Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Herbert Griffin, who fought on Utah Beach several days after D-Day.
Herbert Griffin was a member of the Army’s 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division. In June 1944, several days after D-Day, he crossed the English Channel and landed on Utah Beach. He was 18 years old.
The waves of the Channel were rough as the Americans approached the beach. “Everybody got sick. Everybody. We were throwing up on the floor, on everyone, and you couldn’t keep your foot on the ground because it was so slippery,” Griffin recalled.
He was weighed down with over 80 pounds of equipment and could hear gunfire, which indicated he would soon be exposed. “There in the bunkers, they [the German troops] had machine guns and mortars and all that. So, we had no protection,” Griffin said. “The sergeant said, ‘Get off the beach! Get off the beach!’” Without cover, the soldiers were “sitting ducks. They couldn’t find enough sheets to cover up the dead.”
Griffin managed to cross the beach and found shelter under the overhanging cliffs. He wondered what his parents would think when they received the telegram reporting his death. Then, he was hit in the right arm by an 88 mm Flak, a German anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun. Griffin spent the next year in and out of hospitals in Europe and the United States, where he begged the doctors not to amputate his arm. After a year of recovery, he was discharged from the Army in Waco, Texas. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service.
Today, Griffin lives in Florida; in 2014, he was taken to the hospital for a medical emergency by station two of the St. John’s County Fire Department. Griffin formed a friendship with the firefighters that helped him, and they organized to send him to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Griffin was accompanied by his brother, Ed, a fellow World War II Veteran, on their visit to France.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Aubrey Benton
Editors: Nathaniel Scott, Alexander Reza
Researchers: Kennady Hertz, Giacomo Ferrari
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley