This morning I was up early thinking of what it was like 75 years ago today early in the morning of June 6, 1944. Men were waiting on board ships or landing crafts while others prepared to board planes as the massive assault began on Omaha Beach. Chaplains circulated among them, read Scripture and prayed final prayers.
Here at Discovery we have been privileged to have and hear the stories of three of these D-Day Vets over the years. Be thankful for God’s grace in the battle and for those who served in that epic time.
Larry Ellsworth joined the Navy during WWII and served aboard a PT (Patrol Torpedo) boat attached to the USS Portunus during D-Day. Their small fast attack boat ran interference to prevent German subs from sinking our ships as they approached Omaha Beach. Larry spoke of needing to lay a large smoke screen for vessels to be hidden behind or under during attack.
Larry came to Christ later in life and was a very active member here at DBC from our start in 1980. He was a faithful helper as needed and was on maintenance staff at Tacoma Baptist Schools. He also laid the brick for our entry way pillars. He and Carrie moved to Sumner eventually. Larry passed away 2013.
Hal Roberts joined the military after seeing a movie about paratroopers. He wanted to jump in spite of what his wife Jeanne said so became a paratrooper. On D-Day he remembers chaplains praying for them before they boarded their planes. They flew and soon called for the nervous men to jump. Looking out the window it appeared they would land in the sea. When they did jump the water really was only a thick cloud cover. France was below and bullets were flying. Hal and his buddies landed in a field but were pinned face down in the mud for nearly a week as a machine gun nest occasionally fired bullets inches above them. Eventually they took the nest, joined up with some Brits and did a running attack on enemy headquarters in an old building. They neutralize it as well. Hal went on to fight in two campaigns and by God’s grace survived. Hal and Jeanne became part of our flock, saluted me when coming to church and shared many war stories.
Blaine Highfield, a local boy, joined the military during WW11 also and became a fighter pilot. During D-Day he flew missions to keep enemy planes away from our jumpers. During a mission his wing-man left him with no cover. When he got to base there were 97 bullet holes in his plane. They were everywhere except into the cockpit. He soon realized God’s plan for him was not to die on a field in Belgium. He flew 79 combat missions, received a distinguished flying cross, an air medal with a 9 oak leaf cluster and 5 bronze stars and later became a follower of Christ also. He retired in 1983 as Lt. Col, USAF.
I met Blaine when he came to Discovery a few years ago. I soon realized he should meet Hal Roberts. On Veteran’s Day we arranged a surprise meeting during morning worship. Hal happened to wear his old uniform that day. During announcements I called for Hal and Blaine to stand. For the first time these battle buddies met and realized they had supported each other in battle. It was an emotional moment after 70+ years. We seated them together for the picture below. Since then those brothers in battle and now in Christ have also been promoted to their supreme Commander in heaven and await their return with the Lord.
On D-Day about 2,501 American troops alone died of the 4,414 Allied deaths. Don’t forget to pray for our troops, our president and those in authority that we might live a quiet life able to proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Christ. This is a good thing. (cf. I Timothy 2:2-3)