World War II veteran recalls his experience at Omaha Beach on D- - WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

World War II veteran recalls his experience at Omaha Beach on D-Day

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Former Tuscaloosa mayor Al DuPont recalls serving as a medic in World War II when the US stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy. Former Tuscaloosa mayor Al DuPont recalls serving as a medic in World War II when the US stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy.

Seventy years after the allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and turned the tide of World War II, former Tuscaloosa mayor Al DuPont still has vivid memories of serving as an army medic on Omaha beach.

Alvin Paul DuPont was drafted into the army and sent to war when he was just 19 years old.

“Back then in the 40's we were living at a different pace than we are right now and things, but somehow or another, the Army made a medic out of me," he said.

He underwent training in England, but didn't know what for. Soon enough their mission was clear.

“We were supposed to go in on the fourth of June and that's when we were all ready and we had already embarked on the ship and everything else and we were ready to go. Then the weather came in and had bad weather and put us off and then we had that break in the weather on the 6th and that's when we went in. We were relieved when they said we're going. We said great let's go. Let's do something else besides just sit here,” he recalled.

When June 6th, 1944 came, he was assigned as a medic to the Infantry that would storm Omaha Beach.

“That morning we were coming out and above us you couldn't see the sky there were so many planes coming over," he said. "We were transferred over to the smaller boats. As far as you could see it was ships and just a thousand of them as far as you could see ships. And we started off in those smaller boats towards shore and way before we got there they started shelling us. A lot of people were trying to avoid the shells going in. They'd jump overboard and they'd have all that equipment and wind up being drowned. I got smart. I took all my stuff off when my gas mask and everything off and kept my medical pouches. I said to myself when I hit that beach I'm going to move.”

But what lie ahead, they had no idea.

“It was total chaos. It was something that I hope never happens again the way it was. They were killing us until you couldn't move. I mean 80 percent were killed in the first few hours. And as a medic there's not too much you could do but try to put a bandage and a tourniquet on them and we were lucky we had morphine to give it to them.”

Al DuPont survived the initial surge.

“I was standing there and looked down and the water was red with the blood in it. It's horrible it's just I still wake up at night screaming and moving just like I'm in the Army.”

It took nearly a day of combat for the soldier to realize what was happening.

“The first day it was 6 or so in the morning here. At 2 o'clock that afternoon I got at a little bunker that I got behind. They were still shelling us and I realized that up till then for about 6 hours there, 8 hours I was just operating on training. I don't hardly remember. I don't even remember it."

But what he does remember is the psychological effect combat had on his peers.

"They couldn't take it. They had a nervous breakdown they just couldn't go. They'd go, we'd go for days and all of a sudden they just couldn't go no more. They'd give up. They'd walk out right in the middle, 'Oh I'm going to get them' and they'd shoot them right out. One guy and myself, we use to tease each other and say I guess we were too dumb to have a nervous breakdown.”

After three months of fighting, he was wounded. He described what happened.

“A shell hit a tree that I was under. I should have known better than to be under a tree anyway. I got a lot of metal in my legs and all that. And I went to England. They patched me up and said 'You're going back.' I said, 'Oh no I'm supposed to go home.' They said 'No, you're going back.'”

Al DuPont returned to combat, but two months later, he was wounded again, this time much worse.

“So I got to the aid station and the doctor pull at, he looked at my dog tag and said 'DuPont?' I said, 'Yeah,' he said, 'Are you from Bunkie?' I said 'yeah.' And he said 'I'm doctor so-and-so.' He says, 'you got a father name, nickname of son?' I says 'yeah' and he said 'I'll save your hand,' I said 'Well thank you very much.'”

Pointing to his right hand he continued, “This hand, it was blown off completely just the skin right here hold it on there. It was hanging down here and they put it back and wired it and all that in there. My side was ripped open and when I got up I kind of patched myself and tried to when I kind of half way stood up I got holes all in my legs. The Germans machine gunned me through my legs. I was lucky it didn't hit bones. It just hit flesh so. I was in a partially in a body cast.”

Escaping alive, he chalks up to luck and prayer.

“I guess I've been lucky all along and the praying helps a lot. I mean I just carry a Bible all the time.”

Seventy years later, the emotional pain still remains.

“It is something that I hope never happens again and the thing that I think about quite a bit is the worst thing that really bothered me is the mothers of the soldiers that didn't come back. Some of the mothers, well most of the mothers have died now, but till the day they died they kept that picture of that soldier or that sailor in that window. And they never gave up. That was so sad to see that for a mother. A woman out of Colorado called me. Her son was in with me and got wounded, got killed. And she found out that we were together and she called me and that was the toughest that I ever had to her about her son because we were real good buddies.”

But you won't see this former Army private shed any tears.

"I can't get emotional. I don't cry, nothing comes out. Just nothing, I look at you and that's it. No emotion, nothing.”

The vivid images of those months spent fighting are triggered occasionally. 

“It comes and goes on you and certain things, if I go to especially a military funeral and they play taps then that throws me all out completely. Taps reminds me, I can I stop and look back in my mind I see everything back, all that stuff back there.”

Living to tell his story, Al DuPont said the real heroes are the ones that never made it home.

“It was a lot of brave people. It was so sad to see. You know you think of an 18 year old and they were there and they lasted might have lasted 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes. A lot of them sacrificed their lives and I don't know that we'll ever see a generation like that again.”

Al DuPont received two purple hearts and a presidential citation. Unfortunately, most of his pictures taken during the time of the war were destroyed by the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa and his home on April 27, 2011.

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