June 6, 2009

Positivity: Houston D-Day veteran receives Legion of Honor medal

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:58 am

From Houston, USA and Normandy, France:

June 5, 2009, 8:33PM

Decades passed before Houston’s Clyde Combs told his children he was part of the massive D-Day invasion when Allied troops fought past Nazi mines and machine guns to storm France’s beaches and march on to liberate Europe.

Neither did he mention he was aboard a superfast attack craft on June 6, 1944, and helped protect the west flank of invading forces as they established a beachhead, fished dead sailors out of the sea, and hunted for German soldiers fleeing in the darkness.

The 84-year-old former Navy PT boat crewman didn’t tell, he said, because he didn’t think anyone cared.

“It wasn’t considered a big deal,” said Combs, who still has a full head of hair and is probably lean enough to climb into his Cracker Jack uniform. “You were in the war, and you made it back and whatever,” he said. “No, I didn’t discuss it.”

On Friday, Combs was inducted into France’s prestigious Legion of Honor to commemorate the battle’s 65th anniversary today.

With the passing of time, as the offensive was pushed into history books, public interest grew in events surrounding the D-Day invasion. A massive fighting force, including more than 150,000 personnel, 5,000 ships and 11,000 planes, pushed across the English Channel and roared ashore along the Normandy region’s coastline.

“The invading armada was one of the largest armadas in the world’s history,” Combs said. “And to have been a small, tiny part of it in any way is such a privilege.”
A train to Normandy

Combs and dozens of American D-Day veterans are back in France for the anniversary. They were awarded their Legion of Honor medals in a ceremony at Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb.

The veterans are to mark D-Day with a train ride to Normandy, for a ceremony and gathering during which Combs is to meet President Barack Obama as well as the leaders of Canada, Britain and France.

Combs and one other Navy veteran, who was on a landing craft that day, are expected to offer brief remarks at one of the events at the hallowed beachside cemetery, where more than 9,300 American service members are buried. Combs said he plans to speak from the heart but has no prepared remarks.

Combs would be the last to say he was special. As he sees it, then 19, he was doing his part at D-Day, doing the job he was trained to do.

The real heroes are the thousands of service members killed on D-Day, he said.

About 10,000 Allied service members died that first day of the battle, including 1,068 sailors.

“There are others far more deserving than I,” Combs said. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

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