JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Decades after the turning point of World War II, a Jacksonville man is reflecting on what he saw when he landed in Normandy, France in 1944.
Walter F. Rogers Jr. served in the U.S. Army and arrived just days after the initial invasion. He spent months battling as the Allied Forces advanced.
"Each person in the military got a paper from Supreme Headquarters signed by Dwight Eisenhower," Rogers said. "(It) said that this was a major effort, and may God bless us."
Rogers was 23 years old and not long out of Harvard College and the ROTC program. Now in his late 90s, he remembers D-Day quite vividly.
"I was in southern England, getting ready to go to France. I remember that there were 11,000 airplanes," Rogers said "You'd paint stripes on the wings, three white stripes on the fuselage, all going the same way on D-Day morning."
Walter said when he got home for Christmas in 1945, his wife and his parents didn't recognize him. Family members said he was under fire for about 300 days, eventually landing on Utah Beach.
"The Germans were 12 miles away from the beach and did not shoot at us on the beach. There were dead bodies of American soldiers and German soldiers on the ground (the) first few days we were there," Rogers said.
As it did for the two million American veterans who served in Europe during World War II, the conflict had a lasting impact on Rogers. But like so many of his contemporaries, Walter did his duty and civilization is better for it.
Rogers returned to his hometown of Jacksonville after the war, and led a career in law. He has two children, five grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and an incredible place in history.