WW2: Powerful, Poignant Memories Of Normandy From An American Navy Veteran

US Navy Seaman Morris Dennis didn’t face any enemy gunfire when he came ashore on Normandy Beach on D-Day in 1944, but he certainly didn’t expect to come face to face with a lean French girl who told him in good English that grandparents were starving to death.

She motioned for him to approach her. The small girl told how the Germans had stolen all of their food and asked if he had any food he could donate.

That’s all it took for Dennis to plead her case with the commander of the Navy transport ship. He returned to the little girl with food and a small mountain of rations.

But she wouldn’t take it until he took something in return.  She had been taught that custom.  The girl was at a loss what to give since she possessed only her shabby clothes until she looked at her wooden shoes. Her grandfather was a good wood carver, and he could make another pair, she said happily.

She insisted he take them. Dennis stored them with his other items in the Navy landing LST (Landing Ship, Tank)

Often, the LST moved seriously wounded American and American soldiers from battlegrounds to hospitals in EnglandHe remembered one wounded German whom he guarded. Dennis was supplying the wounded man with food and water. Dennis remembered that the wounded prisoner was treated well.

Dennis was in London on a pass when the Germans capitulated. He joined the throng who celebrated the end of the war.

After a few months of duty tidying loose ends, he was transferred to the Pacific theater; then Japan surrendered. He received $196.95 in discharge pay and for travel expenses, $11.90.

He thumbed rides to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, carrying in his sea bag a pair of work pants, a slightly scorched German flag, a 40mm shell, and a pair of handmade wooden shoes, USA Today reported.

Dennis is now 90 years old. He is the owner and founder of Dennis Paper Company in Nashville. Many of those war-time memories prompt him, to become emotional.

Talking through his memories makes him tearful, he said. Some WWII reruns on television he sees make him cry. He’s opening up now, talking about those memories with friends or family that has remained secret for so long.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE