D-Day vet remembers
Today's the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France that was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany in World War II. For a veteran from North Carolina, though, it was the beginning of a remarkable journey of survival. Through not only D-Day but that war's most notorious battles.
CHARLOTTE, NC (NBC) - Charlotte native E.B. Wallace is one of those rare World War II vets who was actually there for most of the war's most historic moments in Europe. Beginning with General Dwight Eisenhower's famous send-off the day before D-Day.
E. B. Wallace, World War II veteran, "I could see Eisenhower at the airport. The airport in England from where Wallace's 101st Airborne Paratrooper Unit flew for the drop behind German lines at Normandy and the horrific aftermath.
E. B. Wallace, World War II veteran, "My squad of 13 men, 3 of us survived Normandy. Just 3 of us."
That was June, 1944 by September, Wallace and the others parachuted into Holland for Operation Market Garden. The battle that's the basis for the book and movie "A Bridge Too Far"
Chris Clackum, NBC reporter, "How long did you stay there?"
E. B. Wallace, World War II veteran, ""72 days without a bath, without a change of clothes"
And, in the end, without 11,000 Allied soldiers who were killed there.
But within weeks, Wallace and his fellow paratroopers were off to another bloody battle at Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge.
E. B. Wallace, World War II veteran, "I had one box of K-rations, my shoes were wore out."
In the dead of winter, he would spend a month engaged in what would be the last big European battle of World War II.
After all Wallace had seen at D-Day, at the Battle over the Bridge in Holland and certainly at the Battle of the Bulge, he, understandably, thought that his battles were over. But one more, of the mind, came next as the 101st made its way across a fallen Germany.
Wallace was put in charge of guarding a liberated Nazi concentration camp when he and a friend saw something horrible inside an open-air shed.
Hundreds of stacked bodies of prisoners whose only crime was being Jewish in Germany under Hitler. That made Wallace feel justified for his final assignment, confiscating Hitler's alpine retreat at Berchtesgaden and snagging a few souvenirs.
E. B. Wallace, World War II veteran, "And there was a pretty tea set there so, I put that in my zip bag."
A tea set that Wallace's wife allowed their children to play with so much after the war, it had to be thrown out.
He's been married to Jerri for 65 years and they live outside Charlotte in Waxhaw.
Now if Wallace's combat experiences seem similar to what you may have read in Stephen Ambrose's book or saw in the HBO's series "Band of Brothers"that's because both the book and the TV series focused on Company E. Wallace was alongside in Company F of the same 101st Airborne Unit.