SHAVERTOWN, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Wednesday marked the 74th anniversary of D-Day — the largest military invasion by air, land and sea in history. A local 95-year-old Army veteran shared his personal remembrances of that fateful day with Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller.
“You couldn’t wait to get in front there. Get off that boat.” At daybreak on June 6, 1944 PFC Eugene “Gene” Couto joined fellow troops on landing ships for one of the most daring military missions in history. “Our dream was to get on the beach. You know, that was it. Open the gate and get us off. That’s all we were worried about whether you’re terrified or not.”
Armed with a rifle, he stormed Utah Beach to take on heavily fortified Nazi troops occupying Normandy, France. “We watched where the firing was coming from and you fired that way.”
The sound of World War II became all too real with more than just bullets whizzing by him. “You heard everything. You heard cannon fire. Cannon fire you had that. They were shooting… they were shooting at the ships.” He fought hour upon hour on what history refers to as “the longest day”. “All you’re looking to do is survive. All you want to do is survive what you’re doing.”
Barely a month after being deployed in Europe, Gene suffered shrapnel injuries while in France. He was sent to a British hospital where he was patched up and then resumed the war effort in a matter of a few weeks. All total, he fought in five battles including the Battle of the Bulge which in France and Belgium which ended with Germany’s surrender. When asked if he shot any Nazis, he replied “Oh, yeah. I assumed I did. I assume I did.”
Gene still has the pistol he took from a Nazi officer but most of his war mementos are in the hands of his nephew who’s a history teacher. “That’s history first class,” he said. And a reminder of what first-class men like Gene Couto managed to accomplish.
More than 4,000 allied troops were killed on D-Day. The invasion helped change the course of World War II by pushing nazi troops back to Germany resulting in the allied victory.