June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. Codenamed Operation Overlord, D-Day was one of the largest military invasions by air, land, and sea in the history of warfare. It involved 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 155,000 Allied forces who landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of German-occupied France. More than 4,000 Allied soldiers died on the day of the invasion. The bold operation resulted in the liberation of France by late summer and a complete victory by Allied forces the following year.
Of the 16 million Americans who served during WWII, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that less than 400,000 are still living, with 348 veterans dying each day. To honor the service and sacrifice of those veterans, Fold3 is teaming up with Newspapers.com to allow free access to their newspaper archives from June 6-9. Search for your ancestor’s military records on Fold3, then search for their story on Newspapers.com! There are remarkable D-Day stories like that of Navy Seaman Carl Arnold Boedecker.
Boedecker served aboard the destroyer USS Rich when it struck a mine and sunk in the ice-cold English Channel during the Normandy invasion. For 24 hours, Boedecker stayed afloat until a passing LST fished him out of the water during a recovery mission. A naval chaplain administered Boedecker his last rites when he noticed he was still breathing. He was transported to an English hospital where doctors amputated his frozen leg and set his shattered jaw. Later he was transferred to Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston where doctors determined his second foot also required amputation.
Doctors treated Carl Boedecker at naval hospitals and fitted him with prosthetic limbs. After being discharged, Carl worked as a journalist and later owned and operated a book store. He passed away in 2016.
Another heroic story is that of 22-year-old John Norbert Murphy. Murphy came ashore on the beaches of Normandy the morning of June 6,1944. He was a radioman and soon set up ship-to-shore communications so officers could direct the movement of troops and materials. The beach was under intense shell and machine-gun fire. At 7:00 p.m. that night, Murphy and two other men huddled in a foxhole when a German 88-mm shell landed directly in their hole and exploded. Murphy was killed instantly. Fellow soldiers described his final hours, “I saw him just before he came ashore here. He wasn’t worried. He never talked much except about his girl, Dolly, back in Kansas City, and his Dad.” Murphy’s family learned his fate about a month later when a family friend found his dog tags wired to a stake in a fresh mound of dirt in the American Cemetery in France.