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June 9, 2009 - Kevin Sweeney
The recent 65th anniversary of D-Day made me think of my father, John A. Sweeney, who was a sergeant in an engineering battalion in Patton’s Third Army on June 6, 1944. He was one of the first wave to land at Utah Beach.
By the time Dad and his buddies made the landing at Utah Beach he was a veteran of Patton’s campaigns, in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
Dad never talked about the battles he was in or what combat was like. He had great stories about the people he met, like the guy who got in trouble with the lieutenant and was ordered to dig a hole on the beach. “I’ll give them a hole,” he said. He dug a hole so deep and wide they to get a ladder to get him out. They had to put up warning barricades around the hole until they could get a bulldozer to fill it in.
Then there was the guy who went into the captain’s office one day. (Because Dad had taken typing in high school, he was the company clerk). “Captain,” the soldier asked, “can I talk to you man to man instead of private to captain?”
“Why, sure,” said the captain.
“Captain, just because you’re a captain and I’m a private, that doesn’t make you any better than me, does it?”
“Well, no,” said the captain.
“Well then, how about giving me a drink of that whiskey you have in your desk,” the soldier asked.
“GEDOUDAHERE!” the captain replied.
Anyway, Dad never talked much about what happened to him during D-Day. My sister-in-law asked him about it once, during the 50th anniversary of D-Day and all the shows were on TV about how difficult and dangerous it had been. Dad just shrugged and said, “Anzio was tougher.”
When “Saving Private Ryan” came out in 1998, I sat through the harrowing opening minutes showing the landing at Omaha Beach, which many have called the most realistic depiction of battle ever filmed. All I could think was, “My dad went through that.”
When I asked him about it, he said, no, at Utah Beach, “They just fired mortars at us.”
Well, I’m still impressed.
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