I was never a huge history buff in school, but since beginning my work at the Daily News, a community with two major Air Force bases and thousands of veterans, I have come to an understanding that history is one of the most fascinating topics you can find.
What’s more, because of the unique place I work I’ve had the opportunity to interview dozens of WWII veterans and each time they amaze me more and more.
There’s something remarkable about that generation.
Perhaps its the fact that they will never tell you they were heroes. They were all just doing their jobs.
Maybe its that they are silent in the feats they accomplished during that time. Silent until some nosy reporter knocks on their door.
For me, it’s the great deal of pride they feel for fighting a war where so many of their comrades died.
Earlier this week I interviewed Phil Hooper. A WWII 101st Airborne Division veteran who fought in the Invasion of Normandy, D-Day, that began June 6, 1944 and lasted six weeks.
Mr. Hooper, 88, has been asked on several occasions by groups around the area if he’ll share his wartime stories. He told me Tuesday that revisiting would be too painful.
Instead, he says he can sit back and answer questions, just a few, so that the history he witnessed is not forgotten.
“You know, when you’re 18 or 19 nothing really goes through your mind. I guess that’s why I wasn’t scared when we were going to Normandy,” Hooper said sitting at his kitchen table, his 101st Airborne Division hat atop his head.
“We knew there was going to be an invasion, but we could have cared less.”
Mr. Hooper told the story of one of the men he rode to France with, a small man in stature with a large pack on when he stepped off the boat.
“As soon as he went into the water he just sunk down,” Mr. Hooper said laughing. “That’s when our captain, he was probably taller than 6-foot, put his arm in the water and just hoisted him up.
“Neither of them made it. It was a real shame, they were good guys.”
During the interview, Mr. Hooper told the tales of escaping from France to Holland. Crash landing in Belgium, fighting in the Battle of Bulge.
Mr. Hooper is a hero in every way.