SWANSBORO, ONSLOW COUNTY - Paul Oldham lives in Swansboro now, but 70 years ago, when he was 19 years old, he was on a Navy vessel that helped land troops at Normandy.
Oldham, 89, said he'd only been in the Navy for about a year when he sailed aboard a launch carrier to Normandy on June 6, 1944. The young sailor's job was to crank down the ramp to let troops out, but that day German barricades kept them from coming close to shore.
"Those boats were designed to go up on the beach, and with a little bit of water you could get off, but we couldn't go up there," Oldham said.
Oldham said he cranked down the ramp two times that day to let troops out onto the beach.
"When they got out, water started rising up around to their necks, and they had 60-pound packs on," Oldham said.
He said some of the troops drowned because of the weight of those packs.
At one point, a piece of metal shrapnel from the carrier cut open Oldham's head, but Oldham said he kept on working despite blood dripping down his face.
"There were battle wagons out there firing, cruise ships, destroyers, everything that had a gun was shooting," Oldham said.
Overall though, Oldham said the day was a blur.
"You're too busy. You don't think too much about it," Oldham said.
After the war, Oldham said he met his wife, Jennie. He said the two have been happily married for more than 50 years.
For Oldham, he said his more vivid memories from his time in the Navy are the happier ones.
"Well I remember my liberties more than I do the war," Oldham said.
As for the war, he agreed with the notion of being called part of the Greatest Generation.
"It made us feel good. I like it," Oldham said.
Oldham received a Purple Heart because of his injuries on D-Day. He said it was his daughter who helped him get the award about 60 years after the war.
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