Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day plus 70

     Today marks 70 years since the beginning of the D-Day invasion in Normandy.   It marks one of so many instances of the great sacrifice made by so many against forces of darkness and evil by "the greatest generation".   One of those individuals was my dad, William Vincent Stoviak of the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division, wounded in that D-Day experience.

     In the local Uniontown newspaper of the time, in a " 'Round Town ..." article by Espey Sherrard, the following was published.

     "Although we are sitting securely on the homefront while the men from our community are in combat areas fighting to the last straw, we are usually the first to hear of a great deal which occurs over there.
     The soldiers who are doing the fighting know very little what is going on in the theaters of operations unless they hear it from radio or see it in a newspaper.  However, this type of information is usually "dated" when the men at the fronts receive it and we here at home are way ahead in knowing just what is happening in the cities of Europe and the jungles of the South Pacific.
     This was proved by a clipping received by Frances Lenard (my future Mom) from Private First Class William Stoviak, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Stoviak of Uniontown, R.D. No. 3 (my future Dad).
     The local private first class is now in a station hospital in England and it was from there that the information clipping was sent to Miss Lenard.
     The article was taken from the "News From Home" section of a G.I. publication and is as follows:

     ' The folks at home got further word of what's been doing in France when the War Department in Washington disclosed the citation of the 16th Infantry of the last division and of the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division for "extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action in Normandy on D-Day".  The citation was made by Lieutenant General Omar M. Bradley, commander of the United States forces in France.
     The two infantry regiments were described as having defied point-blank German fire from concrete pill boxes and machine gun snipers' nests in order to establish the beachhead.  The 16th Infantry lost about a third of its assault strength, it was said, and the 116th had more than 800 casualties.  The First and the 29th Divisions, according to the War Department, were assigned to storm the beach just east of the Carentan area, in which an entire German Division happened to be holding maneuvers.
     That is the clipping and a partial explanation of what Pfc. Stoviak meant when he wrote to Frances saying that she probably knew more about what was going on than he did, even though he was in the thick of it.
     Five days may seem long to some people but days or even weeks and months are easily miscounted while fighting.  To soldier Stoviak five days seemed long while he was fighting, but after it was all over it seemed more like five minutes.
     The local man had served in France for five days fighting the Germans back as were the rest of his regiment.  He was one of the 800 to be listed as casualties on that fifth day and was sent to a base hospital in England.
     Having been released from the hospital, partially recuperated from his wounds, Pfc. Stoviak is now attending an R.P.T.I. school at the hospital where he was taken as a casualty.  He will take a five week course and then is hoping to be assigned to physical training work with other casualties.
     In the first draft, Pfc. Stoviak was inducted into the service on February 20, 1941 and sent to Fort George Meade for basic training.  Following this he served in various camps throughout the nation, mostly in the south, before being shipped to England where he landed September 29, 1942.
     Other letters from the local man have given indications of what it was like to be in the first blow during the invasion days.  He writes that the work that he is doing is most interesting and he feels that he is going to be kept busy in the days to come."

     I am grateful to Mr. Sherrard for sharing this news about my future dad with the people of the Uniontown area many years ago.  I am grateful to my future mom for loving Bill Stoviak and praying for his safe return (and then marrying him when he got home).  I am most grateful for the heroism and courage, for the total sacrifice of my future dad and the countless soldiers who stormed those beaches on D-Day 70 years ago, and the untold others who fought in that war in defense of values that we still hold sacred.  On this anniversary of D-Day, we as a nation salute these brave soldiers who fought, were wounded and who died in this great cause.  And, selfishly, I thank God for sparing my dad and bringing him home.

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