U.S. Pfc. Rocco Festa of Brooklyn, New York, Military Police Platoon of the 2nd Infantry Division, tries to learn a few French phrases from a military issued French dictionary aboard the Liberty ship SS John Hay. Elements of the division had already landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June. Off the coast of Omaha Beach, near Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes and Vierville-sur-Mer, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 15 June 1944.
Jack ‘King’ Kirby returns home from World War II in March, 1945, a little over four years after he and Joe Simon drew Captain America slugging Adolf Hitler on the cover of Captain America#1.
Kirby was drafted into the U.S. Army on June 7th, 1943, and served in Company F of the 11th Infantry Division. Jack arrived on Omaha Beach, Normandy, on August 23, 1944, two months after D-Day, and was assigned the dangerous duty of a reconnaissance scout, according to Jack, by a lieutenant who realized who he was, what he did for a living, and didn’t think highly of him because of it.
Jack nearly had his legs amputated in a London hospital after a severe case of frostbite during the winter of 1944, but made a full recovery. He received a Combat Infantry Badge, Rhineland G0 40 WD45 Campaign Ribbon, and European African Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with One Bronze Battle Star for his service in World War II.
The co-creator of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Nick Fury, and the Avengers (just to name a few) had plenty of experience to draw from when it came to fighting the good fight and helping to save the world.
A U.S. Army soldier breaches the German landing craft obstacles in the surf under heavy German fire on Omaha Beach during the Allied D-Day invasion (Operation Overlord) of German-occupied France. Omaha Beach, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 6 June 1944. Image taken by Robert Capa.
An LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks American troops of “E” Company, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944, the Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord).
American soldiers encountered the newly formed German Wehrmacht’s 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing, two-thirds of the “E” Company became casualties. Omaha Beach, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 6 June 1944. Image taken by
U.S. Coast Guard CPO, Robert F. Sargent.
A dead American soldier lies on the sand of Omaha Beach, killed by German fire on D-Day, as U.S. troops finally capture and secure the beach. Crossed rifles at his feet form a battle cross. Omaha Beach, Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. 6 June 1944.
This June, the Museum will be taking four D-Day veterans back to the shores of Normandy, France to partake in the 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations. During their time in Normandy, they will revisit the battlefields where they were stationed and will be honored with other veterans at the 70th Anniversary French and American Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery. These veterans will also share their war stories with those aboard the Museum’s 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise in a Veterans Panel monitored by NBC’s Tom Brokaw.
Meet D-Day veteran Cosmo Uttero, of the 175th Reg., 29th Div., who landed on Omaha Beach, who will be traveling with the Museum this June to Normandy.
Cosmo Uttero of Wellesley, Massachusetts joined the Army in June 1943 at the age of 17. He was assigned to Ft. Devens, Massachussetts and then went to Camp Croft, South Carolina for basic infantry training. After finishing training in 16 weeks he went straight overseas on the Queen Elizabeth, landing in Scotland in November 1943 where he was assigned to the 29th Division. From there he shipped down to Cornwall, England where he and his unit were told that they would be the spearhead of the invasion. They trained along the English coast until 10 days before D-Day, when he was sequestered in preparation for D-Day.
On June 4th his ship sailed for France, but had to turn back due to bad weather and the invasion being postponed for one day. On D-Day, Uttero’s unit was not set to land until the day after but the horrific losses suffered by the first waves of the 29th Division forced his unit to go in at Vierville-sur-Mer around 12:00pm on June 6th. Dealing with seasickness onboard the landing craft, Uttero wondered what it was going to be like dying, but his seasickness made him feel like dying would’ve been the lesser of two evils.
Unloading in neck-deep water, Uttero made his way to the beach after jettisoning all of his gear. As soon as he reached the beach he retrieved a rifle from one of his fallen comrades and made his way forward to the high ground overlooking Omaha Beach. After making it to the top of the bluffs, he made his way to a small building, having a chance to look back at all of the dead men and burning and wrecked vehicles down below.
Image: Cosmo Uttero in 1943. Image courtesy of Cosmo Uttero.