Tommy Macdonnell remembers the beach known as â??Bloody Omahaâ?? 70 years after he landed there.
Macdonnell, 91, delivered the keynote address at Sundayâ??s Military Appreciation Day ceremony at the Missouri State Fair. At the start of his speech, he told the crowd, â??Mine is just a soldierâ??s story.â??
Macdonnell enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1942 and went into active duty the following year. He qualified as a sharpshooter during training. On D-Day, he manned a quad .50-caliber machine gun mount on a half-track. When he ran out of ammunition, his sergeant ordered him to abandon the vehicle. The two GIs were among the thousands who took shelter from incoming German fire along the sea wall a few dozen yards inland.
Macdonnell told the crowd shrapnel from an exploding mortar shell hit him in the hip, though he insisted he did not feel any pain until his sergeant bandaged the wound. While this was happening, Nazi heavy artillery was taking a heavy toll on American landing craft. Macdonnellâ??s sergeant spotted an observation post and ordered him to take it out. Macdonnell said he destroyed a spotterâ??s scope at the post with a single round. When artillery fire resumed, he said it was much less accurate than before.
Macdonnellâ??s grandson, Air Force Technical Sgt. Matt Alexander, told KRCG 13 hearing stories like his grandfatherâ??s is an emotional experience. Alexander is a combat veteran himself, having manned supply convoys in Iraq while in the Army Reserve. He said he hoped those personal stories resonate with people who attend events like the Military Appreciation Day ceremony.
â??Even though the events of World War II happened 70 years ago, they were very real and they happened to real people that were serving their country,â?? he said.
Macdonnell became an obstetrician after the war and delivered more than 5,000 babies during his career. Alexander, who will retire in another year or two, said the values he learned in his career will have the greatest impact on his life.