On a Navy ship off the coast
of France, all Homer Farley could do was think about his family. This was family
he wrote letters to – letters he said he hoped would never be read. Homer was a
short time away from one of the most trying times of his life and a beach where
the lives of many changed.
The call was given to board
the landing craft, and men with the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry
Division, prepared to lead the first wave of Operation Overlord.
As the beach landing craft pulled
away from the ship, Farley began to pray. He prayed he would make it through
alive, that he would get to see his family in Kentucky again. Most of all, he
said recently, he prayed he would be brave enough to face what was in front of
“I just wanted to make sure
that I didn’t do anything to let down my unit or my buddies,” Farley said.
As the beach drew near, the
mortar attack began. Farley had already fought in North Africa by the time he
was approaching Omaha Beach, and now the seasoned 23 year-old was about to take
part in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
“They knew we were coming, and
they were prepared,” he said.
As the mortars continued exploding
around the landing craft, Farley said he had two things on his mind: “Was I going
to see my family again, and was I going to die on foreign soil?”
The shoreline came closer and
gunshots joined the whistling mortars.
“The mortars didn’t bother us,”
Farley said. “If you heard it, you knew you were OK. If you didn’t hear it,
that’s the one that was going to get you.”
The gunfire began to
intensify as the craft slowed, preparing for landing. The gate dropped.
“Good Lord, I’m in your hands,”
Farley said. “I’m either dying, or I’m going.”
He stepped off the ramp and
into water over his head.
“Let’s get your sweet ass
on the ground and head for cover,” was his only thought, he said. Farley did
indeed make it ashore, and he found cover. It only took a few minutes for tragedy
“When I hit shore, we got up
to the first line of defense,” he said. “I felt something hit me, and when it
hit me, I didn’t know what it was at first. I thought I was hit.”
But it wasn’t him. For
Farley, it was something much worse.
“I turned and when I did, it
was the worst moment of my life,” he said.
His best friend took a
bullet and died as he fell, rolling over Farley.
“He was dead just as soon as
he got hit,” he said. “I can still visualize that same moment over and over.
That stays in my mind vividly.”
Farley served with the 1st Inf. Div. in WWII as an
infantryman and later joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, with which he deployed to
Korea and Vietnam. Farley lives with his wife, Lillian, in McMinnville, Oregon.
He is 93.