D-Day

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D-Day

Pointe Du HocD-Day Survivor

My name is Antonio Tom Reggiero. I am 20 years old and I was born on the 2nd floor of my grandmothers house in Stamford, Connecticut on January 4, 1924. I was granadier in the 2nd Ranger Battallion D-company during the D-day invasion and today by Gods grace I am happily living in the same place I grew up Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia.

I was 18 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I can still remeber my mother crying and the mortified helpless look on my fathers face. When I asked him what happened he looked at me with eyes that were both filled with rage and sadness. He said, "We were attacked son. The Japs they just bombed pearl harbor." When I heard this I immediatly was put into a spiral and so was the world. The next day FDR gave a speech that would change the lives of not only myself but millions. That night I decided I wanted to take my revenge and join the military.

On December 11, 1941 the U.S. exploded with propeganda and men of all ages were eager to enlist. Philadelphia, was no exception it seemed that all the young high school Philly boys like myself where eager to enlist as well. Unfortunatly, most of us were more in it for the uniform to impress the Girls rather than fight Nazis or Japs. If I ever had the chance to tell them the hells I experienced on D-Day they would think twice. Nevertheless, the enlistment offices where congested with hundreds of men. Many of these men who joined the Army, Navy, Airforce, or Marine corps would serve on D-Day. Some of them would be shredded by German bullets. Some of them blown up from enemy mines and artillery. Many would die protecting our freedom. However, more of them would have died on the beaches of Normandy if it wasn't for the Army Rangers who destroyed German artillery at Pointe du Hoc.

During the war the only thing you could truely rely on was the quality of your training. In my case I believe the quality of your training was defined as how much you hated it and I hated every bit of training. When I enlisted in the army I was anxious to kill any "Jerry" I saw. Unfortunatly, my anxiety to fight Germans then turned into hatred against my Drill Srgnt at Camp Forrest in Tennessee. Training in any camp was a constant cycle of pain, starvation, and fatigue. However, to make matters worse I was signed up for Ranger School to become apart the army's elite combat specialists, the 2nd Army Ranger Battallion.

“Now listen… Rangers! Show them what you are worth… Good luck guys! Demolish them… Departure in five minutes.” Thats what our Luetenant colonel James E. Rudder said before 250 couragous Rangers including myself splashed into the cold Icy waters of the english channel. It was 6:39 H-hour D, E and F companies of 2nd Ranger Battalion approachedd the Normandy coast in a flotilla of twelve craft. However, what I found out on June 6th, 1944 is that war makes a sick first impression. We were supposed to make it to the cliffs before the major landings began. Unfortunatly, fate threw us a curveball. Strong tides and navigation errors made us late to the cliffs. We lost the element of suprise. I can remember us sitting in LST bobing up and down like a cork with thousands of richochetts and explosions going on over head. It was the most terrifying experience of my entire life. At 7:30 we made it at the base of the collasal cliffs. Adrenaline surged through my veins, my heart was like a sledgehammer pounding in my chest, and in the seconds proceeding I truely saw hell on earth. It was a mad dash for my life.

Finally after many months of training we were finnally given the news that the 2nd and 5th army ranger battallions were going to go to Europe to fight the Nazis. In late February we were on our way to Uppottery, England where most of D-day forces were held. Many of us didn't know why we were here and what was in store for us. All we knew is that whatever was being planed was going to be big. After weeks of even more training the entire 2nd and 5th Battalions were brought in for a top secret debriefing. The news was that we were going to be apart of a pinicle operation that would win the war, Operation Overlord, on June 5th, 1944 (The invasion actually started on the 6th). Operation Overlords objective was to create a second front in Europe while also creating and establishing a supply lane through the atlantic wall where men and equipment could be landed. This huge invastion was aimed to defeat the German army and liberate Europe. However, the special task assighned to the Army Rangers and myself was to destroy and capture the 6 powerful French 155mm howitzers that sat atop the 100 foot cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc that threatened the lives of every soldier on Utah and Omaha beach.

In the days before D-day many of the 250 men of our division including myself were terrified of defeating our enemies at Pointe Du Hoc. In these days we wer occupied with writting letters to family and friends. My letters were filled with things like "Everythings fine, don't worry." When in reality I was preparing myself for what seemed like certain death and for good reason. It was hard enough for any soldier on D-Day to run 1000 ft dodging enemy bullets. But, it was even harder to imagine that we were going to do the same thing but like a bunch of monkeys climbing a cliff. To ease some of the stress while we were in England we were taught by many of the worlds best rock climbers on how to scale the cliffs effectively and efficently at Isle of Wight cliffs. At Pointe du Hoc the plan called for the three companies of Rangers to be landed by sea at the foot of the cliffs, scale them using ropes, ladders, and grapples whilst under enemy fire, and engage the enemy at the top of the cliff. This was to be carried out before the main landings (Which wasn't the case). Then before I knew it I was about to put years of training to the test.

Operation Overlord was supposed to take place on the 5th but because of stormy weather conditions Eisenhower decided to postpone the invasion till the 6th. For many this gave us one more day to make peace in our hearts. Then the night before the ivasion we were deployed on theH.M.S. "Ben My Chree" travelling across the English Channel. We were all in silence and we were all thinking about home. Eisenhowers D-day speech gave me cofidence but my loved ones gave me a reason to live.

Left and Right I saw my friends that I had trained with months prior to the invasion blown up, ripped apart, and disfiguired. One man I saw was sitting parylized behind a small boulder which he was using as cover. He was shrieking, crying, and screaming to God to end the horror. Moments later, he caught a bullet to the stomach. In any other case I would have helped him but I just looked ahead leaving dozens of mangaled disfiguired men drowning in there own blood. Finnally, I made it to the safety of cliff. Many of the men where already deploying ladders, grappling hooks, and ropes. One by one we would courageously ascend up the the cliffs. If one ranger was shot down another would take his place. Before I even knew it I was climbing hearing bullets whizzing by my head. Amazingly, I made it over the edge. The landscape was peppered with craters made by allied bombings since May. Many were even big enough to engulf a small house. Immediatly, I took cover along with a few other platoons. Out of 250 rangers only 120 made it over the cliffs to fight off the 400 Germans waiting for us on the other side. The enemy was upon us. For many hours we exchanged gunfire killing and wounding us in the proccess. Eventually, we made it to the Germany Battery and destroyed all 6 French Howitzers that would have killed thousands of U.S. troops. Unfortunatly, the battle had only just begun. For the rest of June 6th into June 8th we fended of dozens of German counter attacks. Many of us didn't shut our eyes for 2 days straight. Finally, in the evening of June 8th after fighting for an eternity the 2nd Ranger Battallion was relieved. Of the 250 Rangers deployed only 90 remained after the onslaught. When I found out I was bloodied, tired, and above all thankful to God for getting me past that day of days. The waters off the Normany beaches were red and full of Death. I began to cry I never saw so much destruction, and so much death on earth. D-day was hell on earth.


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