(WTVC) Chattanooga, Tenn — In early 1944, Russell Pickett arrived in England to begin training for the Normandy Invasion.
He was with Company A of the 29th Infantry Division. Company A was chosen to be the first wave in at Omaha Beach on D-Day in June of 1944. Mr. Pickett says his company commander gave a speech four days before the Invasion.
“He said ‘now you guys have studied this, and you know what you’re gonna run into.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna give you now the opportunity that if you don’t want to go walk up here and stand here with me. There will be nothing said to you. There will be nothing come of it. We will put you somewhere else until we make the invasion , and he said there will be nothing go on about it. No one will bother you,” Mr. Pickett said. “There was not a man that got up and went because we was all hyped up to go.
In the very early morning of June 6, 1944 Mr Pickett and the rest of Company A loaded onto small boats, and headed toward the beaches of Normandy.
Mr. Pickett said they had a big steak dinner the night before the attack, and the waters were rough. A lot of men were getting sea sick because of the big waves and rough waters. He was carrying a flame thrower that day. So he was sitting down when he heard what he describes as a rumble. That small boat was hit, and he was knocked out. He woke up in shallow water on the beach.
“I tried to get up and my legs wouldn’t work. I wasn’t hurting anywhere, scared to death of course which that might have been what was wrong with me,” Mr. Russell said.
He tried to pull himself with his arms, but he says he just dug holes in the sand. Later a nearby boat pulled him out of the water and to safety.
“A company was 96 percent casualty within the first 30-45 minutes,” Mr. Pickett said. “(They) figured half of them dead. The other half of the casualties wounded which I was one of the casualties.”
Only a few of the men of company A made it across Omaha Beach
“The way they was covering couldn’t nobody get across,” Mr. Pickett said. “It was to my benefit not to make it , but how many lost on the count of it? That’s what I look at and wonder about, but that’s not my business anyway. That’s the Lord’s I reckon. He’s got control of them things.”
Russell Pickett went back into the war and was injured at Saint Lo. He recovered. Then was knocked out of the war later at the battle of Vire.
He came back home to Soddy-Daisy, and he’s lived there ever since.
We honor you, Russell Pickett.