David Render was a tank commander in World War II who fought at Gold Beach during the Normandy invasion in 1944. Although tank commanders averaged only two weeks in the field before being killed, Render survived to the end of the war and beyond. At 91, he is one of the few remaining WWII tank commanders alive.
He joined the Army in 1942 on his 18th birthday. He reached the rank of second lieutenant when he was ordered to waterproof sixteen Cromwell tanks and load them on a cargo ship. When he finished, he asked how to get off the ship. They directed him to look out a porthole. That was the first he realized he was already out to sea and off to war – without packing or saying goodbye to anyone.
Arriving in Normandy six days after D-Day, he was put in charge of a troop of soldiers. Being a young officer, he not only had to fight the Germans but had to fight to earn the respect of his own men. Slowly, he began to earn that respect by continually showing the men that he was not afraid. He always led from the front of the four tanks he commanded, which was the most dangerous spot in the group.
They made their way across France and into Germany. They were under constant fire. So they followed a plan of shooting first and not stopping. Possibly due to that tactic, they made it through unscathed.
They crossed the Seine, fought their way into the Netherlands and made it into Germany after a tough, freezing winter. By the time the war ended, he had earned the nickname, the “Inevitable Mr. Render”, due to the certainty that he would get where he was going.
After leaving the service, he became a race car driver and ran various businesses.
He says of his time in the army: “I don’t consider myself a ‘hero’. I was a tiny speck in a vast organization.”