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"He screamed 'leave me, let me drown'"

Omaha beach was the largest of the five beaches and heavily fortified by the Germans. The Americans suffered huge losses here as they made their advance. Twenty-three-year-old Lee Wrake was transporting trucks onto Omaha beach when he was hit in the chest by shrapnel. Prior to that he had saved a man, who had been hit in the stomach, from drowning.

Lee says: "All of a sudden there was big bang, and my dash board went and the windscreen smashed – we'd been hit. I had to switch the engine off because the oil pressure pipe had broken and there was oil pumping out of the engine.

"There was a lot of gun fire. There was a cruiser about a mile off shore and he let fire with his guns and you could hear the bullets go over into two holes in the cliff, I thought nobody could survive that, but not long after the Americans went in and brought out prisoners - I couldn’t believe it!

"Two of my crew members were with me and when I went to get their vehicle it got waterlogged and lost its engine and I had to tow it to shore but as I started the cable snapped and I had to leave it.

"I went back and one of my crew was in the water – he'd been shot in the stomach, so I got an American and asked him if he would help me get him on the back of a tank. We went to pick him up and he was screaming blue murder – 'leave me, leave me, let me drown' he was saying but I couldn't leave him and see him drown like that when he was still alive.

"Eventually this American and I got him on the back of the tank and off he went, and I thought at least he stands a chance now.

"By now it was about eight in the evening and I had to leave my vehicle where it had stopped - it was no good to me with the busted oil pipe. There was all this noise going on around me, and the next minute I got hit in my chest by some shrapnel. The pain was terrible – red hot – I'd never felt pain like it in my life. I knew I was in trouble but I didn’t know what had happened to me. I could feel wet coming down my chest and I didn't realise it was blood.

"Snipers were firing all around me. I was looking around and I was sure that one of them was up in a tree, he kept firing but I couldn't see any smoke. I managed to get my rifle on the top of a wall but I couldn't aim well because I was hurt; I aimed but no one fell out of the tree. Not long after that the Americans came and pushed by me and threw some hand grenades and that stopped it.

"Then things went quiet, and as luck would have it I got a bit of sleep on the beach! I didn’t have time to think about dying!

"In the morning the Americans came and picked us up and put me in the back of their jeep. The jeeps didn't have very good suspension and every time we went over a bump it was murder! We went to a first aid tent to be patched up, and we got put on the hospital ship back to Weymouth bay.

"I saw some awful things. I still can't get over talking to a man with a hole in his head where he had been shot. All I remember is him sitting talking to me with a hole near his helmet."

This blog is in memory of all those men who did not return.

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