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North Salem Vet Recalls D-Day

Herb Geller, Commander of North Salem’s American Legion Post, who describes himself as “only 89,” remembers D-Day clearly.

Geller recalls his initial voyage to England on the Queen Mary in 1943. The luxury liner had been converted to a troop ship. “There were 17,000 men and women on that ship. Usually it holds about 3,000.” It was an exciting experience. No one was particularly scared at the time.

Eventually there were so many American soldiers in England that “there were towns where you couldn’t find a single Englishman.”

“I was there on D-Day, at the air base in East Anglia.” He could tell something was afoot because “there were huge U. S. Army trucks up and down every highway.” And “all the paratroopers were in a good mood.”

Geller was a 22-year-old Corporal in the Army Air Force Signal Corps. “We were always very nervous about the [D-Day] invasion because we didn’t know if we would go ourselves. We thought there might be a lots of casualties -- and of course, there were.”

“D-Day was and wasn’t a secret,” he explained. They knew an invasion of the European continent was imminent but no one knew exactly where it would take place. “The Germans expected us to cross the [English] Channel at the narrowest point.” The Allies had built a mock-up base there, which looked authentic from overhead surveillance planes.

“Instead, we went to the widest.” While the airplanes took off from East Anglia, the ships left from Southampton, where the Channel was 150 miles wide.

The D-Day invasion of Normandy occurred at 6 a.m. on June 6. Most Americans, unless they worked the night shift, were still asleep. Another North Salem resident, who was a child at the time, remembers “I woke up because our neighbor was shouting out the window, ‘We landed in France! We landed in France!’”

And all the grownups were soon glued to their 1940‘s radios.

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