Veteran from Va. describes what happened on D-Day

CULPEPER, Va. (WUSA9) -- The 70th anniversary of D-day is coming up this week. WUSA9's Bruce Johnson spent the day with a World War II vet in Culpeper, Va., who was there in battle to help defeat the Germans on the beaches in Normandy.

"I had no comprehension of the danger or anything like that. I was 19 years old. I had never been away from home, " shared Howard Mills.

He is 89 years old and one of only a handful of World War III veterans still alive, and still able to describe firsthand what happened on D-Day.

"When they started bringing the rangers aboard ship, I could see some of the people that, you know, that had been hurt. It wasn't funny then at all," said Mills.

Seventy years ago, Howard Mills was a sailor, a fireman first class about USS Texas. "I was aboard USS Texas, a battleship off of Omaha Beach and I was in that torrent, passing up 14-inch shells so the guns could fire."

The battleship was providing bombing support for the Allied infantry, which was storming the beaches at Normandy, France and meeting deadly resistance from the Germans.

"Because when one of those guns fired, that 14-inch shell, somebody was going to die. If it didn't hit you personally, the concussion of it, if you were within 150 feet of it, it would kill you," said Mills.

Mills was only 15 and living in Falls Church when he was drafted into the Navy. it wasn't his decision what branch of the military to join. The recruiter decided that on the spot. Once people were in line, the recruiter pointed at each man. "He said, 'you're in the Army, you're in the Navy,'" remembered Mills.

No movie, not even a Spielberg, could depict what happened. "If I had gone in the Army, that's would I would be, cannon fodder," said Mills.

On Friday, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Howard Mills will again be aboard the USS Texas, now a floating museum docked in La Porte, Texas. What will they talk about? "Tell the same stories over and over and over again. Make them bigger and longer and more important," said Mills.

He's one of 30 World War II vets receiving the French Legion of Honor Medal, that country's highest decoration for their service at Normandy.


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