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D-Day veteran recalls his experiences at Normandy 76 years ago

Normandy D-Day (National Archives USA/WikiCommons)

Jim Moore was a 20-year-old Army replacement who arrived on the beaches of Normandy, 10 days after the first allied troops waded ashore under withering German fire.

Even so, it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.

“We got on a transport boat for the trip across the English Channel. There was a storm and the waves were so high that we couldn’t get off the boat for five days. Finally, it calmed down enough that we could could load onto an LST (landing ship tank) for the trip to shore,” Moore, 96, said this week.

Once the LST arrived off Normandy, it dropped its ramp, and Moore stepped into water that was almost over his head.

“If it had been another three or four inches deep, I would have drowned,” he said.

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Moore is the first to say that his landing at Utah Beach was easier than that for many of the 150,000 Allied troops — American, Canadian and British — who took part in Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944, and who started the German troops falling back toward Paris.

There were rumors that the Germans were planning to use poison gas against the advancing allies, which ultimately proved false. But for a few days Moore and his fellow replacements had to wear two layers of uniforms, one of which had been chemically impregnated to protect against poison gas. GIs frequently overheated in the hot uniforms, Moore said.

After Paris fell to the allies, Moore was assigned to work in an ammunition depot in Le Mans, and then assigned to a newly organized military police battalion riding and guarding freight trains.

Moore worked in supply in a multi-story building in Paris abandoned by the Germans, and also performed street patrol as an MP.

“It was a very comfortable thing,” he recalls, of the time, making friends with a French family who owned a camera store.

As the war in Europe drew to a close, the Army sent his unit to Marseilles on the French Riviera to guard German prisoners of war and to occasionally raid black markets where stolen American good were being illegally sold.

“When Victory-Europe arrived on May 8, 1945, they started to prepare us to be sent to the Pacific,” Moore said of the war against Japan that would continue until when American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki, Aug. 9, 1945.

Instead of heading to Japan, Moore found himself on a ship headed through the Strait of Gibraltar at midnight on Dec. 31, 1945, that landed in Norfolk, Va., 21 days later.

Moore traveled on to Fort Wayne, Ind., where he was discharged.

Moore was born and raised in Oklahoma, one of seven children. After he graduated from high school in 1942, he worked as a soda jerk before moving to Michigan to help a sister who had just had a baby. In 1943, he was drafted into the Army, and sent to Fort Sill, Okla., for basic training. The same year, he married his wife, Peggy, a marriage that would last 69 years and produce seven children.

Subsequent to basic training, he was assigned to field artillery school, where he learned to repair and maintain guns, big and small.

In 1944, he traveled via troop transport ship to Liverpool, England, before being assigned to Cardiff, Wales, and finally to an area near the English coast.

After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to learn to be an optician. In 1953, he and a partner founded General Optical Company in Flint, Mich. A mainstay of the business was making prescription safety glasses for General Motors workers in the area.

In the 1980s, he retired. Jim and Peggy bought a motor home and explored the United States. They moved to Manatee County in 1991 and settled in a Palmetto neighborhood, attracted by the regular square dances there.

Peggy passed away in 2012. Since then, Moore has stayed engaged in community activities and sings in the choir at Holy Cross Catholic Church.

Another Manatee County resident, Bill O’Brien, is also a veteran of the Normandy invasion and has had his story reported several times in the Bradenton Herald.

A long-time Bradenton resident, O’Brien, 96, a retired principal and teacher, was an assistant squad leader in the 8th Infantry Division that landed on Omaha Beach.

The 8th Infantry fought its way from Normandy, across northern France and into Germany’s Rhineland before the war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945.

Wounded in action, O’Brien recorded his 11 months in combat in a book titled “Life of Dogface WWII Combat Infantryman,” published Aug. 18, 2019. The book is available on amazon.com.

“There is no way to explain what a person feels like when the war is over. You’re being shot at all the time and suddenly you’re free. I was scared all the time. Any soldier who says they were in combat and they weren’t scared is lying,” O’Brien told the Herald in 2019.

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© 2020 The Bradenton Herald