In the hazy morning of June 6, 1944, an English coastguardsman on the Dorset Cliffs watched in silent amazement as a massive armada of Allied warships faded over the horizon. Returning home, he solemnly told his wife, “A lot of men are going to die today. We should pray for them.”
The 5,000 warships, 170,000 Allied soldiers, and 10,500 aircraft heading for Normandy would need all the prayers their nations could muster.
Dave Andrews Jr.:
His home in McDonough is easy to spot: an Army Air Corps flag flutters in the gentle warm breeze beneath an American flag on a flag pole in this front yard.
Dave Andrews Jr. flew into history on D-Day, the story told by his son, Dave Andrews III, and from extensive record research. This D-Day pilot, a survivor of 65 total missions over occupied Europe and a true American hero, is in failing health and too ill to marshal the strength for an interview. He will be given a proper version of his WWII experiences in a later article, but for now his D-Day accomplishments will be the main focus.
As told by his son: “Dad was a backwoods sort of fellow, and I always enjoyed his story about not willing to eat a certain food while crossing the Atlantic on a French luxury liner. He read it as a Phillip Minion. They were only two days out from England when he finally understood it was filet mignon, only 25 cents a serving.”
His 44th mission: “Dad served as a B-20 Havoc pilot during the war with the 9th Air Force, 416th Bomb Group. He also had five missions flying the B-26 Invader. Propaganda, what’s call fake news today, convinced Hitler the landings in Europe would take place at the closet point to England across the English Channel, the Pas de Calais region. Hitler ordered hundreds of Panzer tanks to be stationed in the Pas de Calais region to repel any invasion. When Hitler finally accepted the fact that Normandy was the main invasion, he gave orders for the tanks to be put on rail cars and rushed to the beaches of Normandy.
“When word was received from the French underground that Panzers were on rail cars and heading to Normandy from the Pas de Calais region, Dad’s unit was assigned the task of making sure they never reached the invasion beaches. Their target was the railroad marshaling yard at Sergveux, France. Dad said he was a little apprehensive about the mission at first, flying at 200 feet across the channel and countryside until his flight of 37 B-26s reached the marshaling yard at Sergveux. As they were pulling up to around 2,500 feet for their bomb run, Dad spotted a German officer firing at him with a Luger pistol. Dad thought it was amusing and relaxed after that incident.”
Officially, the results of the Sergveux attack were "unobserved," but not for the pilots and crewmen. Under intense enemy fire from 88mm anti-aircraft guns, other weapons, and one pistol, the Havocs wreaked havoc on the marshaling yard and train load of Panzer tanks. The yard was destroyed as well as the tanks. The cost was heavy. The flight of 37 B-26s lost four aircraft and only four returned without damage. Dave Andrews’ Marauder escaped without a scratch.
His son continued: “Yeah, Dad was lucky on his D-Day mission, no Purple Heart, no damage, no injuries to his crew. However, on another mission when they came back everyone was looking and pointing at his plane. A deadly 88mm anti-aircraft round had gone through his plane about 18 inches behind his head without exploding. Jewish forced labor would often produce "duds" for their German captors, so it was surmised that’s what saved my dad’s life.”
NOTE: The French Consulate in Atlanta is scheduling a bedside ceremony to present Dave Andrews Jr. with the "Ordre National de la Legion d’honneur," the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest award for merit in the military or as a civilian.