On the beaches of Normandy

Kenny Mensink survived to tell the tale of a soldier’s perspective on the Normandy Invasion 70 years ago.

Kenny Mensink survived to tell the tale of a soldier’s perspective on the Normandy Invasion 70 years ago.

By Marcie Klomp

He knew something was happening. Planes were flying over Southampton, London. Ships were all over the place. It was June 6, 1944. D-Day. The beginning of the end of World War II.
Seventy years ago, Kenny Mensink was a young lad of 22 with a wife and son at home. She had no idea her husband was part of one of the most talked about battles of the war.

The Battle of Normandy began at 6:30 a.m. Those first waves took the most hits. Luckily Mensink’s crew landed on the furthest west beach (Codename Utah) at about 8 that night. There were only two casualties. But what he saw has stayed with him a lifetime.

“They loaded us up and took us to Normandy, France. Then all Hell broke loose,” he recalled. “We got off the boats and dug ourselves in.” Each soldier had to dig his own foxhole. Mensink said it didn’t take very long. It might have had something to do with the enemy trying to pick off soldiers!

“Artillery ran over us all night. They’d make a buzzing sound. We hoped those suckers would keep going.”

While in his fox hole that evening, Mensink and his buddies had nobody to talk to. “All you had was your rifle. Talk about a long night!”

The artillery finally stopped about 5 a.m., and the soldiers got about an hour’s rest before their own officers woke them up. The next day, the soldiers didn’t do anything. They stayed in their foxholes a second night.

“Then we went to the town of Saint-Lô and watched our guys bomb it.” He described the area like Lanesboro, with the hills surrounding the town. The soldiers looked down, where the Germans had taken over. “We bombed everything. The only thing left standing was a chimney.”

After that, Mensink said his squad would transport tanks to the front.

Mensink was there when Paris was liberated. “We had a cooky commander. He made us dress up, and we had to march through Paris. It was the only time we had to dress up!” he complained.

Yes, Mensink was all over Europe—France, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg and finally Germany. Of the war, he said, “I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.”

* * * * *

Halfway across the world, another soldier was oblivious to what his comrades were doing in Europe.
Harold Munkel said the Normandy invasion didn’t bother him and his shipmates at all since they were in the Pacific. “We didn’t even know about it right away. It was just another day on different islands. We didn’t worry about news anywhere else except where we were.”

On June 6, 1944, Munkel was probably at Oahu, Hawaii. He later went to Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands,
From there, he went to Iwo Jima, where he saw sights that can never be forgotten. “We took a few bombs, but we knew when to duck.”

Two different takes on one of the most infamous days in American history.


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