Benito Garcia of Rosenberg was among the thousands of Allied troops to land on the Normandy coast 75 years ago on June 6, 1944.
He shared his memories of that historic day with a Herald reporter on the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing — June 6, 1994.
“I get teary-eyed just thinking about it,” Garcia told the reporter 25 years ago.
“God helped me (that day) and I’m still living.”
Garcia said he was a 22-year-old newlywed when he shipped off to Africa for training seven and a half decades ago. Instead, he found himself off the shores of Normandy.
It was the first — and last – combat he would see.
Garcia, among the 155,000 Americans, Canadians and British making up the Allied invasion force, recalls a priest talking to his unit aboard the ship before they boarded landing craft that would take them to the French coast.
“The priest was saying ‘good luck’ to everyone,” Garcia recalled. “That was the scariest part.”
Shortly afterward, he and other combat engineers boarded the landing craft and taken to the landing beach.
Smoke obscured much of the beach, he recalled.
“It was still dark, it wasn’t even dawn yet,” he remembered. “We couldn’t see anything anyway because smoke was everywhere.”
He and his team began searching for mines buried in the sand.
“The (German) machine guns were so loud you couldn’t hear anything else,” he told The Herald reporter. The noise deafened him and he lost hearing in one ear, he said.
Garcia was hit by shrapnel in the neck, chest and both legs.
He was on a ship heading back to England for treatment before the day was over.
Garcia was decorated with the Purple Heart for his injuries that fateful day.
“I was lucky. I was right behind a big tank,” he told the interviewer. “A bunch of people didn’t make it. A lot of my friends died that day.”
Garcia spent the remainder of the war in a hospital.
After the war, he and his wife Lillie raised a family in Rosenberg. They had five children, 11 grand children and 10-great children.