This year, instead of standing in line for a store-bought gift, think about spending "Black Friday" giving something more meaningful. November 23, 2012 is the National Day of Listening - a day to honor a loved one through listening. This year, StoryCorps has chosen to feature the stories of veterans, active duty military, and their families. We're celebrating the National Day of Listening by sharing George Granholt’s 2006 interview with WWII veteran Melvin Robbins.
Interview with Melvin Robbins, WWII veteran - Part 1
Melvin was a senior at Greensburg High School in 1943 when he was drafted into military service. The Army offered him a spot in the Signal Corps, the Infantry, or the Medical Corps. He chose the Medical Corps. His job as a Medical Technician would be to patch men up on the front lines.
Melvin debarked from Southampton on D-Day and hit the Utah beach at Normandy at 4:30 in the evening. The invasion had been going on since before daybreak, and Melvin remembers that the Allies had only advanced about 300 yards by the time he arrived.
“Lotta guys were seasick from being on the LSTs, sitting out there bobbing up and down like a cork on a pond," Melvin said. "We had a lot of flak going across. They [were] shooting everything at us.”
At least 4414 Allies died on the beaches of Normandy that day.
“When you see guys fall in front of you, beside of you, the back of you, you wonder what’s holding you up sometimes,” Robbins said.
Interview with Melvin Robbins, WWII veteran - Part 2
After D-Day, Melvin was captured and held as a prisoner of war for 11 days.
“We were medical men – didn’t carry rifles, didn’t carry guns – so therefore they didn’t know what to do with us, so they kept us up on the front lines, put us in an old building and then they moved us from one place to the other … They wanted our artillery to bomb them and kill us – have our own men kill us – then they wouldn’t have to do it.”
After his release, Melvin was wounded and taken to a hospital in England. He traveled back to the United States on a medical ship. Melvin remembers that many men were seasick on that 31 day voyage, and one man took his own life.
Melvin did not experience seasickness, but when he arrived back in the states, he struggled to get used to land again.
“We couldn’t stand up cause we was so used to moving and rolling and walking at a 45 degree angle and taking care of everyone else,” he said. “I had to learn to walk all over again.”
When he recovered, Melvin was discharged, and began the difficult readjustment to civilian life.
“It’s hard,” he said. “When I [came] out I still had a lot of nightmares. It took me a long time. I couldn’t settle down.”
63 years after Melvin came home, the things he experienced in the war continued to haunt him.
“They think that [after] 50 or 60 years you should forget a lot of these things, but, no, there’s a lot of things that happened that you can’t forget… and those things stick with you.”
Everyone has a story.
We hope this one will inspire you to sit down with someone you love, and listen.