ROTTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been 79 years since U.S. troops took part in the largest invasion in U.S. history. There are fewer and fewer men left from the Greatest Generation to remember D-Day. One of those men still alive lives locally in Rotterdam. At age 100, he recounted that fateful day for NEWS10.
“It was brutal. The whole D-Day operation was a brutal atmosphere. I can’t explain it. It was terrible,” described World War II veteran Julius Boreali.
The sixth of June 1944 is not a day he reminisces about often. “Believe me when I tell you I was scared. I was really scared,” Boreali said.
He enlisted with the Coast Guard on the LST-27. Boreali was the baker on board tasked with making the pies. A menu, along with his memories, are still well preserved. The keepsakes document the history that would unfold.
“The admiral wrote a message; I have the message,” Boreali told NEWS10.
It is a piece of paper that was supposed to be removed and burned before sailing so the Germans would never see it.
“Well, there was nobody around, so I ripped it off and put it in my sea bag. It told us we were going on a grand mission; we’re gonna go in and invade France,” Boreali recounted.
The letter was dated May 27, 1944.
“It demands more seamanship, to this battle we bring our tested methods with many new weapons and overwhelming strength,” Boreali read from the letter.
The landing ship tank he was on board was designed to carry cargo, supplies and troops. Soon after the bulletin was posted, it crossed the English Channel and headed for Normandy.
“While we’re crossing, a priest came out, had us all out on the tank deck, and gave us all a benediction wishing us god speed,” Boreali said.
Seventy-nine years later, Boreali remembers the events that would follow like they happened yesterday.
“We left at 9 o’clock at night. When we got there, it was just getting daybreak, and all of a sudden, airplanes were bombing us. During the invasion of France, I didn’t do any more cooking. I was either on a gun shooting at airplanes or going out picking up the wounded on beachhead. There were thousands of men laying all over the beach. It was a bloodshed,” he explained.
As thousands were rescued, he happened to find one of the wounded from his hometown. “I think about that guy I picked up. He recognized me. He was all sand and rubble and blood. He says ‘Julie.’ That comes to my mind many times,” he said.
The dangerous duty was all detailed in his personal diary. “Off to the right of the beach were the cliffs. Army guys were trying to climb up the ladder. They had rope ladders. The 88 was the most feared guns the Germans had, and they kept firing. As long as you could hear the whistle, the shell was flying through the air, it whistled. The minute it stopped, that’s when it exploded. It had shrapnel go all over. That’s what had most of the people killed or wounded,” he said.
He also had his own close call. “We were on a sand dune, couldn’t get off, we tried. They had another LST come around us. I was on a forward gun at the time. The ship went right up in the air. If we woulda gotten off that sand, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today,” he explained.
That other ship had hit a mine and exploded. Boreali, now 100, is a survivor and witness to history. He’s shared the events and experiences with his daughter Judy Sogoian. “It’s part of history. And it’s not a story. It’s real! And thinking of what my father went through and what he saw and what remains in his memory is just pretty sad. That they went through that,” she said
“You forget about courage. Fear had already set in, so you just accepted it! We were committed. We were a democracy. The Nazis wanted to dominate the world, and we didn’t believe in it. That gave us a lot of…’Heeeey, lets go out. Let’s fight ’em'” Boreali explained.
That bravery on the beach changed the tides of war. Once Normandy was secured, Boreali found something unexpected in wartime. Friendship, even among strangers wanting to thank Americans. One woman in England made him a lunch he will never forget.
“She had two eggs, home fries, tea and crumpets but no sugar in the crumpets. They didn’t have no sugar. That made my day, made my whole war. Made me feel good, I was just a kid,” he remembered.
“My dad has always been positive, happy, looking at the brighter side of the world and his life,” Sogoian shared.
The enduring kindness and the world’s generosity held stronger than the worst of war. It’s an outlook that led to a lifetime of milestones, including a marriage of 69 years, three kids, and generations grateful for the Greatest Generation.
“It’s important to share with my children and my grandchildren to know where their great grandfather and grandfather was and what led to our country remaining a free country because of what these young people did in World War II,” Sogoian said,
“I’m no hero. The heroes are all buried over there. I did my job, and I did it the best I could,” Boreali humbly added.
Boreali completed 111 crossings with the Coast Guard bringing back supplies to help aid in the war effort. He was back on U.S. soil in 1945. After being honorably discharged, he went to work for American Locomotive where he worked on the assembly line making army tanks for the Korean War.