Sumterites played key roles in D-Day invasion

By SAMMY WAY
sammy@theitem.com
Posted 6/10/18

Reflections remembers two Sumter men, who like thousands of others from across the nation took part in the massive D-Day invasion. Sim T. Wright and Bertrand Waring would take an active role in this most remembered Allied assault on "Fortress …

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Sumterites played key roles in D-Day invasion

From left, Joseph Grigg, Sim Wright, Frank Burrows, Jesse Moore, Guy Ferrano, Alan Fowler, Charles Jenkins, James Prosser, Lonnie Mathis and J.P. Broughton all served in the U.S. military.
From left, Joseph Grigg, Sim Wright, Frank Burrows, Jesse Moore, Guy Ferrano, Alan Fowler, Charles Jenkins, James Prosser, Lonnie Mathis and J.P. Broughton all served in the U.S. military.
SUMTER ITEM FILE PHOTO
Posted

Reflections remembers two Sumter men, who like thousands of others from across the nation took part in the massive D-Day invasion. Sim T. Wright and Bertrand Waring would take an active role in this most remembered Allied assault on "Fortress Europe." The information presented in this article was taken from an account printed in The Sumter Daily Item on June 6, 1994. The photographs and data were obtained from Item archives and are being reprinted with a modicum of editing.

"Sim T. Wright had completed just one year at Clemson College when he was drafted at the age of 19. 'Things were heating up over there, and they pulled me out,' he chuckled. By the time he was called to Omaha Beach, Wright was a 21-year-old technical sergeant (platoon sergeant) with the 83rd Infantry Division. The members of the 83rd were on maneuvers in Wales when the Normandy campaign began. They moved from Wales to Southampton, England - then waited in the English Channel more than a week for clear weather so they could make it in to the beach. The channel was 'just packed,' said Wright. Because it was cloudy, he couldn't see anything but some of the 5,000 ships - battleships, destroyers, mine sweepers, merchant ships, landing craft - jamming 59 miles of the Normandy coastline. Bouncing around on an LCI (landing craft, infantry) and inhaling the fumes of its diesel engine made many of the men sick. But not Wright. 'I don't think you get seasick when you're scared,' he joked. As they waited in the rough, crowded channel, Wright and his mates could hear the German artillery. 'It made us little fellows nervous. We were just thankful we weren't there the first day,' he said. 'I look at those cliffs; how they got in is almost impossible.' By the time Wright made it ashore about D-Day plus 10 (June 16), he didn't have to fight through land mines like previous arrivals. And he walked upright. His hand-to-hand combat came later, when the 83rd got to Normandy to relieve the 101st Infantry, who had parachuted inland on D-Day."

Private Bertrand Waring was proud to fight in his father's unit.

"Bertrand Waring was 18 years old, just out of basic training and a long way from his Sumter home. He stood on a dock in England in a thick crowd of young soldiers, restless with anticipation. They were waiting to do battle on the shores of Normandy. But it would be days before they hit Utah Beach - the 'longest day,' for them, stretched into three. 'They lost so many ships that day, they didn't come back to get us,' Waring said. Their D-Day-plus-three landing was chaotic. 'It was tough,' he remembered. 'German planes coming in strafing machine gun fire artillery coming in.' He has a stark image of a trail of empty shoes ('dead people lose their shoes,' he explained). 'We had to pile our life jackets up and keep running. I didn't know whether to drop mine or not; I was afraid I'd have to swim back to the channel.' He may have been scared, but he was the sole surviving son in his family and proud to be a member of the same outfit his father served in World War I - the 30th Infantry Division, Company D. The division was nicknamed 'Old Hickory' after Andrew Jackson. Waring made it across the Normandy beach and fought in four other campaigns as well - northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes and central Germany. 'We went all the way from the beaches as far as they'd let us go - almost to Berlin!' he said. After the long march to Germany, the private 1st class and his fellow soldiers drove back to a ship on the French shore. The officers had sealed orders to go straight to Japan for more fighting. It was a grim trip. But then came the blessed announcement that the war in the Pacific was over. Waring returned to Sumter and married Rosa L. McElveen. He worked for Carolina Power and Light Co. for 44 years until an injury forced him to retire in 1990."