A Vet Remembers Normandy
"It was bigger than you or I can even imagine."
When it comes to D-Day, if you were there, only one word was necessary – Utah. It was such a life-changing event that a young soldier, named Ed Manley, returned years later to mark the 50th anniversary by parachuting the beach and retracing that fateful day to honor the memory of his fallen friends.
Over the years, WW2 veteran Ed Manley has taken the time to relate his experiences and perspectives on the D-Day invasion. For this mission, the pre-invasion planning included teams such as Manley’s group. As a demolition man, Manley and eleven other soldiers were expected to eliminate four heavy weapons' installations on the beach prior to troop landings. This advanced staging was to be started through overnight parachuting drops scattered throughout Normandy Beach. The Allies began their advance drops at midnight with Manley’s crew falling under the 3rd stage of drops - landing at approximately 1am, just hours before the invasion. In Manley’s instance, his parachute drifted too far inland behind the targeted heavy weapons installations. Where did Manley land? “I landed at the top of a tree. The tree was about 50’ tall. It was wet and I was able to slide right down to the ground. Unfortunately, when I got to the bottom there was this kraut [German soldier] holding his fire with a burp gun. He began to open fire, guessing where I was. His guess was about two feet over my head. He was just cutting the grass.” From that first contact, it became a foot race for Manley as he hustled to temporarily escape danger from his German welcome. “I could you hear the bullets thrashing around my head into the trees.”
As Manley looked back, it was hard to remember the details of that long day. “There was no time to think. Right away you were engaged in battle.” After continued reflection on his experiences and thoughts of the massively chaotic scene, he summed it up saying, “in combat, it’s self-preservation.” “Everything happens so damn fast that you just don't have time to think. It could cost you your life.” Manley’s understanding of the momentous nature of the D-Day event is unique to our view of history, but common to the soldiers of the day. “I didn’t give a s***. I just wanted to kill Hitler. I wasn’t worried about that (getting home). That would take care of itself.” Their key to getting back home was the ever present objective to cut off the head of the German snake.
Later in the war, Manley was machine-gunned through both thighs in a Limburg, Germany battle. He would spend the following four months, without medical attention, as a German held POW. As the liberating troops arrived to finally set him free, Manley’s response was expected: “What took you so long?”
The memories of that day still linger with the man as he approached his 100th birthday. His army buddies that did not make it back from war left him changed forever. Friends and family that only knew this tough guy did not fully know his struggle. “I was supposed to be tough. And then they’d see me off in a corner with tears coming down my face.”
His grizzled and tempered outlook for America’s future is a haunting echo from history’s struggles against fascism and communism. Manley had this perspective of today’s youth.
“I’m disappointed. Do you know that the young people today have not been taught the true history of this country? All the crap that we went through. They have this bunch of guys... what are they called? Professors. If I ever got 'em in a corner, I’d knock the s*** outta them.”