AUSTIN (KXAN) — “It’s part of my life, that started there.”
Earnest Gloyna Ph.D. has visited Normandy, France five times in his life. He fought at Omaha Beach during D-Day, the decisive battle that foreshadowed the end of World War II.
“For our batallion, the beach area was a lot safer than those who followed later,” Gloyna said.
D-Day was the largest military air, land and sea operation in American history. The invasion in Normandy took more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 planes and more than 150,000 service men to storm the beach of Normandy.
During the war, he was an officer in an engineering battalion, charged with building air strips. He and his unit were always near the front.
“One strip, the last one that we worked on the beach or in that area, was where the Germans were on the hills and we were on the valley,” Gloyna said. “We had a lot of excitement. This was the first time we ever did, and the last time we ever did. We shot down a German plane.”
Gloyna started service in the army in 1942 when he was just shy of 21. Most of his tour of duty was spent in Europe, spending only two montsh in the U.S. During WWII he participated in six campaigns, from Omaha Beach to Germany.
He recently retired from teaching engineering at the University of Texas at Austin after 54 years. Today, Gloyna lives in the Westminster Retirement Community, where 25 percent of the residents are veterans.