MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – How quickly the years roll back to a single day that turned the tide of World War II.
“I have never been here since 70 years ago,” Minnetonka resident Rollie Daniel said.
In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 Daniel was in the massive wave of Army paratroopers dropping from the skies over Normandy, France.
“We landed somewhere east and south of Sainte-Mere-Eglise,” Daniel said.
He jumped into battle as a gunner’s assistant. But a single bullet would soon change that and Daniel’s responsibility over the course of the ensuing battles.
“My gunner was injured right away, so I became the machine gunner – which was not a good position,” Daniel said.
For the next 34 days that his unit, Company B of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, would engage German troops.
Daniel may just as well have worn a bull’s-eye on his army fatigues. Machine guns were a lethal threat to enemy soldiers and were usually the first to be taken out.
“I don’t know, the good lord saved me for other things,” Daniel said.
On Friday, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by Allied troops, Daniel and his partner Connie Archbald returned to Normandy.
They would be on hand with world leaders and aging veterans to pay tribute to the many thousands who gave their lives.
With Archbald at his arm, Daniel walked amid the white marble monuments marking the graves of 9,387 American soldiers who paid the ultimate price.
White crosses and Stars of David that bear the names of friends and fellow soldiers Daniel served with.
“This is helping me, so I’m glad I came,” Daniel said.
Seventy years of suppressed emotions unleashed in a single day of reflection.
“I hope I can help other people understand what we went through,” Daniel said.
You have, Rollie, you have!