasion of its kind in history.
Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower told the troops before they embarked on the invasion “you are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we’ve striven these many months.”
Many of those crusaders never made it off the beaches at Normandy with thousands killed in the first few hours and many more perished as the huge juggernaut pushed inland on its way to ending the war in Europe. Time has taken most of the survivors of that great crusade over the several decades that have passed since, but more than a few press on to share their memories with the generations that benefited from their heroic actions including a handful right here in Ocean City.
Tomorrow night, members of the American Legion Sinepuxent Post 166 in Ocean City will gather to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day and the four active members who participated in the invasion will be honored and relate their memories of the tragic, but heroic day with their comrades. This week, a couple of D-Day heroes living in Ocean City shared their stories of the fateful day with The Dispatch.
John J. Sauer, Sr. was just 19 years old when he was drafted into the Army and attached to the Army Air Corps. Shortly after hitting the ground in England, he was re-assigned to the infantry, shipped to Dover on the English coast and re-trained in the skills he would likely need in the pending invasion of Normandy on the coast of France.
At around 4 a.m. on June 6, the call came to prepare for the invasion and Sauer and his mates loaded onto the landing craft bound for France. A few hours later, the landing craft ran aground on a sandbar and the crew on the vessel believed they had reached the beach and lowered the gate to unload the troops. What they didn’t know was that they had not reached the beach at all.