WENDELL — Seventy-five years ago, Henry Cone’s battalion landed at the beaches of Normandy, France, and he lived to tell the story.
On June 6, 1944, an estimated 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 150,000 Allied servicemen breached Nazi Germany’s stronghold on Europe. Allied Forces suffered 10,000 casualties, including more than 4,000 fatalities, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation said. Nearly 2,500 of the D-Day fatalities were American soldiers.
Cone, who turns 98 this month, watched as thousands of soldiers were mowed down by German artillery fire before they could reach a safe place some hundreds of yards off the beach. As it approached the beach, Cone’s landing craft lowered its gate.
Cone mentally prepared to die. Then, suddenly — and unexplainedly — the gate lifted and the watercraft pulled out.
He said it probably saved his life.
After landing at another site, Cone walked “clear across France,” he said, to fight under U.S. Gen. George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge. He’s been nominated for the French Legion of Honor for his part in freeing France and turning the course of the war.
Back home, news of men killed — or missing — in action filled the Times-News before confirmation of casualties reached Idaho. During the next few weeks, the Times-News reported the following news:
Paul Durfee of Hagerman, killed Nov. 13, 1942, during the third battle of the Solomons, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. His parents also received Durfee’s death certificate, signed by President Franklin R. Roosevelt.
Pvt. Frank Hafer arrived safely in New Guinea.
Leslie LeRoy Slatter, an 18-year-old veteran of two Pacific engagements, was visiting his grandmother at her home in Filer. Seaman Slatter, on leave from his duty in Vella Lavella, Bougainville and Guadalcanal, would soon be on his way to San Diego for officers’ training.
Ray Putzier received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Putzier, a Twin Falls High School graduate, spent nearly three years in the South Pacific.
Robert Vernon Sayer, a 23-year-old radio gunner in the U.S. Air Force, was reported missing in action over Asia in the Chinese theater of war. Born in Burley, Sayer was a 1940 graduate of Buhl High School.
Elizabeth Anne Webber was accepted for service in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services), a naval reserves branch. Women who served in the military were considered “volunteers” because they couldn’t be drafted and enlisted voluntarily.
Jack Snodgrass, formerly a music instructor in Jerome schools, was en route to Lemoore Field, California, where he would serve with the Army base’s band.
Tech. Sgt. Edgar Puckett of Oakley was awarded a third “oak leaf cluster” for meritorious achievement in sustained air combat missions “of a hazardous nature.”
Pvt. Granville Owsley wrote his parents in Hagerman that he had taken part in two invasions in New Guinea, giving first aid in a medical division. His brother, Cpl. Merle Owsley was stationed at San Jose, California.
Robert Jones of Shoshone, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was confirmed killed in action over Hungary. Jones, a co-pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress, was listed as missing in action on April 3, 1944.
Pvt. William Hoyle of Gooding was killed in action in the Mediterranean.
A 19-year-old sailor from Oreana in Owyhee County “prevented what might have been a serious snag in D-Day invasion of the Normandy coast,” the Times-News said, reporting one of the first D-Day news stories to make its way to Idaho.
Signalman Donald W. Beal spotted a floating mine that might have sunk the invasion flagship of Rear Adm. John L. Hall Jr., a senior officer in the U.S. Navy.
The first reported Magic Valley fatality from the Normandy invasion ran in the June 29, 1944, edition of the Times-News. Paratrooper Reed Pace, a son of former Cassia County Sheriff P.D. Pace, was killed in action June 11 over France, according to a telegram. Three other sons of the ex-sheriff and his wife served in the Army at the time.