Sons of the American Revolution honor WWII vets
Navy seaman gives his D-Day perspective
The Prescott Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution honored World War II veterans and their service to the country, hosting 23, at a Saturday, June 8, luncheon at Guacamaya’s Mexican Grill.
Speaking was WWII Navy veteran Jerome Wilna, 95, who served at D-Day and talked about his perspective as a navy seaman. He was at Omaha Beach and Point du Hoc.
“Our job was to protect the troops in the landing craft in the transports,” Wilna said. “We were protecting against possible submarine attack or E-Boat attack.”
E-Boats, he said, were similar to torpedo boats but were larger and had a long German name they were unable to pronounce. The name began with “E” and so they called them E-Boats, Wilna said.
Additionally, they also had the job to take out some heavy guns, some of which were encased in concrete bunkers, which could fire as far as 25,000 yards into the ocean, he said. A 14-inch shell from a battleship would only tickle because of the tick protection and there were few ways to get at them, Wilna said. One way was to send an infantryman in and put him in a section where he could crawl to and throw a grenade into a slit, he said.
“What we did, however, was a little simpler than that,” Wilna said. “We just put a five-inch shell through the slit.”
Some of those who planned the invasion didn’t understand the navy and as such, they were not allowed to shell for very long out of fear they were going to hit friendly troops, he said. What they didn’t understand was that the Navy had become advanced enough to be more accurate and precise, Wilna said, mentioning a notion of being able to fit a shell into a watch pocket at 10,000 yards.
The waves of machine gun fire from German Gunners on Omaha Beach gave it the nickname of “Bloody Omaha.” The army needed artillery support the navy wound up providing, Wilna said. Seeing the devastation to the army by the Germans, the admiral contacted all destroyers at Omaha Beach, gave the OK to fire and every destroyer captain responded immediately, heading right for the beach, Wilna said.
“Every one of those captains risked his … ship and his crew to save the army,” he said. “Save they did.”
In addition to Wilna’s recollections, Prescott City Councilman Phil Goode presented and read a City Proclamation, proclaiming that all residents observe June 8 by honoring World War II veterans who served to preserve the principles of justice, freedom and democracy.
Their selflessness is unmatched and they exemplify the strength of the United States of America to defend the freedom of citizens and the nation’s security, Goode said.
“They remind us that there are few things more fundamentally American than doing our utmost to make a difference in the lives of others,” he said.