The following is an excerpt from Maj. Donald Ector Rivette (1918-1999), who served as part of the World War II Allies’ D-Day invasion in Normandy 77 years ago:
The early morning of June 6, 1944, found me in an LST off the coast of England heading for the Normandy beaches. I was the Executive Officer of the Antitank Company, 26th Infantry Regiment, of the First Infantry Division.
As dawn broke, the English Channel was very choppy with an overcast sky. My first reaction at first light was being overwhelmed by the sight of the endless array of ships stretching from one horizon to the other. How could any opposing force stop such a show of power? From the deck of our ship we saw the small landing craft making their circles as they got ready and headed towards the beach.
Before dawn we had heard Allied aircraft flying in the direction of the beach and listened to the distant detonation of their bombs. The big guns of the battleships were firing over our heads to land where we assumed the beach was located. All seemed to be going according to the overall plan that we had been briefed on back in England.
We had radio contact with Division Headquarters. What we heard was not good. It was now 0900 hours, two and a half hours after the first boats set out and there was no confirmation of a landing. We were all certain that the invasion would eventually succeed by the sheer mass of troops committed to the attack, but we worried as the morning wore on without any good news.
My unit, was not due to land until the afternoon. Late in the morning, about 1100 hours, we saw a flight of B-24 bombers fly overhead. Suddenly, a German fighter appeared and shot down one of our aircraft. Immediately, one of our B-24’s peeled off, went after the German plane and shot it down.
Our LST touched down, landing on the Easy Red Sector of Omaha Beach. Up and down the beach we saw tanks and other vehicles stuck in the sand or destroyed by enemy mines or gunfire. The Graves Registration units had been busy throughout the night and bodies were piled in neat rows like cordwood. It looked like we had lost half the assault wave.
When I returned home to Ann Arbor, MI, in May of 1945 to see my dying mother, I swapped stories with my boyhood friend, Robert Lavey, who had flown B-24’s in Europe. He told me he had broken formation to shoot down a German plane that had shot down his buddy over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day! He said that he was lucky that he had not been court marshaled for breaking formation that day!