95-year-old D-Day survivor shares his WWII experiences

0
691
95-year-old D-Day survivor, and Purple Heart recipient, Daniel McBride, who was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, tells his story in his Silver City, N.M. home May 29, 2019. (Army photograph by Dominic Ruiz)

On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied Troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.

For one D-Day survivor, Army Sgt. Daniel McBride, who was assigned to third platoon, F Company, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, he was one of many who landed there on that fateful day. He mentioned that he enlisted into an airborne division because he was afraid of heights and he wanted to overcome that fear.

According to McBride, as they were flying above the skies of France, the planes hit a fog bank, causing the formation to spread out and drop a bit in altitude. When he was finally told to jump, he did and landed in an area that was not the original drop zone. He stated there was no one in sight, so he walked until he met up with someone from his platoon. He knew this was someone from his platoon due to the clicking sound he made that signaled that they were American forces.

Still sharp as a tack at 95, McBride shared many stories of his time overseas.

95-year-old D-Day survivor, and Purple Heart recipient, Daniel McBride, who was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, tells his story to Paula Aragon, a public affairs specialist with the New Mexico VA Health Care System, in his Silver City, N.M. home May 29, 2019. (Army photograph by Dominic Ruiz)

“We were starving,” said McBride. “I hadn’t eaten in four days. I wandered into a house and found a blue box filled with something powder like. I tasted it and it tasted like cake. So, I went outside, gathered some snow to melt for water and added it to the cake mix and “cooked” it in my steel pot. I was still hungry and found another blue box, however, this one was not a cake mix, it was plaster of Paris. As I continued through the house, I noticed a shed in the back of the house. In the shed was a rabbit, so naturally we killed it and ate it.”

Prior to D-Day he arrived in Liverpool, England, where his unit was then put on a train and taken to a little town named Hungerford. From there they were taken to an estate called Deptford House. While there, it was nonstop training. The whole purpose was for the 101st to lead the invasion.

On June 5, they were taken to the marshalling area, but the mission was cancelled. Later in the evening, they were checking their chutes and camouflaging their faces. He asked his lieutenant if this was just another dry run or the real McCoy. At that point the lieutenant looked up and he saw Eisenhower coming and asked, “What do you think?”
“Well I think this is real,” responded McBride.

He stated that Eisenhower walked up to them and spoke to each one of them. He said that Eisenhower asked him “Where are you from soldier?” His response was “I am from Ohio.” “Are you afraid?” “No,” he responded.

After he jumped from the aircraft, he realized his leg was tangled up in the suspension lines of his chute. What he thought was up was down, and vice versa. Before he knew it, he slammed into the ground and was knocked unconscious. He did not know for how long but when he came to his senses he knew he needed to head north. Unfortunately for him, he lost his compass somewhere during that jump.

He headed north, or what he thought was north. Running alongside the hedgerows that he used for cover, he made his way. He said he was the most lonesome guy, he didn’t see anybody. He continued onward and heard some footsteps. He was uncertain if this was an enemy or fellow soldier. He grabbed his clicker and clicked it, and the person on the distant end returned the same. This was his buddy, Gruninger.

Although these are a couple of his lighthearted stories, some of the others were more serious and gut wrenching.

For the first four or five days, he goes on to say that everything was like a kaleidoscope. They were always moving, and when they finally stopped and dug a fox hole, they had to move out again.

“It was always cold, we were always hungry, always wet and always scared, but we had to keep going,” McBride added.

The Germans had broken through the Bulge on Dec. 16. On the 18th they were told to rollout. They were told to grab a weapon and if they didn’t have one they were told to go and get one. They put everyone on the back of “cattle trucks.” As they headed down in one direction, everyone else was coming the other way.

“We had heard a rumor that we were headed back to the States to sell war bonds,” McBride added. “We didn’t know that these guys were retreating, and we were going up.”

They were told they had to “hold this place.” One of the soldiers asked where this place was, and his lieutenant said some place in Belgium.

Then Army Sgt. Daniel McBride (back row, 2nd from left), assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, poses with his Army buddies prior to their D-Day jump into France, circa Spring 1944. (Courtesy photograph)

At a distance he could see a line of tanks. The tanks were marked with black crosses, which meant they were Germans.

They continued their way towards Longchamps where they dug in stayed. They repelled several attacks while there. On Christmas Day, McBride stated that he killed about 20 Germans and knocked out a tank, but he said one of the worst things was they didn’t have any winter clothing. They only had the uniform they were given, no long underwear to protect their body.

The average temperature was about 19 degrees below zero. To help combat the cold weather they would go into the homes that were blown up and they would try to find newspapers to use as an insulator. This worked if they were sitting around, but the moment they began to move around and work up a sweat, the newspapers they had used to keep themselves warm now kept the moisture in, causing them to get much colder than they had been if they had no protection.

What he and others endured is unfathomable. Because of their sheer determination, or pure luck, they survived to tell their stories, just as McBride has done. Many of his accounts of his 74 days at war are heart retching. At one point he stated that after being wounded in action he thought he would not be coming home.

Now at the age of 95, he has looked back at his life and made a statement that if he had to do life over again he wouldn’t change much. Only one thing came to mind, and that was being a police officer, that he would have changed.

McBride’s son, who was an Airman stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in Southern New Mexico at the time, suggested that he retire in Silver City, N.M., where he and his wife have called home since 1981.