East served for a while in Italy, but in August of 1944, he boarded a Higgins Boat landing craft and went ashore in Southern France with the 3rd Infantry Division.
“There were thousands of Higgins Boats loaded with men just off the coast of France,” East said. “The signal was given and the boats started heading toward the beach. I landed on the first day of the invasion but later in the day. The beaches had been secured by that time. There was still plenty of fighting going on in the area however. D-Day at Normandy had occurred two months earlier, but this was the first invasion of Southern France.”
After fighting their way across France, East’s outfit came to the Vosges Mountains near the German border. East had to spend 12 days and nights on one mountain during the terrible winter season. His feet froze and he couldn’t feel his toes. When East took off his socks, two of his toenails came off with the socks.
Later, East entered Germany and was promoted to Buck Sergeant. He became the squad leader and was issued a .30 caliber carbine since he was no longer the gunner. He witnessed thousands of German soldiers surrendering to the Americans late in the war.
“We would be marching down one side of a road and the unarmed German soldiers would be marching down the other side going the other way after they had given up,” East said.
East thinks it is very important that we retain a strong military in the United States.
“Back in 1941, the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We were caught off guard and under equipped. It took us a couple of years to amass the ships, planes and manpower to finally overcome Germany and Japan. Why, those two countries combined were not much bigger that the state of Texas, and they nearly brought not only us, but the whole world to its knees. We can’t afford to let that happen again,” East said.
Not only did the veterans do their part during WWII, but so did the civilian population. East said, “I had an older brother who was also in the service during WWII. My mother took a job working at a gunpowder plant in Brecon located in Talladega County. She rode a bus to work every day from Clay County to do her part to make sure her boys came home,” East said.
East certainly did his part. Some soldiers did more and some did less, but all veterans answered their country’s call when it was given. No matter in which branch of the military they served, we should all be proud of our veterans for what they did and are doing even today.
Veteran’s Day is certainly a special day. We need to thank those that have served their country, or those who are now serving. But why so we thank them just on select days each year? If you know a veteran, thank him or her, whether it is Veteran’s Day or not. It will make them feel better, and you as well.
Happy Veteran’s Day to all veterans, and thanks for your service.
Danny McCarty is a freelance writer from Calhoun County.