West Virginians on D-Day

Martinsburg Journal
June 5, 1994

Story by Mike Eads

Remembering Normandy

Some Eastern Panhandle vets will never forget June 6, 1944

Vincent Di Bacco walked onto Omaha Beach just after 10 a.m. on June 6, 1944.

"It was like a scene from Hell," Di Bacco said. "There was complete disarray. The Germans set up beach obstacles and land mines...the mortar fire was terrific. The saturation firing was incessant."

Di Bacco, a native of Tucker County, was a second year student at St. Charles College outside Baltimore when he made himself available for the draft in 1942. By the fall of 1943, he was on his way to Wales to participate in the Allied invasion of Europe.

After nine months in Wales, he said he and his buddies were ready to go in June of '44.

"I had some trepidation about it, but we all felt like we owned the world," he said. "We were anxious to get started, because we all wanted to get home."

Di Bacco was a medic with a corps of First Army engineers. There was plenty of wounded waiting for him when he made the Normandy shore.

The Allies were pinned down along the beach area until nightfall, which made Di Bacco's job almost impossible.

"Our movement was almost completely lateral," Di Bacco said. "The dunes on the beach gave us some protection, but I was definitely afraid I wouldn't leave the beach.

"We had a lot of wounded on litters down by the water. When high tide came in later in the evening, some of them were washed out into the water and drowned."

As midnight approached near the end of that first horrible day, the Allies had made enough headway inland to move the remaining wounded up to a safe distance from the shore.

Di Bacco remained in France for the duration of the war. After the liberation of Paris later that fall, he was posted there. He worked in the Medical Services School Center in Paris training doctors and nurses for service in the Pacific.

Vincent was just one of three Di Bacco boys overseas during that pivotal year of 1944. His brother Albert Di Bacco was in Europe at the same time. Albert Di Bacco participated in the North African and Italian campaigns as a medic. Albert Di Bacco was eventually posted to a hospital in southern France, but the two never saw each other.

Their brother Abe Di Bacco was part of the Allied invasion force into North Africa in November 1942.

He was a seaman aboard the U.S.S. George Clymer, a troop transport ship that supplied men and materials to Allied effort in French Morocco.

Abe Di Bacco's ship was the frequent target of German shore batteries in Casablanca. When the Clymer went to the Pacific Theatre in 1943 to aid the fight against the Japanese, Abe Di Bacco weathered fire from Japanese shore batteries as well.

He helped supply troops and ships fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, including the PT 109 - commanded by young Navy lieutenant named John F. Kennedy.

Vincent and Albert Di Bacco saw the war through to the close of the European conflict in May 1945.

Abe Di Bacco came home after the Japanese surrender in August of the same year. All three returned to West Virginia. Vincent and Albert Di Bacco returned to family business in Tucker County, while Abe Di Bacco eventually ran the West Virginia state workers compensation office here in Martinsburg.

From Hedgesville to Utah Beach

Cronon McCarty landed at Utah Beach on the northern part of the Normandy peninsula on June 8. When he walked onto the Normandy shore, he was 19-year-old boy from Hedgesville who had never been away from home.

Pvt. 1st Class Cronon McCarty was scared.

"It wasn't pleasant at all," McCarty said. "It seemed like we fought everyday. I'll never forget those screaming shells and bullets whizzing past my head. I was scared all the time.

"They told us Utah was the most undefended beach by the Germans, but it was defended enough for me. I was there a little over a month and it seemed like 10 years."

McCarty was wounded in both legs during a mortar attack near Periers in southern Normandy on July 22, but his injuries aren't what haunt him.

"The guy next to me had a fragment go in his chest her[e], said McCarty pointing to the middle of his sternum, "and it went out his back and left a hole all the way through.

"The medics were right there to treat me and him. They took the bandages and kept wrapping them around him, but the blood kept soaking right through.

"He kept yelling 'Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!'...I'll never forget that as long as I live," McCarty said.

As bleak and terrifying as the experience was for McCarty, he never doubted the Allies' chances.

"I don't think any of us ever thought we were going to lose," McCarty said. "It just never entered my mind that we wouldn't win."

McCarty made the front page of The Journal on Aug. 7, 1944, when the Army notified his parents of his wounds. He still has a copy of that.

McCarty was transported back to an Allied hospital in Bristol, England, aboard a C-47 transport plane. It was his first flight.

McCarty was in recovery and rehabilitation for six months, before returning to limited administrative duties in France. He later married a British girl and brought her home to Hedgesville, where they raised a son and a daughter. He worked for the Veterans Administration for 30 years before retiring in the late 70's.

McCarty is returning to Normandy this week, his first trip back since the end of World War II. His reasons is simple.

"I've always wanted to go back, but never could afford it before now," he said. "I'm 69 years old now and I figure if I don't do it now, I might never get to."

Military and Wartime