Seventy five years ago today, the United States and our allies landed 156,000 troops on five beachheads near Normandy, France beginning the invasion of Europe that would eventually lead to the fall of the Third Reich. June 6, 1944 was known as D-Day and was the largest invasion ever assembled before or since. D-Day was the start of Allied operations which would ultimately liberate Western Europe, defeat Nazi Germany and end the Second World War. By the end of June 11, 1944, 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches.
The armed forces use code-names to refer to military operations. Operation Overlord was the code-name for the Allied invasion of north-west Europe. Operation Overlord began on 6 June 1944 (D-Day) and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944. Operation Neptune was the assault phase of Operation Overlord and involved landing the troops on the Normandy beaches. It began on 6 June 1944 (D-Day) and ended on 30 June 1944. By then, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. The Battle of Normandy is the name given to the fighting in Normandy from D-Day until the end of August 1944. The liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944 is sometimes used as the end point of the Battle of Normandy.
The number of people killed in the fighting is not exactly known. Accurate record keeping was very difficult under the circumstances. Books often give a figure of 2,500 Allied dead for D-Day. However, research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has uncovered a more accurate figure of 4,414 Allied personnel killed on D-Day. These include 2,501 from the US, 1,449 British dead, 391 Canadians and 73 from other Allied countries. Total German losses on D-Day (not just deaths, but also wounded and prisoners of war) are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000. Over 100,000 Allied and German troops were killed during the whole of the Battle of Normandy, as well as around 20,000 French civilians, many as a result of Allied bombing.
686 veterans from Indiana were involved in D-Day. Of those, five were from Randolph County. Robert W. Andrews of the 29th Infantry Division, Eugene Carroll of the 147th Engineering Combat Battalion, George W. Ganger of the 741st Tank Battalion, Charles W. Grove of the 112th Engineering Combat Battalion, and Everett F. Ullom of the 29th Infantry Division took part in the invasion.
Private First Class Robert W. Andrews of Modoc was killed in action and received the Purple Heart. Sergeant George W. Ganger of Lynn was born on July 15, 1919, and registered for the draft in the first or second draft in Randolph County in either 1940 or 1941. He survived the war and passed away on January 14, 2004 in nearby New Castle. Sergeant Charles Webster Grove of Parker City, registered for one of the same drafts and also received the Purple Heart. Private First Class Everett Franklin Ullom of Ridgeville also registered for the first or second Randolph County Drafts in 1940 or 1941. Private First Class Eugene Carroll was born in 1923 and enlisted on February 8, 1943.
There may be others from Randolph County who took part in the invasion of Normandy, Ted Martin of the Randolph County Museum recalls the late Don Hahn telling him stories of D-Day. The information that is available on local WWII veterans has very little info on what battles and events they were a part of. Most of the information above was pieced together from various websites found by searching for WWII veterans from Randolph County Indiana, and then searching the names of the veterans who came up.
Many of the survivors of this invasion have since passed on, most rarely speak of what happened, and time has dulled the memories of those who are still with us, but we owe each and every one of these members of “The Greatest Generation” a debt of gratitude and the utmost respect. If not for their actions, the world would be a much different place today.