A World War II combat veteran offered a narrative of his military service in Europe to Naval Support Activity Philadelphia employees as part of a Memorial Day observance May 18.
Les Cruise, a 91-year old Horsham, Pennsylvania native, parachuted into Normandy, France during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 with the 82nd Airborne Division.
The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support workforce, along with other NSA-Philadelphia tenant employees, listened as Cruise recounted how he enlisted in the Army in the winter of 1942 and then volunteered to be a paratrooper. He was sent overseas and assigned to his unit as a replacement in 1944 for the invasion of Europe.
“This is a friend of mine. We jumped into Normandy,” Cruise said, projecting an old photo of his friend on the screen. “On the seventh of June, we were receiving an artillery barrage on one side of the road and some guys got killed and we were ordered go and take up their position. Unfortunately, as we hit the other side of the road, we heard more artillery coming down.”
Cruise said that they dove for cover but the artillery shell landed right beside his friend and killed him.
Cruise participated in a combat jump into the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden in September 1944 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944. Each battle resulted in the loss of more of his friends until his final battle on Jan. 3, 1945, when he became a casualty.
“We moved out for an attack and we got hit by an artillery barrage,” Cruise said. “I lost my lieutenant and I lost a couple other guys that were with me, and I was wounded.”
Cruise was sent to a hospital in England and was eventually sent back to a hospital in the U.S. to recover. He remained there until he was discharged from the Army in 1945.
Army. Lt. Col. Robert Glenn, a division chief in DLA Troop Support’s Customer Operations directorate, said that it was a privilege to honor the sacrifices that warfighters made during World War II and to be able to hear what wartime service was like then.
“It was touching,” Glenn said. “He kept his story personal so we could relate to the kinds of situations he found himself in.”
The Philadelphia Compound Veterans Committee organized the event.