On “The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special,” Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro spoke with several veterans about their experiences on D-Day in preparation for the 75th Anniversary of the landing at Normandy. George Ciampa served in the US Army 607th Graves Registration. He shares his experiences on that fateful day on June 6th, 1944. Video and partial transcript below.
George Ciampa: When we got to the shores of Normandy, they say there are four or five thousand ships out there and I believe it. There were ships all around you, and the shelling above us, 88's, you could hear them screaming, we called them Screaming Mimi's. But we saw ships getting hit and I remember a tanker blowing up and there's bodies in the water and there's debris in the water, and you know I was 18 years old, 112 pounds; I was a skinny kid. I finally got down a rope ladder and with all the gear on and I get into an LCI landing craft, that's the smaller Higgins boats, and we're heading in… I could hear the 88's screaming over us, and I remember when we started heading in and we came back out, and we started heading in and we came back out. I thought it was because of the shelling and thinking we're going to get hit anytime, but I found out years later that the guy that's driving that thing, he's looking for place to land because the Germans had obstacles in the water to keep us from getting all the way in, so we had to wade in, you've probably seen pictures of that. I was so frightened. I mean I was blacked out momentarily, I don't remember getting off the LCI, and I talked to a buddy of mine years later, and I said, "Hey Gus tell me what happened, did we really wade in the water?" he said "Don't you remember that?" I said, "No." He said, "We did; we waded in the water with our rifles over our heads and everything."
So, our job was to gather the dead. They didn't want any dead on the beaches for the morale of other troops coming in, and so we picked up paratroopers that had landed in the channel there. I don't know what happened, but they dropped them in the wrong place and the parachutes came down over them. These paratroopers are loaded with the gear and they drowned and so we wrapped them in their parachutes and buried them. We were attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Engineers’ provisions and 4th Division landed on that beach, on Utah Beach. Two platoons landed at Omaha and two at Utah, and I was at Utah.
Ben Shapiro: So can you talk a little bit about how you ended up in graves registration: What was that like, and what were you doing in the lead-up to D-Day?
George Ciampa: Well you got to go back to when I was a kid because when I was five years old and again at seven years old, I had a few situations of family with deaths, and so I had a big fear of death as a little boy. They put me in Catholic school, and they had the ten funeral masses, and so I dropped out of school, couldn't handle it. When I turned 18, I tried to get in the Air Corps, I went down to take the exam and my eyes were 20/22, so I flunked. So, then I got drafted and got sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming and got put in a graves registration company. I said, "What the hell is that?" Graves, you know? And when I heard what I was gonna have to do, I thought I've got to get out of this. Well luckily, at least temporarily, there was an airbase next to us, Fort Warren, and they were looking for pilots -- this is March of '44, like three months before the invasion. My brother was in the Air Corps; he was a pilot, and my brother-in-law also. It looked like a glorious thing to be a part of. They walked with a swagger, hat's tipped, you know the girls loved them. Anyway, nobody knows this except me, they lowered the eye requirements to 20/30 with no glasses so I could pass that, so I took the tests, everything was great. They notified my company commander and you know he hit the roof and he was very upset. I didn't go to him first of all, guys were recruiting, and I said, "Hey, here I am; let's go."
So anyway, there was a company going overseas right away. They only needed one man, so I was the replacement. The guys were all older than I was; they were all killing me on the ship on our way overseas. "Don't worry, Ciampa, they're gonna turn the ship around take you home. Roosevelt, our president, said no 18-year-old will set foot on foreign soil." Nobody knows that either. So we shipped out, and on the way over there in the middle of the night, we're sleeping down in a hold and all of a sudden there's a big explosion and the ship was rocking, everybody's scurried up on the deck, and then found out that there was a torpedo plane that was dropping a torpedo and the Navy gunner shot him down, that was the big explosion. The Navy gunner I had met the day before, he was my age and he showed me his quarters and we got acquainted, his name was Dennis Reid from Cincinnati, Ohio. I never did get in touch with him after that, and I wish I had because he really saved our lives.