Two more of the war veterans I’ve interviewed in the past dozen years died last week – Ralph Mann of Coopersburg and Jerome Neff of Allentown.
Ralph, who was 90, died May 14. Jerome was 88 and died the next day.
Both were in on the Normandy invasion. Ralph, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, made the drop the night before the assault on the beaches. On the ground, he joined up with a few other guys.
“We walked through a field and the damn cows followed us. Every time we moved, they moved. We were afraid they’d give us away, so we crawled into a ditch along a hedgerow and waited until it started to get light.”
Jerome Neff, serving in a gasoline supply company supporting the 29th Infantry Division, came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one and helped dig graves.
“I never even talked about this to my family or anybody, but there were guys without limbs, with guts hanging out, guys with clothing blown off from a concussion, all kinds of very terrible sights.”
Jerome’s story ran in The Morning Call on Memorial Day 2011. Ralph’s ran a week later, on the D-Day anniversary. You can read them at www.mcall.com/warstories.
Of the veterans I’ve interviewed, about two-thirds are gone. I know this is something I have to expect, but that doesn’t make it easy.
Kenneth Johnson of near Brick, NJ died May 31, 2014. He was in the 101st that parachuted into Normandy the day before D-Day and he was part of The Screaming Eagles / Band of Brothers and is pictured in the painting Breakthrough from Bastogne – a painting by Matt Hall.