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From Salinger to Scotty: Honoring the famous veterans of D-Day

From Salinger to Scotty: Honoring the famous veterans of D-Day

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.,left, and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., confer in a Sicilian town in 1943.
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., left, and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., confer in a Sicilian town in 1943. Roosevelt, son of the 26th U.S. president and an Army Reserve hero of both world wars, would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day in 1944.

Robert H. Reid

Stars and Stripes


Most of the nearly 160,000 Allied troops who fought on D-Day are remembered for their heroism but not their names. Here are a few exceptions, including some who won fame for achievements after the war:

Yogi Berra

The future Hall of Fame baseball legend was an 18-year-old minor league player when war broke out. He enlisted in the Navy and on June 6, 1944, found himself serving as a gunner’s mate aboard a 36-foot-long “rocket boat” that provided fire support to the landing force. “Going into, it looked like the Fourth of July,” he recalled in an interview with the Academy of Achievement in Washington. “I’ve never seen so many planes in my life as we had going over there.”

J.D. Salinger

Salinger, remembered for his classic “The Catcher in the Rye,” was a struggling writer when he was drafted and assigned to an infantry regiment in the Army’s 4th Division. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge and other major campaigns before leaving the Army and achieving literary fame. “The Catcher in the Rye,” his best-known work, sold 65 million copies.

  New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra in the dugout before a game at Boston's Fenway Park in April, 1985. Joe
                Gromelski/Stars and Stripes
New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra in the dugout before a game at Boston's Fenway Park in April, 1985. Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes

James Doohan

The future “Scotty,” the chief engineer in the “Star Trek” TV series, joined the Canadian army and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. He landed at Juno Beach on D-Day and led Canadian soldiers as they moved under fire through German minefields to higher ground. After a day of combat, however, he was wounded near midnight by six rounds of friendly fire that cost him one of his fingers. He later said a metal cigarette case, a gift from his brother, saved him from dying from a round to the chest.

Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Son and namesake of the former American president, Roosevelt was the first general to come ashore at Normandy and at 56 was the oldest Allied soldier to hit the beaches. He had to pull strings to get there. Roosevelt, a combat veteran of World War I, had run afoul of Gen. George Patton a year earlier in Sicily and had been relieved. Despite that black mark, Roosevelt used his political and family connections – he was a distant cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt – to wrangle permission to lead the assault on Utah Beach, despite suffering from arthritis and heart disease.

Once ashore he realized the troops had landed at the wrong place and changed the battle plan on the spot. Gen. Omar Bradley later described Roosevelt’s leadership at Utah as the single-most heroic act he had seen in combat. A month later, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower telephoned with news that Roosevelt had been recommended for the Medal of Honor. The Supreme Commander was told that Roosevelt had died of a heart attack overnight.

reid.robert@stripes.com


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