Seventy-five years ago today, more than 150,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord.
The battle was a turning point in World War II, helping to bring about the defeat of Nazi Germany just under a year later in May 1945.
George Rue, a current resident of the Heights at Hillside Country Living, north of Bryan, had an involvement with the invasion, though he was nowhere near the beaches for the battle.
“I wasn’t actually in the Normandy landing, but I was in the Navy,” he said from his independent living apartment a few days prior to the anniversary. “I was on a little destroyer escort, USS Lloyd DE-209, and we escorted a big convoy over with backup supplies for the Normandy invasion.”
At the time, Rue said he didn’t know what was going on or what the mission of those convoy ships was.
“On the fourth of June we went through the Straits of Gibraltar and they had a storm. It was awful rough. Tankers were loaded and I thought they were going to sink, but they didn’t, they floated,” said Rue.
From there, he said the convoy — which was about 158 ships counting the escorts — broke up with part of it going to England, another part going into the Mediterranean Sea and a third one going into the Red Sea.
“Five of the escorts were held up in north Africa,” said Rue. Other destroyer escorts traveled with the three separate convoys.
It wasn’t until they were done with their escort duties and on their way back to north Africa that news of the invasion broke, and Rue and his shipmates came to understand that the ships they were protecting were part of the D-Day supply chain.
“No one knew ahead of time,” Rue said. “I talked to some of the guys that was in the invasion and they said the British Channel was awful rough that day.”
During the actual invasion, Rue said he was likely in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.
Rue was drafted into the U.S. Navy on Sept. 20, 1943, and was discharged on April 28, 1946.
During his time, he served on three different ships.
“The second ship I was on was an amphibious communications ship. It had more gold than Fort Knox,” he said with a slight chuckle. “Then, on the second ship, we went through the Panama Canal up to Okinawa and after Iwo Jima we got transferred back for new construction.”
The last ship he was on was ready to go to Alaska the next day when the war ended.
So, instead, they ended up running back and forth between Hong Kong and Shanghai.
“We got to Shanghai and we were allowed liberty,” he said. “I had let my beard grow. I had a nice, red beard about three-quarters of an inch long, trimmed up nice. The captain was at the gangplank inspection before you could get off the ship. He came up and said, ‘That looks nice.’ I say, ‘Thank you, sir.’ ‘But on my ship, you will be clean shaven.’ ‘Yes, sir.’ I didn’t get liberty that day.”
After he was discharged he moved back to Ohio — he grew up in Putnam County — where he worked as a farmer, in a slaughter house and eventually retired from Miller Tire.