Battle of Normandy survivor shares his story
NEZPERCE, Idaho – The Battle of Normandy is regarded as history’s largest amphibious assault, greatest military deception and the beginning of the end of World War II.
Joe Meiner of Nezperce, Idaho is one of the last known survivors of the first wave of soldiers to storm the beaches on Normandy, June 6, 1944.
“I had a hunch there was something big coming up but without experience it was just a hunch,” said Meiner.
His memories of D-Day are as vivid today, 75 years later.
“When i moved off that landing craft, there was dead bodies all over. The sand was solid with bodies and their blood . The water around that landing craft turned red,” he explained.
Meiner was just 19. Prior to the invasion, he’d been in Europe seven months serving as an army mechanic, preparing equipment for the assault but had no clue.
“It was like going in to the unknown,” he said.
Most soldiers didn’t make it on to the beach that morning. Meiner did, but safety was far from reach.
“I had to run right over a lot of bodies and not know if they are all dead or not. Things like that haunt you,” Meiner said.
Out of the open and shielded by a seawall, Meiner the auto doctor was told he was now a medic. A general gave him his toughest assignment yet.
“He said to me now you’re first man on this truck so its up to you to pick up who you are sure will survive,” Meiner explained.
Immediately he saw three men but only had room for two. He was forced to leave the one with mortal injuries behind.
“For the first eight days on that beach, I cried till I didn’t have any tears left,” he shared.
Joe says it took him over forty years to be able to talk about that day. His wife died never knowing the pain he carried.
“All my wounds are internal,” said Meiner.
Today at 93, he embraces his patriotic side. He’s earned it, but can’t shake the thought of what his fate could have been.
“I still think how much more fortunate I was than that big graveyard over in Europe,” he said.
Meiner says he was fortunate to go back to that very beach in Normandy 15 years ago to find the exact spot where he exited the landing craft. He said having all of the memories of that fateful day return has helped him with the healing process.