D Day plus 75
The 75th anniversary of D-Day — the turning point in World War II — is this Thursday. The day will be marked with solemn ceremonies in England and France.
At least one Hampshire County man was in the invasion of Normandy that gray June morning in 1944.
Oreste Del Gallo told the Review his remembrances of that day and his service in the Battle of the Bulge and across Europe 10 years ago. He passed away in 2014.
What follows is a transcript of his 2009 interview, part of a series we did with World War II veterans from here called “Our War, Our Words.”
You can listen to Orestes tell the story himself at www.hampshirereview.com. His interview is under the blogs tab.
“My name is Oreste Del Gallo, Romney, West Virginia.
Branch of the service and rank: First Engineer Combat Battalion, rank D4, date of service December 9, 1941 to 1947.
Places I’ve been in the war: England, D-Day — almost got drowned but there was somebody helped me. I went through all the war, France, Belgium, Germany, Czechoslovakia.
The worst thing when I was in there was when I almost got drowned. Somebody helped me out I appreciated it.
When I almost got drowned I was in Normandy. We landed there by a town I can’t remember the name now, but we was in the first wave, Omaha Beach. We was a half an hour late because it was too dangerous to go in. There was no place to land us.
We landed at 7 o’clock. When we got off the liberty ship, we were walking in 2 lines and a guy from the left, he was up to his neck so I thought I’d be smart and I went over to the right, and instead I landed in a big crater and all them big waves pushed me back and forth and nobody helped me.
I was yelling and nobody helped so I laid down on my back and I had to get rid of my combat pack and everything. Then I looked up in the skies they was cold, drizzle, cloudy. When I looked up in the skies, I saw blue skies, no noise at all — till that guy pulled me out of the water. So I was 2 hours late before we get to that bridge.
From the water to the bottom of the hill was 300 yards, open field, nothing there. It was just Germans shooting. So thank God he said they looked out for me. Then there’s later things, too gross for me to say.
Now during the Battle of the Bulge, we was in the front line. After so many months they took us off the lines and we got replaced by the 99th Infantry Division.
So they told we go back to rest for 10 days. We pulled back to the border of Belgium and Germany. So, the 3rd day they started giving passes to go town. So the 2nd day I was there I had a chance to go in town. When we got in town I took a bath and was looking for something to eat.
Five minutes later, loudspeakers, and you see everybody run like a chicken with their heads cut off. It said report back to your officers, report back to your officers. The trucks will pick you up. So we came back to where we were in the woods. There they told us it was a breakthrough and we had to go back on the line.
And that was bad. A lot of guys got killed or wounded, and I got hit. But it was a light wound and of course a ways, we got 10 feet away there was a medic. He put some powder on, the powder, you know, and put a bandage on it. I never see him any more and I can’t claim a purple heart or not.
The medals I had, the Battle of the Bulge was one; Algeria, France, Morocco, Ardennes, Central Europe, Normandy, France, Rhineland, Sicily, Tunisia and Germany.
Campaign medals was distinguished unit citation, 2 oak leaf clusters, good combat medal, World War II victory medal, Belgian croix de guerre, France croix de guerre.
I spent 6 years in the service and when I came out they told me I was not an American citizen. So in ’47 I had to go and take my aide papers. I went down and signed the paper and they gave me my citizenship.
The best thing I could do for the country being an Italian, not a citizen, I thought the best thing I could do by me not speaking English. That’s all right; I made it. I’m glad I did my job.”