'Good luck, Yanks'
The words, "Good luck, Yanks," sent off Richard McGathey as he boarded the vessel that took him, and other troops, across the English Channel in June 1944, bound for the invasion of Normandy.
"God bless you, Yanks," the townspeople quietly said as they lined the streets leading up to the ships.
McGathey was seasick that night as he'd never been, knowing what one tough colonel told the guys the night before:
One in every three of you will make it through. The second will be wounded, the third will be killed.
Among so many ships it seemed one could walk across the English Channel. McGathey, of East Hazel Crest, landed on Normandy's Omaha beach in chest-high water with his pack and his weapons early the morning of June 6, 1944. --
The landing craft beside him had just been hit and sunk.
To get to dry land, he had to push aside the floating bodies of his fallen comrades.
His regiment caught Germans on the run from the beaches and kept chasing them, so they couldn't dig in.
Once, he looked back at the route his guys took from the sand. A truck following the very same path hit a mine and exploded.
That morning he shot snipers out of trees.
In the afternoon, he watched one buddy, already trigger happy, shoot their friend by accident.
In the evening, he watched the guy next to him pull the pin of his grenade as he crawled through a fence and get his side blown out.
At night, he slept in a hole he dug himself. It rained.
For the next few days, McGathey and his buddies chased Germans to keep them moving while more Allied troops landed in France.
Then McGathey was shelled by a German tank. He went flying through the air and landed with a broken arm, leg, ankle and hip. Two medical corpsmen dodged bullets to get him on a stretcher and back to the field hospital.
McGathey was flown to England to recuperate for the next few months, where he finally learned, in August, that his mother had died right around the time he'd been hit.
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