Fourteen American veterans from World War II, including a Pinehurst man who landed at Omaha Beach, will be honored by France Thursday in a ceremony at the State Capitol.
Denis Barbet, the Consul General of France in Atlanta, will bestow the Legion of Honor at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol. The Legion of Honor, founded by Napoleon in 1802, is the highest honor in France.
One of those being honored is Gerald M. Anderson of Pinehurst, who calls June 6, 1944, the "most terrible day of my life."
Anderson, 91, was in the 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He was on the second wave to land at Omaha Beach in the Normandy invasion.
Anderson said he was one of about 38 soldiers packed into a landing craft for D-Day, and he could hear bullets, mortars and German artillery shells landing as the boat approached Omaha Beach.
"Guys were getting sick and throwing up all over the place," he said.
Anderson said he was about eight or 10 guys back when the front ramp opened and fire poured in from German automatic weapons. He dove into waist-deep water and headed for a sandbar halfway to shore.
Once there, he moved toward to the edge of the water, hiding behind debris.
Anderson said the Americans expected bomb craters to be on the beach after a bombing run by the U.S. Air Force, but there were none.
"Whatever they did dropped inland," he said.
That left thousands of Americans with little shelter on the beach as murderous German fire poured in.
"You could see the Germans up there moving around," Anderson said.
Eventually, Anderson said, the U.S. troops organized in small groups and fought their way off the beach and up the bluffs.
"There was only one place to go," he said. "We were not going to swim back to England."
Asked how he survived, he said, "Just luck."
Anderson's job was to clear mines and booby traps, and he kept a map of Europe with blue marks where his team lost men. Those blue marks included well-known fights like the Battle of the Bulge.
Anderson, who went to war from a small town in Illinois, worked in Washington after the war and eventually retired to Pinehurst.
His time in what's been called the Greatest Generation, and his participation in the epic events of D-Day, doesn't leave him with any doubts that other generations are capable of the same.
"I don t think there's any doubt this is [generation] is different. But if it was the same circumstances, if people knew what they were facing, I think the response would be the same," he said. "Down deep, Americans have something they never want to give up, and that's freedom."
American soldiers France will honor Thursday at the State Capitol
* George F. Tyson Jr, from Mebane (Ret. Colonel, L Company, 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division)
* John Salop from Charlotte (Commander, USS. Charles F. Hughes)
* Allen D. Evans from Chapel Hill (Staff Sergeant, Headquarters Battery, 76th Field Artillery Battalion)
* Gerald M. Anderson from Pinehurst (Sergeant, 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division)
* Jessie O. Bowman from Granite Falls (Sergeant, 345th Regiment, 87th Infantry Division)
* Carl R. Britt from Conway (Sergeant, 274th Infantry Regiment, 70th Division)
* Donald F. Johnston from Cary (Sergeant, Company L, 410th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division)
* Joseph H. Collie from Durham (Corporal, Company B, 397th Infantry)
* James W. Toffton from Rocky Mount (Corporal, 555th Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion)
* Norwood McKoy from Wilmington (Technician 5th Grade, 192nd Chemical Deploy Company)
* Joseph Q. Dickerson from Murfreesboro (Private First Class, Company E, 116th Infantry)
* Richard L. Hammel from Murfreesboro (Private First Class, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment)
* Paul E. Haney from Reidsville (Private First Class, 80th Cavalry Reconnaissance troop)
* James F. Sansom from Cary (Private First Class, 1560th Service Command Unit Station Complement)
Saturday, April 12 2014 6:07 AM EDT2014-04-12 10:07:09 GMT
An incredible photo snapped Saturday at the iconic Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is going viral. A mother humpback whale and her calf were cruising just offshore when a set rolled in. J.T. Gray of North
An incredible photo snapped Saturday at the iconic Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is going viral.