One sailor’s link to the stuttering king

King George VI

King George VI

Ever since I saw The King’s Speech months ago, I’d wanted to call Dr. John Hoch but kept putting it off.

John, a Navy veteran of World War II who lives in Nazareth, was the subject of my War Stories: In Their Own Words feature on the D-Day anniversary in 2008. Here’s the link to my Morning Call story: http://www.mcall.com/news/all-johnhoch,0,4550409.story

In the run-up to the Normandy invasion, he saw King George VI in person. How many folks still living can make that claim?

I finally called John this month. He and I hadn’t spoken in almost three years. As soon as I identified myself, the 86-year-old broke in excitedly:

“I saw The King’s Speech!”

John had been on a landing craft moored in southern England in the days before the Allied invasion of northern France, waiting to take troops across the English Channel. He had told me Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and the king appeared on the dock about 30 feet away from him.

While fact-checking before my story ran, I asked British historian Antony Beevor about John’s seeing Eisenhower and George VI together. In an e-mail, the author of D-Day: The Battle for Normandy wrote:  “It is plausible on 4th or 5th of June, but not on June 6th, as ships had left and the King was broadcasting live to the nation that morning.”

John, who told me his wife’s great-uncle had been a king’s guardsman, said in our phone chat that when he saw George VI on the dock, “He had an admiral’s uniform on. He motioned a lot with his hands to Eisenhower. His mouth was moving, but I didn’t hear him.”

Even if he had, John said, “I didn’t know about his speech impediment. I’d never heard him talk.”

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