D-Day veteran returns to Normandy
By GABI WY | Evansville Courier & Press, Ind. | Published: August 11, 2017
World War II veteran Donald “Don” Cobb, 92, ran through the Louisville airport, needing to catch his plane on a trip to France. The flight had already been delayed an entire day.
When he finally arrived in France, he attended the Bastille Day parade, where the Evansville resident said he was so tired he embraced French president Emmanuel Macron.
“Without thinking, I put my arm around his back, and the next thing I knew, his arm was around mine,” Cobb said with a chuckle. “All of a sudden I was holding the president of France.”
Cobb traveled to France in July, as well as last year, returning to Normandy where he served in the U.S. Navy during D-Day.
He was able to travel through the Great Generations Foundation, an organization which supports veterans like Cobb and funds trips for those veterans to return to where they served.
“It’s kind of emotional to return, especially to see the American cemetery there,” he said. “My time serving made me mature a lot faster. It made me appreciate life a little more.”
Cobb said he saw the foundation was looking for WWII veterans last year, and he reached out, but this year, they reached out to him.
“Since I was late, I didn’t get to meet President Trump,” he said. “But when he spoke, he mentioned my name.”
Cobb, who served from 1943 until 1945 right after high school, said his main job in the Navy was serving as a radioman. When not performing communication duties, he would hand ammunition up to the men targeting the Normandy beaches for German U-boats and submarines.
“It was scary,” Cobb said. “You knew your end could happen at any time.”
He said it was different to see Normandy now versus from the USS Murphy DD-603, the boat where he was stationed.
“It did me good to be able to go ashore and see what the place looks like,” Cobb said. “The French people I met there were so appreciative, too.”
He took a helicopter with two other D-Day veterans to Normandy, which Cobb said was his first time riding one.
Cobb also visited Saint-Lô, where he was named an honorary citizen for his service.
“I almost had survivor guilt, seeing the sites,” he said. “So many people had been killed on shore, and the ships I’d been on were never hit at all. I don’t know how I would’ve been if I hadn’t served.”
Since World War II, Cobb attended college at what is now the University of Evansville and received an M.B.A. He worked for Whirlpool until he retired.
“I think Evansville appreciates its veterans more than a lot of places,” he said. “The French, really, really appreciate them.”
Cobb said after seeing how thoroughly the French teach their students about World War II and its tragedies, he hopes all students around the world can learn to prevent similar future conflicts.
“We need to teach children about World War II,” he said. “I’m afraid to see things similar to what happened before. We can’t let that happen. We never want to go through that again.”
Almost 200 U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen assigned to units in Europe and the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan., march from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde during a rehearsal for Bastille Day military parade in Paris on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.
MICHAEL MCNABB/U.S. NAVY