I recently discovered that my grandfather’s older brother Joseph died at Normandy in a major battle where over 1000 US soldiers died in 24 hours. I had always known he died in the war, but I don’t think anyone ever said Normandy…
He was a private in the 83rd regiment
, 331st infantry division, and died on the 4th of July 1944. He’d just turned 18 on 28 May. The photo is him 18 months before he was killed.
Here’s a brief description
of the battle where he died (he died on the first day of a six-day battle that saw over 3000 soldiers killed) -
The 83rd was held in reserve until after D-Day, and entered France on 21 through 24 June. They landed across Omaha Beach and took over defensive positions near Carentan, where they relieved the 101st Airborne around the end of the month. Stephen Ambrose, in his book “Band Of Brothers,” quotes one of the men of the 101st Airborne about the arrival of the 83rd. He said they were “so clean looking, with a full compliment of men in each unit. Even the paint on their helmets looked as if they had just been unpacked.” That would soon change.
On 4 July, the 83rd Division left Carentan and moved south toward Sainteny, a short march of about four miles that quickly turned into a six-day battle claiming over 1,400 casualties in the first 24 hours. By the time Sainteny was taken on 10 July, that number multiplied to 3,264.
On the first day, the 83rd jumped off along the Carentan-Periers road, with the entire division artillery in support. In the 331st, the 2nd and 3rd battalions jumped off abreast at 0445 hours from the vicinity of Meautis. The assault against the German 17th SS Division and 6th Parachute Regiment was slow and costly. They fought their way through swamps that the Germans created by flooding the fields. The Germans knew the routes that the 83rd would have to take, and from concealed positions dug beneath the hedgerows, they ranged in on the advancing GIs with mortars and artillery. While the 2nd Battalion of the 331st was attacking south, the 2nd Battalion of the 329th Infantry was attacking west to an “island” in the swamp.
I’ve heard the story of his body returning home a million times. The casket was sealed and put in his parents’ living room with an honor guard for a day or two for the wake. My great-grandmother was never sure that the casket really had her son, but she said whoever it is, they’ll have a nice funeral. Funny that no one ever mentioned the Normandy part!