For 88-year-old Tom Donnelly of Riverdale, who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-4, the 60th anniversary of the historic campaign to liberate Europe will pass quietly Sunday.

"I am not doing a thing special. It is just another day in the week," he says.

D-Day revisited: D-4 and things had not calmed

By Bob Paslay

He remembers when people ask him about the horror of that campaign, but he said when he sees other war buddies they talk about modern things and don't live in the past.

"You remember it. You can't forget it. It is traumatic. It is like being in an automobile wreck, you never forget it."

"It was a blood bath," he said.

The transport came ashore 2,500 yards south of its intended landing spot and it was this mistake that may have saved Donnelly and all aboard, he said. Otherwise, "it would have been a bloodbath like Omaha."

They came ashore at St. Mere Eglise in the Utah Beach section and for the next two or three days fought their way up the beach road.

The mission was to neutralize a major German fortification.

"It wasn't fun. We lost a lot of people. We didn't take it that night but we took it the next day."

Up and down the beach highway they fought to wipe out enemy fire and secure the area.

For all the blood and dead bodies he saw, Donnelly remembers a time of tranquility like it was just yesterday and not six decades ago.

After the fighting they went to a small church with a thatched roof that seated about 100 where a priest conducted services. Half attending were soldiers and half were civilians.

After the fighting and horror or war, "Those boys went to church and that I will never forget as long as I live," Donnelly said.

Donnelly, who was the first guy drafted from Clayton County in 1942 retired from the Army as a first lieutenant after coming up through the ranks "the hard way."

He was injured in the fighting while he and other soldiers were trying to knock out a German gunner nest. Two guys got killed and he was pulling another to safety when a tree burst from the explosion and he stumbled over logs and broke five ribs. After being in the ice and cold, he had pneumonia and had lost 98 percent hearing in both ears from the incident by the time he was evacuated to a hospital. He ended up spending a year in the hospital back in the United States and still wears hearing aids in both ears.

After recovering and returning home after the war, he worked in a dry cleaning business, for Ford and then for Lockheed for 30 years.

He and his wife Ruth who he met while playing baseball in have one son, Thomas Glenn "Slug" Donnelly, who lives in Seattle.

While she didn't know he was hitting the beaches of Normandy, she knew he was in the infantry and was in combat. In the 1960s he returned with his family to visit Normandy.

On D-Day, Donnelly said he was playing poker with other Army buddies just inside the beach staging area at South Hampton.

"We were waiting and hoping things would calm down," he remembers. But from the fighting and death that occurred after they hit the beach on D-4, things had definitely not calmed down.