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Ahead of 70th anniversary, D-Day veterans lay wreath

Halifax County residents and D-Day veterans H. L. “Pete” Myers and W. R. Snead have become close friends over the past 70 years. They almost met each other under altogether different circumstances that fateful June 6, 1944 on the beaches of Normandy.

Myers, the last known soldier remaining of 93 men from Fox Company of the 116th Regimental Combat Brigade was wounded by an .88 artillery shell after coming ashore the morning of June 6, 1944, and Snead, a member of the Fifth Engineers Brigade, attached to the 29th Infantry Division came ashore that afternoon.

Part of Snead’s gruesome task was helping to identify and transport fallen soldiers off the beach.

Snead estimates he was in close proximity to an incapacitated Myers that day without making contact.

Snead hit the beach the afternoon of D-Day as part of a three-man team setting up a .50 caliber machine gun, including the tripod, barrel and firing mechanism.

“We were about 30 feet from the water at high tide,” recalled Snead.

Snead, who knew of Myers but had never met him, estimates he was 300 yards away from Myers at one time.

“We hung pretty low.  I stayed there until my company commander, Captain Duncan from Virginia Beach, gave us orders to move off the beach.”

Snead, who turns 91-years-old on July 21, tries to return every four years to the beaches of Normandy and plans a trip for next year, this time including his great-grandchildren.

Myers, who turns 91-years-old July 3, was wounded in the leg by an .88 artillery shell shortly after storming the beach in the early morning hours of June 6 and never made the seawall.

He estimates he lay on the beach for 36 hours before being picked up.

“I came ashore in the first wave, the first boat team, and I was first man out on the right side,” recalled Myers, who fired only a few rounds from his M-1 rifle before being hit.

“An .88 shell got me.  I didn’t quite make it to the seawall.

“It was a 600-yard wide beach, and the tide came in.  I took my good leg and pushed myself forward until the water came up to my waist.”

Myers saw the carnage “from start to finish.”

“After they blew the barb wire, the tanks started coming through, and I lay eight or 10 feet from that,” he explained.

“That night they were coming through, and I expected some of them would run over top of me all the time.

“I lay there in the dark all night, and in the morning I saw a Red Cross tent up the beach, a first aid station.

“I saw someone bringing four prisoners back, and I said get these prisoners to take me to the first aid station.

“They got under my legs, and I couldn’t speak German, and they couldn’t speak English.

“They picked me up, and I’d holler and cry, and they dropped me down in the sand, and I lay there five or six hours.

“Then they come around and put a tag on you describing your wound.

“I finally got on a stretcher and lay there all day before they got me to a hospital ship.”

The horrific carnage he witnessed is still vivid in his mind, Myers continued.

“I was laying on the beach, and the water had so much blood, as bloody as could be, and bodies laying from one end to the other,” he said.

“A man next to me had his head split open, flies getting on them and turning black with that odor.

“You have to see it to believe it, some lying there with arms off, shoulders off, blood everywhere.”

Myers was shipped me back to Britain on June 9, and stayed there until Oct. 3 before they shipped him back home to the states.

Upon returning home and recovering from his wounds, Myers took over a family-run country store near Liberty.

Snead returned home from the war and founded W.R. Snead Painting Contractor. 

Both men are grateful to turn 91 years of age next month. 

“We’re blessed to be here,” said Snead.