By ROBERT THOMPSON
For Wayne County News
On June 6, 1944, seventy-five years ago, the Allied forces launched a massive invasion of German-occupied France on the beaches of Normandy as part of the final plan to defeat Hitler's empire.
We are all familiar with the dramatic landings that occurred early in the morning on D-Day as tens of thousands of Americans, British, and Canadian soldiers fought their way ashore against dogged German resistance. On that day, over two thousand Americans died, but the landings had been a success.
The Battle of Normandy, or Operation Overlord, had just begun and would continue until the end of August 1944 as the Allies fought to break out of northern France and drive toward Germany.
Among the hundreds of thousands of Americans ferried to the beaches on June 6 and the following weeks were dozens of young men from all parts of Wayne County. Many of them never returned home while others suffered terrible wounds, both physical and psychological.
The night before the landings, thousands of men from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were flown in behind the German lines where they parachuted in or landed in wooden gliders, many of which crashed, killing their occupants. Among the men in the 82nd Airborne gliders was Oscar Nelson of Dunlow. Nelson later suffered terrible wounds but was able to return to combat and served until the end of the war. Elmer Asbury of East Lynn was one of the soldiers who fought his way ashore at Normandy on June 6 and was wounded in the process.
By the end of the day on June 6, over 160,000 Allied soldiers were ashore. Operation Overlord had just begun and would continue for over two months. When it had concluded, more than 20,000 Americans had died, including thirteen men from Wayne County.
Below is the list of men from Wayne County who died in the Battle of Normandy. Their names deserve to be remembered among the list of American heroes.
n William H. Lemaster was killed in Normandy on June 9, 1944
n John B. Sanders was killed in France on July 11, 1944
n David W. Branham was killed in Normandy on July 12, 1944
n William Thomas Wallace was killed in Normandy on July 12, 1944
n Orvalee Maynard was killed in St. Lo, France on July 16, 1944
n William J. Adkins was killed in Normandy on July 19, 1944
n Dan V. Mathews Jr. died of wounds in France on July 23, 1944
n Selvin Stroud was killed in France on July 30, 1944
n Samuel Walter Preston was wounded in France on August 1, 1944 and died on November 29, 1944
n Fisher Pyles was killed in Brittany, France on August 8, 1944
n Jerry Bartram was killed at St. Lo, France on August 9, 1944
n Frank J. Bailey was killed in France on August 26, 1944
n Leonard Mathis was killed in France on August 30, 1944
For more information on the men from West Virginia who died in war, visit http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvmemory/vet.aspx.