Testimonials from D-Day: "It was total chaos!"

(To David Bartoccini)

The memory often leaves the man with the passing of the years and the advancing age, but reserves punctual surprises when it is asked to tell the most crucial moments of contemporary history. At 73 years away, the memory and emotions that have marked the lives of veterans who took part in the Normandy landing proved to be an extraordinary testimony.

When the landing craft ramp went down, a few dozen meters from the Utah beach - US sector - the corporal of the 4 infantry division Herman Zeitchik jumped out and ducked behind a dune to escape the crossfire of machine guns that defended the German bunkers. At 93 years Zeitchik tells his dawn in the D-Day of Operation Overlord: 6 June 1944 ...

"When the front part of the landing craft lowered, we jumped down. We could not figure out where to shoot. We just had to get to the beach and try to find the rest of the unit".

The beach renamed as 'Utah' was an area of ​​60 kilometers in the western sector between La Madeleine and St. Martin-de-Varville where 20.000 men disembarked.

"There were so many guys coming to the ground ... Many did not make it. I was lucky". He said Zeitchik during the 73 ° Memorial Day that was held in Washington.

The simple soldier Arnald Gabriel, of the 29ª infantry division destined for Omaha Beach - a restricted coastal area in the 8 kilometers between St. Honorine-des-Pertes and Vierville-sur-Mer - recalls that the water was damn cold.

"Believe it or not, even if we were in June, the water was terribly cold. That cold, mixed with fear, was an indelible experience. It was the total chaos: the planes darted over our heads, the Navy shelled the coast, the enemy fired at us and we responded. Nobody landed where they should have ... They dropped me off on the left side of the planned line-up and I ended up with the 1st Infantry Division. It took me a day before I found my 29th birthdays. This was the kind of chaos".

After landing in Omaha, Gabriel continued to liberate France by earning two Bronze Stars. At the end of the war I move to USAF as conductor. Before the conflict his dream was to become a musician.

"Music was my way of overcoming post-traumatic stress. He kept me busy instead of giving me time to look back. It was essential to move forward."

Gabriel took his leave of the Air Force with the rank of colonel after thirty-six years of service. It was he, at the ripe age of 92, who led the high school band that cheered the ceremony with patriotic songs and songs.

"I will do the 75 ° and also the 80 ° (D-Day anniversary) when I will have 100 years".

Of the 160.000 men that the 6 Jun 1944 invaded Normandy, 9.000 found death the first day.

"I remember my fallen comrades every day. They are with us and I am here today for them”, He concluded with a smile.

(source / photo: US Army)