Wednesday, June 6, 2012

D-Day + 3

D-Day +3  is the day I was always told was the day  my maternal grandfather, Daniel Patrick McCarthy (1913-1984) landed on Normandy (Omaha Beach).

He landed in Normandy on June 9, 1944; he was Company Commander of 464 Medical Collecting Company.  This meant he helped the wounded get to help and managed the transportation of fallen soldiers.   The battle details are exhaustive and fascinating. For the remainder of the war, he served during the Battle of Normandy, the Battle for France, the Battle of the Bulge, and across Germany. During this time his unit was attached to the First Division. His unit was the first medical unit to enter the concentration camp in Flosenburg.

After the war he was assigned as administrative officer for a hospital in Spitzburg, in the Sudetenland. The hospital was located in a hotel north of the town, which today is Zelesna Ruda in the Czech Republic. Papa was discharged in January 1946; at that time Daniel Patrick McCarthy held the rank of Captain.

In 1943 and 1944, Papa, like many other American soldiers was in England.  Prior to departing for Europe, he attended Officers Candidates Training at Fort Bragg.

His involvement in the war was a sore topic; many in the family felt his being drafted, despite being over 30 and having a new born daughter, was evidence of prejudice on the part of the Rye draft board.   Within my grandmother's personal papers was this op-ed piece from their local paper -- did she write it?  (her sister, Mary Stone (Mimi) also home with a young son - 2 months younger than my mother) whose husband was not Irish - was not drafted.

Documentation of his service is elusive - many draft records from the time remain secure for privacy reasons.  But despite paper proof, I assure you his service was real and lasting.   He was a patriot. Any criticism of a sitting President was abhorrent to him; I suspect he and Mickey and my mom "discussed" Vietnam in manners both interesting and pointless.   I can also imagine the debates over Watergate were fascinating.  It was because of him that I was briefly a Republican.

During the war, letters flew back and forth between Papa and my grandmother; none survive.  I suspect the burden of separation was crushing to them both.  I wonder if the chance to be abroad was at all engaging or exciting to him?

I have his Captain's bars and have promised them to Darren. He takes them out of my jewelry  box occasionally to touch them and asks me questions about the War and my grandfather.

Papa was ridiculously handsome.   He always smelled wonderful to me (cigarettes and aftershave.)  He adored my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt.   Adored them.  It was palpable when we were around how completely in love he was with his girls.

I guess he was a terrible golfer.  This fact is amusing since my grandmother was nearly a golf professional.  He was probably quite a business man, as he became Senior Vice President of United Parcel.

He loved gadgets and always bought the newest ones. He had a very early VHS -- one that had a door that rose up and down for tape insertion - and made a swoosh sound when it opened- and one of the first movies I remember him buying was High Society.  They lived in Florida at the time and each time I see that movie (which is more often than anyone should I suppose) I smell sun tan oil and think I hear Papa in the next room - getting the Hershey bars ready for us.


  1. from my mom - a story and a correction

    Thank you Amy for writing this -- I love the way your write from the heart. Actually, there are only 2 letters that survived the to me and one to my Mom. Imagine that the 5 years of being apart were to painful to every revisit so the letters were destroyed. Remember a family story that during the battle of the Bulge, no mail had been received from my Dad for weeks and Christmas Eve, 1944, the mailman/family friend went down to the post office, opened it and unbelievably found about 10 letters from Dad. He'd written but mail hadn't been posted from the war zone. According to Mom, she cried but happy tears. Hopefully, the poor mailman got some hot coffee or something for this effort!

  2. Mom,
    I had forgotten about that story - and am sad that so few letters remain - I think I am remembering YOUR letters to Dad when he was protecting us from Communism

  3. Such a sweet story, I can very much understand the joy of receiving letters. Even today with email and skyping "snail mail" still plays such an important role. Thank you for sharing.