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June 6, 2014

Local WWII veterans describe memories of D-Day invasion


In acknowledgement of the 70th anniversary of the Day of Days invasion of Normandy, France (D-Day), local World War II veterans are reflecting on memories of the months surrounding the invasion.
Claremore resident Irene Ward, 94, recalled memories of her military duties as a teletype privacy operator during the several months leading up to the coastline fight.
Ward was one of the first members of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps — later named the Women’s Army Corp — to work for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in North Africa, where General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters was located. It was there that Ward said she first overheard relayed information involving the Normandy invasion.
“We were stationed inside of a museum, located in Algiers, Algeria. My job was to record the names of soldiers that were injured or killed in battle,” Ward said. “It was top secret information and nobody ever talked about what was discussed among commanders.”
She said Eisenhower was the supreme commander who had the ultimate responsibility, commanding the Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) that controlled all Allied operational forces within the Mediterranean Theatre. 
Ward worked for Eisenhower’s headquarters from the beginning of 1943 until the fall of 1944. Eisenhower had overseen the Tunisia campaign, the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of Italy before he left the (AFHQ) and returned to England in late 1943 to assume command of the forces assembling for “Operation Overlord” (Battle of Normandy), the allied landings in northern France.
Ward said while working with the AFHQ, she knew Eisenhower and his forces were planning a big surprise for the Germans, however, she did not know they would be waiting for American troops as they rolled on to the beaches at Normandy.
“D-Day was planned while I was there. Eisenhower decided at what time troops would storm the 50-mile stretch of beach. They knew it would be tough to determine the weather and the wave patterns of the ocean,” she said. “U.S. forces were able to obtain weather pattern records from the Germans, which helped determine when to commence with the invasion.”

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