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Archive for Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lawrence D-Day survivor devoted to stories

Sixty-five years ago, army paratrooper Roy Creek jumped out of a plane and into history with thousands of other Allied soldiers as part of the largest single-day invasion of all time — the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

June 6, 2009

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You get everybody up. You get ready. You’ve got a series of things you go through, checking equipment and so forth, making sure you are ready.

It was 65 years ago. A Tuesday. June 6, 1944.

Army paratrooper Roy Creek jumped out of a plane and into history with thousands of other Allied soldiers as part of the largest single-day invasion of all time — the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about 2.6 million World War II veterans are still living. But more than 300,000 are expected to die this year. And so Creek, now 91, hopes younger generations don’t forget the stories of D-Day.

“I think it’s important for them to know that our whole way of life was threatened at this time, and it was real,” said Creek, a Lawrence resident who was a captain in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Then you get the command you are minutes away, and so you get everybody hooked up and ready to go.

Kansas will be well-represented today at the invasion site in France.

Kansan and World War II veteran Bob Dole, a former U.S. Senate majority leader, is traveling there as a guest of President Barack Obama. Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower, is also part of the group.

Eisenhower, who grew up in Abilene, led the invasion as the supreme Allied commander.

You’re hooked up. You’re ready to go, so your light’s still red.

Creek vividly remembers leading his company in the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and jumping from the plane early that Tuesday morning.

Poor weather conditions and heavy German anti-aircraft fire created chaos and sent some paratroopers off course. Creek landed in a flooded field and had to cut loose his parachute and let go of his machine gun just to keep from drowning.

“Then I realized that I’ve got a war to fight. The next man I meet might be a German soldier, and I don’t even have a weapon,” he said.

He went back into the water and recovered his machine gun. Over the next few hours, Creek assembled other lost paratroopers, and they sprang into action.

Their major assignment was to seize a bridge from the Nazis in the French town of Chef-du-Pont. Because his colonel was wounded, Creek eventually took command. The soldiers attacked German foxholes to fight off opposition until they could take the bridge at dark.

A bridge at the site today bears Creek’s name, along with the men who served with him.

“It’s a mixed feeling for me to see my name in bold print,” he said.

As soon as the light flashes green, you go, and everybody follows just as fast as they can out of the aircraft. And everything’s quiet.

Although they are aging, many veterans have fresh memories of the invasion of France by American, British and Commonwealth troops.

Allied forces, under the overall command of Eisenhower, began the assault by parachuting troops behind the coast shortly after midnight. Infantry and armored divisions began hitting the beach about 6:30 a.m.

The operation was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, with 160,000 troops landing along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast.

More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded along that heavily fortified French coast, even though German leaders such as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel were convinced that Gen. George Patton would lead troops further north near Calais, where the English Channel is narrow.

You land, and the war is on. It’s started.

Creek survived D-Day and World War II. Others weren’t as fortunate.

Some 215,000 Allied soldiers, and roughly as many Germans, were killed or wounded during D-Day and the nearly three months it took to secure the Allied capture of Normandy.

Within a month after D-Day, Creek’s 125-man company was reduced to 17 men. The rest were captured, wounded or killed.

About six months after D-Day, Creek was wounded by a booby trap in the Battle of the Bulge. But he later returned to action and ended the war in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Creek retired as a colonel fr2om the Army in 1967 after he’d completed two tours of duty in Vietnam. He worked for a Kansas City research company and retired in 1984 as an administrator for the Kansas University Hospital. He lives with his wife, Florine, in Lawrence with their daughter, Cindy Maude, and her husband, Mike.

Like many World War II veterans, Creek has been humble about his D-Day experience. He didn’t tell stories to his children until the 50th anniversary. He has been featured in books by Stephen Ambrose and other authors.

He considers D-Day to be a significant event in history that he hopes will have a lasting legacy.

“I value the experience,” Creek said. “I value the association with the people. I miss those who didn’t come back.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 6 months ago

Thank you, Mr. Creek, for your service to our country in several wars and during peacetime. I think most of us cannot fathom what that experience was like for you and your comrades. My uncle, Ward Hutchinson was with you that day and the many days that followed in Normandy. He passed away in 1994. I wish he were alive today to be honored for his service. He passed away about 1 1/2 months prior to the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Uncle Ward, like Mr. Creek, didn't really talk about his experiences at Normandy much but I'm sure it impacted him the rest of his life.

bastet 5 years, 6 months ago

Please, let's not forget both the lessons and the heroes of the past. Thank you, sir, for your service. Thank you to all of the veterans, who did what I could never do to make my life what it can be today.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

Thank you Mr. Creek, I salute you for your service and your courage.

Stephen Ambrose' books are wonderful in depicting D-Day.

the article does a good job featuring Mr. Creek indeed. and I am glad the newspaper is remembering D-Day this year. we must remember this day.
The operation was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, with 160,000 troops landing along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast.

absolutely incredible operation. the five beaches had to be taken, the inland paratrooper drops. the coordinated strikes by the French underground. the bombing and strafing by aircraft. even the weather was a serious issue.
the belief that Patton was attacking at a different place was promoted by counterintelligence actions by the allies.

having the paratroopers spread out all over creation that day actually helped the invasion by spreading confusion among the German command. that confusion led to inacation.

a German general's wife had her birthday, so he was gone. hitler slept so the major panzer (tank) reserve couldn't move.

and the americans, brits, and others like Mr. Creek did what they needed to do.

Mr. Creek, you sir are a hero to us.

Sigmund 5 years, 6 months ago

Logan72 (Alia Ahmed) says… "Uncle Ward, like Mr. Creek, didn't really talk about his experiences at Normandy much but I'm sure it impacted him the rest of his life."

What your Uncle Ward, Roy Creek, and hundreds of thousands of other young men did that day impacted much more than their lives, they changed the world and gave it real hope. Sixty-five years later it is almost impossible to imagine the sacrifice. Between June 6th and late July 1944, 215,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded during the D-Day invasion and the Battle of Normandy, two-hundred-fifteen-thousand casualties in less than sixty days.

Looking back today we are forced to ask what horror and evil must the free world have faced that could have forced them to take such desperate acts and endure such a massive loss of life. The only explanation that offers any satisfactory answer is that these boys saved nearly every man, women, and child on the planet from the threat of inevitable genocidal fascism of National Socialist German Workers Party and its uber-popular and charismatic Leader.

Jason Bailey 5 years, 6 months ago

As of mid-2008, more people had died in the training exercises leading up to D-Day than all of the men/women who had died in Iraq. Kinda paints things into a different light.

If WWII were being fought today with the current crop of "journalists", they would have demanded for withdrawal from the war after our first series of operations in early 1942. We wouldn't win WWII today because America's citizens are a bunch of easily nauseated and spineless people.

Thank God for people like Mr. Creek -- his is a dying type of individual.

Sigmund 5 years, 6 months ago

Solomon (Anonymous) says…"Imagine the reaction of today's population if 215,000 soldiers were killed in one day."

The article was inartfull in its statement of fact and as a result is somewhat misleading. 215,000 Allied causalities occurred from June 6th through the Battle of Normandy in late July. This in no way is to minimize the sacrifice nor meant to take away from your broader point.

"The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate - and much higher - figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2500 dead)."

"Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners." http://www.ddaymuseum.co.uk/faq.htm#casualities

jeremyhay 5 years, 6 months ago

Also - Thank you, US, for training my British Spitfire pilot father in Camden SC and Phoenix Arizona (and that was before the US was at war with Germany, before Pearl Harbour - I think due to a secret part of the lend-lease agreement). He was in only the second class of 40 trained at Falcon Field, Mesa and one of only two of the class who survived until after VJ day. Many of his fellow British trainee pilots died during training due to crashes (they trained in Boeing Steermans) and are buried in Phoenix.

jeremyhay 5 years, 6 months ago

lawrenceguy40 "in his quest to turn us into a socialist state" - like France today? In many ways a very civilised country. You should go there and have a look around. Not a bad place at all. Fewer poor people than the US for a start (and I know both France and Lawrence well).

Alia Ahmed 5 years, 6 months ago

lawrenceguy, it is sad you use this article to spout your hatred for our commander in chief and your disrespect for Jeremy and his British father, who fought along side American troops. Mr. Creek, Mr. Clark, my Uncle Ward and the rest of the our service members fought for all of us, Democrats and Repubicans, liberals and conservatives. But, they did fight to guarantee our continued freedom of speech, so carry on even if your rhetoric distracts from giving thanks to these brave Americans and our allies on this particular forum.

TriSigmaKS 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Creek, thank you. You are a very admirable man.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

good job there Sigmund!

solomon writes: Imagine the reaction of today's population if 215,000 soldiers were killed in one day.

indeed, I think much of the problem is the media, not the individual americans. if our country is to retain its greatness, we should begin insisting on a vastly different journalism ethic being taught to budding journalists.
unfortunately in vietnam the journalists abused their power, and learned they could.


Thank God for the courage displayed by the allied forces on June 6th 1944.

while I agree with some of LG40's points about the current federal government leadership, this article is not the place for that.
I'm glad the newspaper is recognizing the heroes of that day, and the the importance of the day.


jeremyhay, spitfires were quite the plane then! they are exciting now. I imagine your father loved flying them. I'm glad he did.
he helped to stop the NAZIs by his own personal courage.

but I agree with statement above, you're apparently living in the u.s. and as to fewer poor, please examine growth rates and unemployment rates of the U.S. vs. france, and then look at personal tax burdens.

Peaty Romano 5 years, 6 months ago

Thank you Mr. Creek. My father and uncles also were in WWII, I called both my uncles today from Abilene (went out for the commemoration) this afternoon to tell them I was thinking about them and to describe the event. It's important we remember the sacrifices our fathers and mothers made for us.

Mixolydian 5 years, 6 months ago

It's a treasure having you and your brothers in arm with us Mr. Creek. We'd all do well to follow your lead.

D-day will have a lasting legacy in this country and many others.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Creek, I just saw your interview on Rivercity review or whatever its called on channel 6.

thank you for doing this interview. I appreciated how well spoken you are. I appreciated your descriptions of what you faced that fateful day.

God bless you.

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