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D-Day (Amazing Stories)


D-Day (Amazing Stories)
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Canadian Heroes of the Famous World War II Invasion

On June 6, 1944, a daring and ambitious invasion of Europe changed the course of World War II, eventually leading to the surrender of Nazi Germany. During the night, through storms and high seas, the Allied forces swept towards the beaches of Normandy in France. This is the story of the bravery, the heroism, and the sheer dumb luck of the more than 14,000 Canadians who played a crucial role in that incredible event.

Prologue

Sergeant Mel Douglas couldn't sleep. The adrenaline and the tot of rum had worn off, leaving him with a splitting headache and a queasy feeling in his gut. The violent lurching of the invasion craft only added to his misery, and he decided to see if he could get a breath of fresh air on deck.

As he reeled along the vessel's heaving corridor - two steps forward and one step back - he knew he'd never make it up on deck before his innards protested at the combination of army rations, overproof rum, and pre-battle hysteria rolling around in the pit of his stomach. He decided to make a brief stop in the latrine.

When he got there, he was taken aback by the sight of another soldier standing at one of the sinks. It was 0300, and the invasion was only hours away. Most of his comrades were sleeping fitfully wherever they had been able to find a convenient place to offload their gear and nod off before their call to arms.

"Moe, what the hell - excuse me - what the heck are you doing shaving when we're only hours away from hitting the beach?" the Canadian Army sergeant blurted.

He'd apologized for swearing because his fellow soldier, Sergeant Murray O. Kirby, was a religious man who'd been a Sunday school teacher back in his hometown of Oshawa, Ontario, before the war. Every Sunday during the 19th Field Regiment's pre-invasion stint in England, Murray had rounded up the hung-over members of his regiment and gently coerced them into attending an impromptu church service he held wherever he could find space - sometimes in an open field, sometimes an abandoned shed.

"Oh, hello Mel," Kirby said in his usual upbeat manner. "You couldn't sleep either, eh? I'm shaving because you never know when you're going to meet your Maker and I want to look my best."

"Don't talk like that, Moe," Douglas replied. "We're going to be okay. We have a rendezvous all worked out, remember? I'm buying you the best steak dinner the Windsor Hotel can come up with when you make it to Sault Ste. Marie. And you're going to reciprocate at the Genosh when I get to Oshawa. We have a deal."

"Sure Mel, we have a deal," the other man replied, his ear-to-ear grin dissolving into a wistful smile. He made one last swipe at the remaining lather on his chin, ran his razor under the tap, and splashed water on his face. "See you in the Soo, Mel."

Hours later, Sergeant Douglas was running a zigzag pattern up the carnage-strewn beach at St. Aubin-sur-Mer when he saw a half-track take a direct hit from a German mortar just a few metres in front of him. Two of the occupants were killed instantly, and two others fell to the rocky beach where they were immediately attended to by medical personnel.

It wasn't until much later in the day, when the Canadians had established a beachhead on their D-Day objective, that Sergeant Mel Douglas learned one of the charred corpses he had seen sprawled grotesquely in the front seat of the half-track was his best buddy, Sergeant Murray O. Kirby. 

Gritty. Not for the faint-hearted.

About the Author

Tom Douglas, an award-winning journalist and author, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Gail, also an author in the Amazing Stories series. Tom's father, Sgt. H.M. (Mel) Douglas, was part of the Invasion Force that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, worked as a Communications Advisor for Veterans Affairs Canada, and has written speeches for the Minister of National Defence. Recently, he self-published a book, Some Sunny Day about his family's experiences in Northern Ontario following his father's return from World War II.

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