Douglas Scott had always been a merry soul, joking around with that visible merry glint in his eyes. he even admitted that maybe one reason why he remained a private first class throughout World War II was because of his being a rascal.
Now 91 years old, Scott enjoys the company of his wife whom he is married with for 66 years and his eight children. he had just finished working his 29th Puyallup Fair an as always, has not shed his “rascal-ness”.
He is devoted to his wife and lovingly recalls how they met for the first time and found each other again after WWII.
We were friends when I was 9 and she was 11, but then my family moved and I went to war,” he said. “When I came home in ’46, her aunt asked if I would like a roast dinner. A roast dinner? I was in. When I got there, there were two cans of Spam — and Elizabeth,” he mused.
“I hit the beaches on D-Day,” he said. “I was in the infantry, then an engineer. I was among the first Americans to meet the Russians,” was all he would say.
His memories are there, still clear in his mind. He just chose not to divulge them until recently.
Last October 4, Scott was chosen to fly to D.C. and visited the World War II Memorial which was opened last 2004. His being chosen was courtesy of one of his daughters, Sherry, who contacted Honor Flight Network, a Columbus, Ohio-based group that flies veterans together with one family member to visit the site.
“When they contacted us, they asked if we’d need a wheelchair,” Scott merrily stated. “I told them, ‘No, my son walks just fine.’”
And in this time, he chose to share how he survived D-Day.
That fateful day, he had three friends, two siblings and their uncle, who got assigned in two landing crafts. Scott was then requested by the uncle if he could trade places with him so that the three of them could be together which he gladly obliged.
“Their craft didn’t make it,” Scott recalled with tears in his eyes.
He almost did not make it, either.
“We were told the water would be shallow when we hit the beaches, but it wasn’t, and with all the ammo and gear we were carrying, a lot of guys went right to the bottom and drowned. I used a knife and cut away my extra gear and got ashore,” he said.
He also recalled one horror experience months later after the landing in which he was trying to put down a quick bridge at one river crossing when a German shell exploded knocking him and others unconscious.
“I wasn’t out long. When I came to, a lot of the men around me … well, I don’t want to talk about that. I wasn’t really hurt that badly,” he said trying to sound matter-of-factly.
Scott was a Bronze Star recipient and was even qualified for the Purple Heart but he declined the latter military decoration. He did not also talk about his reasons for declining or even the Bronze Star he got for his WWII participation.
“The only reason I was willing to talk about all this now is that I hope to reach a lot more GIs in this area, get them in the program and to the memorial in D.C.,” Scott added.
Honor Flight Network
James McLaughlin of the Honor Flight Network said that Veterans Administration Data that there are about 1.2 million WWII veterans still alive today.
“We began in 2005 and since then we’ve probably flown between 100,000 and 110,000 heroes to see the memorial,” McLaughlin said. “When we were founded, we discovered many veterans didn’t have the time or resources to travel to see it, and it is their memorial.”
he further added that the organization has a hub in Seattle and that veterans can reach out via online and fill up an application. The wait could go as long as a year or two.
On the other hand, Scott (in this interview which was way back in September 25 this year) didn’t know what the memorial’s impact to him would be. When he and his wife toured Europe, he discovered that he didn’t have the will to visit cemeteries.
“I hope it honors those who didn’t come home,” he said. “There were so many who gave all, it’s hard to imagine today.”
To know more about Honor Flight Network, visit their website: http://www.honorflight.org/