PB warrior recalls horrors of Normandy’s D-Day invasion
by Keith Antigiovanni
Published - 06/20/12 - 03:22 PM | 2116 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Clair “C.P.” Martin of Pacific Beach was among the 156,000 or so Allied troops who participated in the bloody and intense invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 as part of the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.                  Photo by Keith Antigiovanni I Beach & Bay Press
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June 6 marked 68 years since D-Day, the largest amphibious assault in world history. Allied forces stormed five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy, France that day in 1944, propelling some 156,000 American, British, Canadian and free French troops into heavily fortified Nazi strongholds in what was dubbed “Operation Overlord.” By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated by the Allies, and by the following spring, the Germans and the Axis powers had been defeated. But it was the bloody, intense and epic Normandy landings that triggered the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

Among the Allied warriors braving the D-Day invasion was Pacific Beach resident Clair “C.P.” Martin, an Oceanside native. During the invasion, Martin — now 90 — was part of the U.S. Army 29th Infantry Division.

“We practiced the landing for a year before the invasion, and all those times I never got more than my feet wet,” said Martin. “But during the invasion, the water was almost five feet deep.”

Martin, an Army radioman, was supposed to land at Normandy’s Omaha Beach with three others: a captain, a sergeant and an assistant radioman. But he said he lost contact with the captain and sergeant before he got to the beach, recalling the scene as “total chaos” as the Allied troops struggled to do everything they could to find cover from the German firepower aimed at them from emplacements above the cliffs.

“I remember seeing our battleships, but the Navy quit firing at the coast 10 minutes after we landed, and the Air Force couldn’t see because of the weather,” Martin recalled.

Martin and the assistant radioman were forced to take cover until later that evening when Allied command posts could be set up. Getting to the beaches and making the landings were just the beginning for Allied troops, however, as they tried to break through inland German defenses in the towns of St. Lo, Vire and during the Battle of Brest in the summer of 1944. By late 1944 and early 1945, Allied forces pushed back the stubborn Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge to take the fight into Germany.

The war ended after Germany’s dictator, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide on April 30, 1945 and the nation officially surrendered on May 8.

Two months after the Germans surrendered, Martin was heading back home to Oceanside to resume the life he had before the war. After his discharge, he was reunited with his wife for the first time in more than three years. He returned to his old job with the phone company until he retired in 1986.

Martin moved to Pacific Beach in 1967.

“What I remember most when I came back [from the war] is how nothing had changed at home,” he said. “Everything was still the same. All the bridges were intact and life was normal, compared to how things were in Europe.”
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