Utah marks D-Day 70th anniversary at Fort Douglas
One flew a fighter over Normandy, France. Another flew a glider into it.
And one Utahn jumped into chest-deep water off of Omaha Beach and went ashore amid German gunfire and bombardment. All three Utah men spoke Friday at Fort Douglas to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The mood was a mix of the festive and the sorrowful as the program celebrated the Allies' bravery and the lives that were lost. About 100 people attended, about half of them school-aged children.
After Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1695 from Brigham City presented the colors and a five-piece brass band played the national anthem, Jack Tueller told the audience how, for him, D-Day started six months earlier.
Tueller, a 94-year-old Bountiful resident, said his squadron bombed bridges and German tanks to help prepare for the invasion. Then he provided air support on D-Day.
"The thing that made me overcome fear and loneliness for my wife and little baby at home was the support I had back home," he said.
Tueller was an Army captain on D-Day. He went on to fly in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. He retired as an Air Force colonel.
Tueller paused during his remarks Friday to point to glider pilot Jack Whipple.
"You've got to be the bravest man I ever met," Tueller told Whipple.
With no power to maneuver or thrust, Whipple, then a second lieutenant in the Army, and a co-pilot detached from the plane towing them, guided the glider carrying a jeep and an anti-tank gun.
He saw his clearing and went to land, Whipple told Friday's audience, but he realized the glider wouldn't stop before hitting a hedge row. Whipple said he turned the rudder to spin the glider in a loop on the ground. He and his co-pilot came to a safe stop.
Whipple unloaded his cargo then helped some glider pilots who did crash. In one of Friday's lighter moments, Whipple, 93 years old and from Millcreek, told a story about who they found later.
"We took our first prisoner of war," Whipple said. "He was a young paratrooper. We found out later he was in the 82nd Airborne."
There was a laugh from the crowd. The 82nd Airborne was one of the American units that parachuted into Normandy. Whipple said the soldier had gotten separated from his unit and had been hiding in a tree until Whipple and other Americans came along.
Albert Vise was an Army staff sergeant in the 1st Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One. He jumped out of a personnel carrier and into the waters off of Omaha Beach.
Vise, now a 95-year-old Salt Lake City resident, recited the Big Red One's motto:
"First in war/ First in Peace/ No mission too difficult/ No sacrifice too great/ Nothing this side of hell shall stop the 1st Division/ The Big Red One."