Neal Crawford was just a teenager when he stepped onto
the beach at Normandy. Courtesy photo
6/6/2003 D-Day remembered:
Crawford recalls day Allies landed at Normandy
By DEANNA PAWLOWSKI/Daily Sun Staff
Neal Crawford remembers vividly the day 59 years ago he
stepped off a boat onto the beach at Normandy, "so seasick that I was
left-handed." As a boy of 18 or 19, fresh out of high school, the things he saw
that day have stayed with him all these years.
June 6, 1944 was the date of the largest amphibious
operation ever mounted, when the Allies landed in Normandy and thus began the
final push against Hitler's Nazi Germany in World War II. The first day saw more
than 10,000 Allied troops either killed, wounded or missing in action. Operation
Overlord had been scheduled for June 5, but Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called for
a 24 hour delay due to bad weather in the English Channel.
Crawford, a sergeant in the 29th Infantry Division, had
boarded a ship in the English Channel, and the ships got into position. They
were grouped into 30-man boat teams, and the plan was to dock, drop ramp, storm
the beach and attach the concrete pill-boxes that housed the Germans. The first
five men out of the boat brought fire on the bunkers.
"I knew there was some confusion on the beach,"
Crawford said. "But I didn't know until later how much. People had gotten out of
position, they dropped paratroopers at night behind the enemy lines. They were
to meet the infantry. I was still seasick, which might have been a blessing in
"Our casualties were so much higher than the enemies.
We weren't gaining ground, it seemed. They had concrete bunkers for protection,
and we were just out in the open. We had men drown that never made it to the
"There were ships on both sides, as far as the eye
could see. I couldn't believe how many ships I saw at daylight that morning."
Crawford prefers not to dwell on the horrors of that
day. He said they fought on bravely in the face of danger, until he was wounded
on July 12. He was taken to a field hospital in France, where he had surgery,
then sent to England for more surgery. After recuperation, Crawford returned to
the same unit, where he remained until VE Day.
Crawford was ultimately involved in major battles at
Rhineland and Central Europe, in addition to Normandy. He was honored with the
EAME Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars and one Bronze Arrowhead, a Good
Conduct Medal, a Purple Heart, and a WWII Victory Medal.
James Neal Crawford returned to Corsicana after the war
and married the former Peggy Roberson. They are parents to two daughters, Gayla
Crawford Kallus of Spring, and Carla Crawford of Corsicana. Crawford owned and
operated an insurance business in Corsicana for 30 years.
He had many memorable experiences from the war, not the
least of which was meeting the Russians at the Elbe River.
"Suddenly we noticed the enemy was no longer firing at
us. The Germans were firing at the Russians. The Germans would rather surrender
to the Americans than the Russians. They swam, floated on doors, containers,
whatever to get across that river," Crawford said.
"I thought it was an unique experience to meet the
Crawford also has fond memories of the civilian family
he lived with upon his arrival in England. They provided him a real bed, rather
than his army cot, with real sheets -- which he had not seen since joining the
army. They also provided him with a meal from time to time, which was against
army regulations. He, in turn, sent them a little money, and Peggy provided the
ladies in the family with sheer nylons, which were unavailable in wartime
"Poor England -- they paid a price for us," Crawford