North Branch resident Lloyd Nelson reflects on Normandy Invasion of World War II
North Branch resident Lloyd Nelson was in his late teens with a wife and child at home when he landed on Omaha Beach in the Normandy Invasion of World War II.
His unit was part of the third wave to land at Omaha, the second beach from the west among the five landing areas of the invasion. The objective: to secure a beachhead of about 5 miles in depth to help link British landings to the east with an American landing to the west at Utah.
The invasion began on June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day, and Nelson dodged enough bullets and relied on his training to survive a battle that ultimately claimed around 3,000 American casualties and 1,200 German losses. Many in the U.S. 29th and 1st infantry divisions drowned during the approach from ships offshore or were killed by defending fire from German troops placed on shore.
“We arrived by boats, and you had to swim to shore if you didn’t get far enough,” recalled Nelson, who will celebrate his 89th birthday next month. “You did what you had to do. I was never wounded, but I did step in a shell hole and tore the cartilage in my knee when we had to cross fields and take cover. My knee still bothers me.”
Nelson reflected back on his service as the nation prepares to observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11. A federal holiday that honors the service of all U.S. military veterans, it coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world.