- 1 of 4 Photos | View More Photos
Today, many will go about their day as normal, with work and other obligations. But 97-year-old Carl Carmichael will be remembering the day 73 years ago that changed him and the world forever -- D-Day.
Carmichael fought at Omaha Beach on D-Day as a member of the U.S. Army. He remembers more from that day than he would like to recall, he said, but the Alliance resident said he has clear memories of fighting against the Germans.
On June 5, 1944, Carmichael was one of five men in a 12-ton machine gun tank, a part of the 4th Armored Division. He was a gunner, responsible for shooting when he was told. It was late at night when he and his unit were sent off from England on a barge to Omaha Beach, a move that he knew even at the time could save the Allies at the cost of his own life.
On that night, Carmichael had been in the military for about two years and two months. Two years prior he had left from Warren and went through training in the U.S. and overseas. He said he proudly joined, not wanting to be labeled a "draft dodger." Carmichael had worked at a factory in Warren making parts for tank trucks, possibly one of the reasons he was later assigned to a tank in the Army.
After training in the U.S., he rode the Queen Mary ship across the Atlantic Ocean with 12,000 other soldiers, many who wouldn't return.
"They told us the Queen Mary was so fast we didn't have to worry about submarines," he said.
He arrived in Scotland and then spent 10 months in England training for D-Day.
"The night before the invasion no one slept," he said. Carmichael was on the fifth bunk up, thinking about the next morning.
At 6:15 a.m. he and his tank landed as one of the first waves of soldiers at Normandy. He was more protected than some in the tank, but the Germans had weapons that could overpower even the most fortified vehicles.
The details, he doesn't like to recall, but he said on the anniversary of D-Day those things will be running through his mind.
"It really got to me, seeing all my buddies die," he said.
The names of fellow soldiers and leaders remain fresh in Carmichael's mind. He remembers details of the day he will never forget, which he says changed him.
After the day was over, Carmichael said there was a peace for the first time.
"D-Day gave us peace," he said.
There were many days throughout his service, he said, that he thought would be his last.
"It changed me; I'm a little more bitter. But I'm not sorry I served," he said.
The December after D-Day, Carmichael got frostbite on his feet so badly he had to be hospitalized for nearly two months. When he was released he was placed in a different portion of the Army, working on airplanes.
On Dec. 19, 1945, he was released to come home. There was no parade to welcome him, there wasn't even anyone at the train station to thank or congratulate him or pick him up. But that didn't thwart his joy at being on safe, home turf.
He met his wife Ruth that year and they later married. Sixty-nine years and two children later, the two are still together.
Phil, their oldest son, served in Vietnam driving a tank as his father did.
Today, Carmichael enjoys growing tomato plants in his front yard.
He said he would have liked to travel to the places he trained and fought at over 70 years ago, but never had the money. He hasn't stayed in contact with any of the men he served with, either.
Leading up to the war, Carmichael didn't have an easy life.
His father died from TB and his older brother was killed by the Japanese earlier in the war, he said. Carmichael describes himself as an oddball, not cut from the same mold as everyone else.
It could have been his bizarre outlook on life or the fact that, as he put it, he was a little different during the war when he thought each day could be his last, but on Dec. 10, 1944, while traveling through Germany, Carmichael took a souvenir from the Germans he still has to this day.
Atop a flag pole in Germany hung a 12-foot Nazi flag adorned with a swastika. Carmichael saw the flag as an opportunity.
"I knew my tank driver and I told him, 'I'm gonna get that flag,'" he recalled. So he shimmied up the flag pole, used his machete to cut down the flag, and it became one of the few things he carried with him through his return home.
He still has the flag to this day, stored at his home with a small box of newspaper clippings, poetry and his ribbons from his time in the service.