“This is the real deal right here,” Dr. Sam Sawyer said as he introduced Frank Clark to the capacity crowd attending the Healthy Women Program June 6.
“We are inspired by the World War II veterans and the WWII generation as a whole,” Sawyer said. “Can we ever live our lives like they did?”
Sawyer was keynote speaker at the Healthy Woman Program, sponsored monthly by Medical Center Enterprise. Saying that he wanted to forgo the tradition program about health and wellness, Sawyer noted that the meeting day marked the 75th Anniversary of the D Day Invasion of American and British military into German-occupied France during World War II.
The invasion into Normandy, France, marked the beginning of the victory of the allied forces in Europe. Germany surrendered less than one year later. “We do need to stop and reflect on one of the most—if not the most—important event in our history,” Sawyer said. “Today is the the celebration of D Day.”
Sawyer outlined the events leading up to what has come to be known as “The Longest Day,”
originally planned for June 5, 1944, and moved to the next day because of predictions of inclement weather.
On D Day some 44,000 paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines having begun to parachute from aircraft shortly after midnight June 6, 1944, Sawyer said. “They were securing all the bridges so the Germans couldn’t bring reinforcements.”
Some 156,000 military troops “hit the beach” at 6:15 a.m. emerging from 5,000 ships and ejecting from 11,000 aircraft onto the 50-mile stretch of Normandy Beach.
Three years earlier, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, the United States joined World War II. On December 8th, 1941, just one day after the attack, the United States officially declared war on Japan.
This was the beginning of World War II in the Pacific Theater, Sawyer said, as he introduced 95-year-old Clark, who had been an 18-year-old Navy medic during that time.
“Thank God he went over there and he came back,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said he was a student when he met Clark who was a guidance counselor at what was then called Enterprise State Junior College. “I knew Frank when I was in college but I’ve gotten to know him better since I’ve been back home,” Sawyer said. “He was a Navy medic in World War II who went island hopping to help save our boys who got injured. This is the real deal right here.”
“I couldn’t remember where Pearl Harbor was,” Clark said shaking his head, as he recalled that infamous day. “Three months later I was on a troop ship to the South Pacific.”
Clark stayed in the South Pacific three years, he said, assigned to a Mobile Military Hospital. The medics were divided up and assigned to Marine units, he added. “The Marines are the greatest fighting people in the world.”
Clark laughed as he described living in tents that were left over from World War I. “It was raining season and those tents would split down the middle.”
Clark said that of the thousands of islands in the South Pacific, he traveled to about 30 of them. “We never knew what island we were on, they were just numbers to us lower enlisted men,” he said. “And I could tell you 100 stories but I won’t.”
Living in tents and short of medical supplies and personnel, Clark said he had little knowledge of what was happening in Europe.
He told of his first night in the South Pacific. “We were bombed and I was laying behind a coconut log in the water,” Clark said. “I didn’t get out from there until the next morning and they told me that they had blown the ‘all clear’ whistle at about 11 p.m. but I didn’t hear it.
“I was scared,” Clark said. “My nephew asked me, ‘Uncle Frank, were you afraid?’
“Yes I was,” Clark replied emphatically. “But I didn’t let anybody know it. We were scared. I was 18 years old.”
Clark said he was very happy to return stateside and home. “And every night I pray to the Lord and thank him. I am the luckiest man,” he said. “I’m the most blessed man I know because I did not expect to live to be 95 going on 96.”
Clark introduced his wife of 70 years, Cupidean, with a smile. “This is what I am most proud of,” he said. “So if you see anyone who thinks they are blessed, tell them that you know a man that is more blessed than anyone in the world.”