The Story of D-Day Survivor Christopher Jennings

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by christinadebenedetto
Last updated 5 years ago

Discipline:
Social Studies
Subject:
World War II
Grade:
10

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The Story of D-Day Survivor Christopher Jennings

The Story of D-Day SurvivorChristopher Jennings

Christopher playing baseball as a child in his hometown of Pittsburg, PA.

Christopher and other soldiers in the 29th Infantry Division.

I enlisted in January of 1941 with my best friend Danny Richards. Previous to my enlistment, I moved to Virginia with Danny. Danny and I have been best friends at least since we were 5 years old. We did everything together: From playing the same sports to hiking in the woods. I really wanted to enlist because I felt that I had a duty to the country. At the time of enlistment, I was only 21 years old. Danny was 23. However, I knew that many of the 1,462,315 people in the army were drafted and not volunteers so I wanted to go into the army at my free will to express my dedication to the protection of the United States. While I didn't want to give up the reckless times of my youth, I knew that it was time to become mature and become a man. We were both assigned to the 29th Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry Regiment. Signing up in 1941, I knew that there would be a war coming soon, but all I wanted to do was make my family proud and give back to my country.

29th Infantry Division's Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Today, I am 93 years old. I currently live in Pheonix, Arizona with my wife Melanie. I have 4 beautiful children and 12 grandchildren. I am retired and I am currently in the middle of writing a novel about my experiences in the war and at D-Day titled "My Life in World War II." I believe that my experience in the war significantly changed my view on life and made me grateful for everything I have, and respectful of all those men and women who are currently serving to protect the United States today.

Christopher and his grandchildren in 2014

After D-Day to the End of the War

On February 3, 1941, barely a month after Danny and I had enlisted into the 29th Infantry Regiment, our infantry regiment was called in to Federal Service. We received extensive training in order to prepare for Operation Overlord, or as we liked to call it, D-Day. The training was tough and seemingly forever, but I was glad to have Danny there. Training for D-Day was a nerve racking time for me because I knew our fate in the near future: to get off ships in a foreign country and fight for our lives. Soon, the day came.On July 5th, we were prepared to begin our attack on Normandy. However, the Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower delayed the attack when violent storms appeared and the weather was seen as something that would hinder our performance in the invasion. Twenty four hours slowly went by. It was like slowly awaiting a death sentence. Finally, the morning came. We were served a breakfast of champions in order to get us motivated and excited. However, I wasn't able to eat because I had a knot in my stomach. My anxiousness took over my mind. The whole morning I spent thinking about life back home. Danny was there, calm and collected, smoking a cigarette. When we landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, I was only 24 years old. For many, this is just the start of your life. For me, this day could have been the end. After what seemed like forever, we were told we had arrived at Normandy. Our regiment, the 116th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division, was responsible for the very first attacks at Omaha beach. We were accompanied by the Regular Army’s 1st Infantry Division. Company A and assisting companies were the first to attack. At around 6:30 they reached the shore and they suffered tremendous casualties. The second wave suffered a similar fate. Finally, it was time for our company to attack the beaches of Omaha, Normandy. When we received the order, I distinctly remember thinking of my family at home and that I may never see them again. I looked at Danny and said “Good luck out there, pal.” Once we reached the beaches, we were able to get through the first zone of defense . However, Danny was shot by a German artillery gun when we landed on the beach. I ran over to him to try to help him but there was no use. My sergeant came over to me grabbed me yelling “If you don’t keep moving, you will die.” That was the last time I saw Danny.

Christopher and other men on the boats and disemarking onto Normandy

D-Day Invasion Map: Omaha Beach

After D-Day, the casualties totaled at nearly 10,000. More than 4,400 died, and one of them was Danny. Many of those that died were either transported back to the United States or buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. I am forever grateful and feel as if it was a miracle that I did not die in the attack. However, Danny did. His memory and his service to our country, along with the many other men that gave their lives on that fateful day, allowed the United States and the Allied forces to free Europe from Hitler's horrible grip. I feel that it is my duty to tell my story of D-Day in order to properly remember those who sacrificed themselves for our country.

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I continued on, dodging bullets that seemed to rain from the sky. At that moment, I felt like there was no way I was going to make it out alive. Danny had already been fatally shot and I wasn't as quick or as agile as him. Maybe it was luck or maybe it was a miracle of God, but I made it through the never ending gunfire. Everything after that moment felt like a dream to me. I could not distinguish between reality and the horrifying nightmares I continued to have. We took over St. Lo in 5 weeks. One of the commanders of the 3rd Battalion, Thomas Howie, said, "See you in St. Lo" to all of his fellow soldiers. However, he died a few days later and his body was brought to St. Lo town square. This was a very sad time for me because he was a man that I looked up to when I thought that I couldn't go on any farther. The loss of him and Danny really affected me. Later on in life, I found out that I was suffering from PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by the events of D-Day. For the rest of the war, we began to move toward Western Germany. We met with a Soviet Union troop in May of 1945 in Bremen after the Germans surrendered. This is where we waited until we were ready to go home.

Christopher revisiting Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Members of the 29th Infantry in their march through St. Lo.

Christopher and fellow soldiers beginning their attack on Normandy.

Video of D-Day Invasion


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