Save Money in this Sunday's paper

comments

D-Day: Machine-gunner Andy Andrews rushed ashore at Normandy

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/15/10/PuzBG.Em.138.jpeg|316
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    WWII veteran Andy Andrews displays a photo of himself from 70 years ago at his home in Black Mountain Thursday, May 22, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/15/10/1fU0wH.Em.138.jpeg|185
    TODD SUMLIN - Courtesy of Andy Andrews
    WWII veteran Andy Andrews, far left, in this undated photo taken during WWII.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/15/09/PuzAL.Em.138.jpeg|238
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    WWII veteran Andy Andrews displays a photo of himself and his purple heart at his home in Black Mountain Thursday, May 22, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/15/09/lqsi4.Em.138.jpeg|220
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    WWII veteran Andy Andrews holds a small Bible he carried during the war at his home in Black Mountain Thursday, May 22, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/15/14/bUDw3.Em.138.jpeg|240
    TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com
    World War II veteran Andy Andrews displays war memorabilia at his home in Black Mountain.

More Information

  • Paratrooper survived all four major WWII jumps
  • 70 years after D-Day and Normandy, they remember
  • D-Day veterans return to Normandy
  • Dickens was ‘anxious to get into the fight’
  • The machine-gunner

    The .30 caliber machine gun Andy Andrews used in World War II weighed about 100 pounds, limiting the gun to fixed positions – mounted on tripods or armored vehicles. It was first used in World War I and was capable of shooting up to 550 rounds a minute.

    The 1st Infantry Division is the Army’s oldest, constituted in May 1917 during World War I. In 1943, the division suffered heavy casualties during the World War II amphibious landing of Sicily, Italy. After the Sicily campaign, the 1st returned to England in late 1943 to prepare for Normandy. The division and a regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave assault on D-Day.

    It is nicknamed the Big Red One because of its green patch with a large red 1. David Perlmutt


  • About the series

    The Observer is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by sharing stories of Carolinians who survived the battles in Normandy, France. The stories are presented in the veterans’ own words and describe their experiences just before D-Day commenced. On Friday, the anniversary of the invasion, they and others will describe their experiences in the pivotal campaign.


  • More information

    This week

    Sunday: Walter Dickens, 95, of Monroe, Army medic

    Monday: Andy Andrews, 90, of Black Mountain, Army machine-gunner

    Tuesday: Helmut Deussen, 89, of Charlotte, German signal corps

    Wednesday: Henry Hirschmann, 93, of Charlotte, Holocaust survivor and Army artillery gunner

    Thursday: Harold Eatman, 98, of Matthews, Army paratrooper



BLACK MOUNTAIN

The images still move him to tears.

For Andy Andrews, the fighting began when he rushed ashore at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. As a machine-gunner in about 150 firefights, he was wounded four times. He doesn’t try to forget his battles.

Instead, for 70 years, he’s thought every day about fellow Tennessean Jesse Beaver, his best Army buddy in the 1st Infantry Division who died in his arms in Germany.

He thinks, too, about the homeless children and elderly he saw during the war and postwar occupation duty in Germany. Their homes had been destroyed.

A religious man before the war, Andrews came home more devout in June 1945. He believes there’s a reason he’d been spared so many times when so many weren’t.

Four years later, he married Hellon Coffey, who died in 2008. They raised two children.

After school, he began working for the Presbyterian Church denomination in Richmond, Va., which sent him to Montreat in 1965 as the Presbyterian Conference Center’s first conference director.

Andrews, now 90, also got into local politics, serving two terms as Montreat’s mayor. In 1980, he became executive director of Black Mountain’s Chamber of Commerce.

He retired 10 years later. He now lives alone in a Black Mountain retirement community, doing his part to educate younger generations about World War II – delivering more than 140 talks to students and civic groups about D-Day and the other battles that defined his life.

Andy Andrews, 90

In his own words/As told to staff writer David Perlmutt

I was drafted with 250 boys out of my class at Central High in Chattanooga, Tenn. That was in June, 1943. We used to joke that we went through the graduation ceremony and out the back right into a GI truck.

I had four brothers. All of us were drafted. All of us went to war and thankfully all of us came home. God was good to us.

I was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One, 16th Regiment, H Company. We were sworn in at Fort Oglethorpe (near Chattanooga) and sent to Fort McClellan in Alabama. They told us, ‘You guys are going to be machine-gunners. You understand that?’ None of us had a clue about what we were doing.

They trained us in heavy weapons, .30-caliber machine guns. You shot that gun in short bursts and it mowed down everything in its path.

In January 1944, they put us on the Ile de France, one of the biggest luxury liners in the world. It held 10,000 troops. We were crammed in – you could rub noses with the guy in the bunk above.

Seven days later, we landed in Greenock, Scotland, and took a troop train to Yeovil, England, (130) miles south of London. For a boy who had never been out of Tennessee, it was one heckuva adventure.

They trained us hard for six months. We trained for every situation: gas masks if the Germans threw poison gas at us. We crawled in dust and they’d wet it down and make us crawl back in mud. We attacked mock villages and dummy Germans to learn how to sneak up on the enemy and cut his throat without him knowing it. We crawled under machine gun fire. They ran us through obstacle courses. We’d hike 10 to 15 miles at a clip.

Most of my company rehearsed getting in and breaking off of these small, wooden landing craft called Higgins boats. I missed it. I was a chaplain’s assistant. I could play the piano a little. I knew 10 to 12 hymns, but every time we went someplace I played the same hymn.

Our commanding officer told us: ‘You guys, this is serious. You’re going into combat and you’re going to kill people or be killed – so this is serious.’ We thought he was joking just to scare us.

But we were really training for a big landing. We didn’t know when or where it was going to be.

In the early part of June, we spent most of our time in bayonet practice because they anticipated we would meet a lot of ground troops. On the 4th, we moved from Yeovil to the port of Southampton and were placed in a marshaling area.

Then on the 5th, we were in a field training in bayonet when our captain drove up in a jeep and shouted through a megaphone: ‘Fellas, the invasion is about to start. We want you to be in the third wave. Put your bayonets into the truck … and let’s get changed into combat gear.’

About midnight on the 5th, we boarded a big troop ship, the USS Henrico, and climbed down three stories. It was dark. You could barely see. There were 5,000 troops on board. The captain of the ship came over the intercom and said: ‘Welcome aboard. You can hear our big engines running. When you hear those engines stop, you’ll be 12 miles from France – 12 miles from combat.’

Nobody said a word. That was the point we knew they weren’t joking. We were headed into combat.

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
Your 2 Cents
Share your opinion with our Partners
Learn More
CharlotteObserver.com