June 6 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day when the Allied Forces crossed the English Channel to an area of France called Normandy. Paratroopers began the invasion before dawn. Amphibious troop followed and landed on five beaches. The US troops concentrated on Omaha Beach where they faced heavy opposition and lost over 2,000 men. The Normandy Invasion lasted through the month of August. The Battle of Cherbourg began June 25 and was part of this invasion. D-Day would later be called “the beginning of the end of World War II.”
I wanted to write a column to commemorate this anniversary but I did not have time to do much research. I would have liked to have interviewed Owen Edwards, the last surviving man from Laurel County to have participated in D-Day, but my schedule did not permit that. Instead I went to the microfilmed copies of The Sentinel-Echo and scanned through the issues for June and July of 1944. I was mainly looking for stories concerning local men. The following are from those papers. These are exact quotes except for a few spelling corrections. Each issue had a section called “Our Soldiers and Sailors.” I assume this was information provided to the paper by family and friends. The invasion was mentioned in the June 8 issue but I did not find any local items until the June 29 issue.
June 29, 1944 (front page) Harold Combs Wounded
Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Combs have been notified by the War Department that their son, Pfc. Harold D. Combs, had been wounded in action in France on June 7th. The message was received Saturday afternoon and no further word has been heard of him. Harold is a paratrooper and took part in the initial invasion in France. He is the only Laurel County invasion casualty so far reported.
June 29, 1944 (Page 4) Our Soldiers and Sailors
Capt. Warren Little, of the old London National Guard, now in France, writes his parents, Mr. and Mrs. B. L. Little, that they are all O.K.
July 6, 1944 (front page) Luther Grady Wounded in France
Mr. and Mrs. Tobe Grady have been notified by the War Department that their son, Pfc. Luther Grady, had been wounded in action in France on June 7. Luther is in the air-borne division and took part in the invasion. His parents have received a letter saying he was getting along fine and would soon be back in France with the other boys.
July 6, 1944 (front page) Edwin Begley Is Missing
Mrs. Leonard Begley, of Pittsburg, last week received notification from the War Department that her son, Pfc. Edwin Begley, was missing in action. Young Begley has been stationed in England and it is believed he is missing from the Normandy front in France.
July 6, 1944 (Page 5) Our Soldiers and Sailors
Sunday's Courier-Journal contained a picture of the U.S.S. Quincy, bombarding Cherbourg, France on D-Day. Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Jody have received a letter from their son, George S. Jody, on a U. S.S. Quincy letter head, stating that he was O.K.
July 6, 1944 (Page 8) Our Soldiers and Sailors
Eston Miracle, 19, Gunner Mate 21c, USN, was a member of a U.S. Naval crew in the American assault Force which invaded France He saw previous action at Frinch, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Dan Miracle, of Fariston, and attended Lily High School. He has been overseas 17 months and in service two years.
July 20, 1944 (front page) Wounded in France
According to word received by his family here, Pfc. Earl Patton, of the First Division, was wounded during the invasion in France and is now in a hospital in England from where he writes that he is getting along as fine as could be. Recently awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster he was wounded while in action about a year ago in North Africa.
July 20, 1944 (Page 4) Our Soldiers and Sailors
Pfc. Troy R. Miller, of Lily, was among the doughboys of the Ninth Infantry Division, fighting on the Cherbourg Peninsula, who have been awarded the newly created Combat Infantry Badge by Major General Manton S. Eddy, Division commander. (Sadly, Troy was killed in action on July 18, 1944, two days before this was printed in the newspaper.)
July 20, 1944 (Page 4) Our Soldiers and Sailors
Pvt. Balin Prewitt, son of Mr. and Mrs. Bill Prewitt of Vox, who was captured in Italy Dec. 6, 1942, is again on active duty with the U.S. Army says the Corbin Tribune. Prewitt was interned in France and among other prisoners of war held by the Germans, was liberated in the Normandy invasion.
July 27, 1944 (Page 4)
Pfc. Hershel Lee Warren, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. L. Warren, of London and Richmond, was in the invasion group entering France. He had been stationed in London, England.
I looked in our Pictorial History of World War II Veterans from Laurel County to see if I could find information on any of these men. Warren Little, Eston Miracle, Troy Miller, Blain Prewitt and Hershel Lee Warren were featured in the book. We have copies of this book available for $15 plus $3 for postage and handling. If you have any stories to tell concerning these men or any of our men who fought in World War 2 you may contact us. E-mail is the best way to reach me but I am usually at the library on Mondays.
The Laurel County Historical Society is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. except during inclement weather. You may contact us by calling 606-864-0607. We are located at 310 West 3rd Street in the old Health Department Building. You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org (The first character is a lower case L as in Laurel.)