DAYTON, OR (KPTV) - Ben Asquith, of Dayton, Oregon, is one of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II.
Now 93 years old, Asquith says he was 19 when landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He says he was one of the first Americans to set foot on the beach and served as a chief mechanic on a 50-foot landing craft.
Though the horrors of D-Day are well documented, Asquith says there wasn’t much time to think about it.
“It didn’t sink in because my mind was focused on my job,” Asquith said. “My job to get those soldiers in … you’re trained for that. You go through this rigid training.”
Asquith says just a year earlier he was a student at Dayton High School in Yamhill County with a deep sense of patriotism. After more than a year of intense training, he found himself crossing the English Channel for the boldest and most successful large-military invasion in history.
Asquith says his memories of the time run together, but he hasn’t forgotten the noise.
“All the firepower on the water, you get the echos,” Asquith said.
Asquith’s crew was ordered to go out, pick up troops and go back in.
“I don’t know how many trips we made,” Asquith said. We hauled several loads of soldiers in.”
Soon, Asquith says it became impossible not to see the human toll. He says his training kept him focused.
“And you can imagine,” Asquith said. “If … a person starts look at the beach and seeing that. I might turn back on the beach and run the other way.”
All these years later, Asquith says he has settled into a life of gratitude just a few miles from where he grew up.
“I have no idea why I’m still here and the other people are not,” Asquith said. “But that is the way the ball bounces. Some survive and some don’t.”
His message to younger generations is simple.
“I hope everyone considers and honors our nation,” Asquith said. “And honors our freedom, that we will be free in the coming future.”
Nearly 350 World War II veterans die every day in America, but an effort is underway to ensure their stories are recorded. Veterans’ Legacies, a local non-profit, has created a database of veterans’ stories. The stories are posted to www.veteranslegacies.com.
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