Vets remember 70-year anniversary of D-Day
Published 12:01 am Friday, June 6, 2014
NATCHEZ — Seventy years have passed since two local veterans fought as U.S. Army soldiers in the D-Day landings of Allied troops in Normandy, the largest amphibious invasion in history.
But the memories of McKinley Barnes of Natchez and Kirk L. “Buck” Morgan of Ferriday can almost instantly travel back to June 6, 1944.
“It’s been a long time,” Barnes, 92, said. “There are some things I have forgotten, and some things I wish I could forget.”
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Barnes was in his early 20s and a soldier in the 490th Port Battalion during World War II.
Barnes and 51 others in his battalion did not even finish their basic training before they were sent to England.
“We had to finish it in England,” he said.
He was the youngest of four brothers, and all of them were drafted, which meant Barnes could have opted out of military service.
“But I just thought since they all went, I should go ahead and go on, too,” Barnes said.
At 6 a.m. June 6, 1944, the allied invasion of Europe began, and Barnes’ company took a load of explosives across the English Channel to Omaha beach.
“We were out there in the English Channel, and you almost feel helpless, like ducks in the water,” he said.
While Barnes was in the water, Morgan, then 20, was in the air with the Army’s 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
Morgan, now 90, and the rest of his regiment had been briefed on where they would be jumping and what to do, but the planes were taking so much flak, Morgan’s landing did not go as planned.
“Everybody just got scattered everywhere, and you didn’t know where you were on the ground,” he said.
The soldiers’ job was to take out guns on the coast, but by the time they made it through heavy fire and a grenade that exploded next to Morgan, someone else had beat them to it.
The men were told to expect German paratroopers that night, but they never came.
The nights were the worst for Barnes.
“We were out there in the dark, not knowing if we were going to get killed,” he said.
The next morning, Morgan’s lieutenant was killed by friendly fired after he failed to identify himself as an American, and Morgan’s regiment came under artillery fire.
The soldiers eventually made it out of the heat of the battle, and after a leave in the English Isles, Morgan and other men were taken to Holland to relieve British soldiers there.
Morgan didn’t return home to Ferriday until December 1945.
Barnes was discharged in 1946 and returned to Mississippi, choosing to live in Natchez, rather than return to his family’s farm in Sibley.
Seventy years later, Barnes said it is important Americans never forget D-Day.
“There were soldiers there giving up their lives for their country,” he said.
Morgan shudders to think what would have happened had the Allies not won World War II.
“I’d hate to think if (D-Day) hadn’t happened,” he said. “What if Hitler had won? What if he had taken over? I hate to think what the world would be like today if that had happened.”