As the picture suggests, my father was not only a soldier, but before that, a civilian. I have only three pictures of him, two snapshots of him in uniform while home on leave, and this more formal portrait. Like many other young men of his time, he left college with a friend to enlist in the service of a country at war, a country responding to the situation in Europe and the attack on Pearl Harbor. From what my mother told me, and from what I can gather from letters he wrote home, he was bright and articulate, very interested in world affairs, and planned to enter the Graduate School of Foreign Service, also at Georgetown (where he was an undergrad) when he returned home.
But he did not return. After months of training in the US and in England, his war with the Germans lasted but a few hours. His assignment was as a gunner in a Sherman 'Wader' Tank, landing at 0630 as part of the "initial assault wave" which was to pave the way on the Easy Red sector of Omaha for the entry of other troops and supplies. His unit was attached that day to the First Infantry. His tank was hit in shallow water and sunk, and he and the other 4 crew members did get to the beach. One was wounded and no one knew his fate. My father continued to fight in the tragic and bloody confusion on that beach until some time that afternoon, When, on the way up the bluff late in the day, just as he and some others were about to make it completely off the beach and up the hill to relative safety, he moved forward first, and stepped on a mine. He was blown to bits, and enough of his body was left to be identified, but not much. This information was told to me by his 1st Sergeant who was there and survived the ascent. My mother searched for years for this information, and I have gotten it only within the last 5 years, from some of his comrades who survived. Although she dated and had opportunities to do so, my mother never remarried. I was their only child.
I have no memory of my father, although there is one picture of him taken with me when I was less than a year old. Most of what I know of him, I know from reading letters that he sent to my mother while he was stationed in England before the Invasion. These letters were published in l994 in the D-Day edition of "American Heritage Magazine," and they were also the subject of news features on ABC radio and on ABC and CBS Television. President Clinton quoted from them when he gave his speech at Omaha Beach on the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. What I know from reading his wonderful letters is that he loved my mother and me very much, but that he wanted to get the job done for democracy before he got on with the business of his own personal life. I know he was a scholar and an athlete. He seemed sensitive and romantic. My mother talked often about their plans, and what kind of life they might have had. From my aunts and uncles I know that he was generous with his time and his possessions, and knew how to make my mother's younger brothers and sisters feel important. From his friends, I know he could also be hot-headed and impatient, and he was not only a good football player, but also a good boxer. One of them said they were always glad to have him around if a fight broke out, because they knew he could finish it!
I know he loved his country and was willing to do whatever it took to help defend its ideals. I am intensely proud of both him and my mother and what they both gave up so that freedom for people in other nations might prevail. I am so grateful for the lessons they both taught me -- he by his short life and terrible death, and she by the exemplary life she later lived without him as a helpmate. There were years of prosperity that followed for her contemporaries, but not for her. It goes without saying that this man has been sorely missed by all who knew him, and possibly mostly missed by one who never knew him -- his daughter.
– DeRonda E. Elliott –
© 2019 • by Rondy Elliott and the sons and daughters of AWON • All rights reserved.