By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - George McCarthy was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was drafted when he was 18.
"Shipped over to England in April of '44. Then went in to France, late June of '44. Was a replacement in the 90th Infantry Division."
The initial landings at Normandy were over, but McCarthy and the other men still faced grave danger.
"You lost people so fast and you get new replacements, you never really did develop a close friendship with very many people. I was very fortunate to get through it.
A day in the life of a man in Normandy was, you were behind one hedgerow. And your job was to get behind the next hedgerow. They were running every 50-100 yards, sometimes even less. Cause this was actually fences which were 5 or 6 feet tall, 4 or 5 feet thick that were nothing but dirt with trees growing out the top."
The journey through France was grueling and slow moving.
"From the landing beach to the island where I was captured was 22 miles and it took 52 days to get there. Once we crossed the river and went on to Seves Island, they closed us off and we couldn't get back across the river.
In the battle we were involved in, which started on the 22nd of July, ended about noon on the 23rd, there were 100 killed, 500 wounded and 200 of us captured."
He would spend about eight months as a prisoner.
"I was with a group that worked with a factory. Part of the time, I shoveled coal. Part of the time, I actually worked inside of the factory.
The Russians were pushing in through Poland where there were a lot of prison camps. And they were marching, a lot of American prisoners, they were marching them south. And those prisoners marching there had probably suffered more casualties and death than at any other time during the European war. And we would see what bad shape they was.
Then it came one day, they said 'day after tomorrow, we're marching out.' I started hunting for somebody to take off with me. I located another boy at the other side of the camp. And he said 'I'll go with you.'
We left on Thursday. By Sunday, we were getting hungry. And we finally went up to a German's house and just told him we were hungry and we had to have something to eat. He took us in and told his wife to fix us something to eat."
The German had been an American prisoner during WWI.
"And they had let him live out his life and this was his time to repay it. We were there two weeks and the Americans came through and liberated us."
McCarthy left the army in 1945. He was called back to active duty in 1950 but did not have to go to Korea. He stayed with the National Guard until he retired in 1979.
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