Half an hour after they had set foot on French soil on D-Day, Sapper John Schaupmeyer and his fellow combat engineers remained stranded on the beach, pinned down by German machine guns, mortars and artillery.
From the cover of a seawall, they saw an LCI, one of the larger models of landing craft, touch ground. Soldiers aboard tried to disembark but the rough waves tangled up their gangway. Trapped on the LCI deck, the men came under enemy fire. At that moment, one of the combat engineers, Sapper Walter Coveyduck, left the seawall’s protection to go save the men of the LCI.
This was Juno Beach’s Nan Red sector, the morning of June 6, 1944, a pivotal day in the Second World War. The Allied invasion of occupied France had begun, opening a new front against Nazi Germany.
The 14,000 Canadians who landed that day, 75 years ago, included a Nova Scotia fisherman, a Quebec labourer, an Ottawa civil servant and an Alberta farmer. For decades, their eyewitness accounts sat in a U.S. archive, unseen even by their relatives.
Four years ago, a Toronto resident, Geoff Osborne, started documenting his grandfather Earl Olmsted’s journey through the war. This led him to The Longest Day, the 1959 best-seller about the landing written by former war correspondent Cornelius Ryan. Mr. Ryan had collected the testimonials of more than 1,000 survivors but only quoted a portion in his book. Those files, including submissions from about 120 Canadians, are stored at the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, Ohio University Libraries.
From those papers, here are the stories of four Canadians.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) June 6, 2019