I would like to speak a little about the larger picture concerning the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944 at Normandy. The speaker at this week’s program is a man named Mr. Don Goss. He is a Jackson native who landed on Omaha Beach at 0930 on D-Day. But now I wish to speak of what the landing that day meant to the entire war effort.
The war started on 1 Sept. 1939 with the German invasion of Poland, but lets go back one month to August 1939 when Hitler and the dictator of Russia Joseph Stalin signed anon-aggression pact. What that did was give Hitler something that he needed very badly which was a one front war. He knew that he was going to attack France and England as soon as he had finished Poland which was over in about one month. Russia and Germany carved Poland up between the two of them. Hitler then set his sights on England and France, the latter fell in June of 1940 and England was then on her own though the United States had what was called the Lend Lease act which gave England some military hardware and money but we were still ruled by what was then called the isolationist in Congress.
To get back to why the landing on Normandy was so important. Hitler attacked his partner in crime on June 21 1941 because he felt like he had England on the ropes and he could now attack a country that he very much hated: Russia. By the end of World War II the US had lost about 400,000 men and England lost about 300,000 men. In comparison our now ally Russia lost about 20,000,000 people! Stalin had been threatening to sue for a peace with Germany which they did in WW l and they just quit and we did not want Russia to quit fighting the Germans because of the strength that Germany still had in June of 1944. What Stalin wanted was an allied invasion of the European Continent in the West to take some of the pressure off the eastern front where he was losing millions of people.
That is where Mr. Don Goss and several other men from Jackson that I have interviewed came into the picture. The other men that I know that were at Normandy that day are Mr. Fred Bahlau, Mr. Don Brininstool both of the 101st Airborne, as well as Mr Bob Black of Florida who was in the 82nd Airborne. All three of these men parachuted into Normandy at about 0300 in to blackness with thousands and thousands of rounds of hot steel aimed right at them (See picture). Think of the RAW GUTS that it took to take that step out of the C-47 into darkness and seeing all of the tracers coming what must have seemed right at YOU.
Don Goss hit Omaha Beach at 0930. He is still to this day emotionally distraught by what he saw and did on the killing field that day. I interviewed a US Navy sailor named Harold Beal who was on Omaha Beach on D-Day June 6th 1944 for 12 hrs because two of his landing craft that he was the coxwain of were sunk or seriously damaged, he told me that the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan(which I found very hard to watch because of the graphic violence portrayed was a very accurate description of the killing and carnage that was on Omaha Beach that horrible day. He still has PTSD over what he saw that day 70 yrs ago. The German artillery and mortars were pre-registered on that beach. All they had to do was fire and they would more than likely hit an American from the 1st Division at 0630 or the 29th Division which Don Goss was in on that fateful day of June 6th, 1944 D-Day.
12 days later after horrific fighting when all but a couple of dozen of the men in his Company of 250 men had been killed or shot, Don was shot through the jaw by a sniper and hospitalized on and off for 19 months. His buddies got the sniper!!