90, Royal Oak
Albert Seychel was born in Detroit and raised in Corktown with his two brothers and two sisters, not far from the Michigan Central Depot. His father worked for Ford.
Seychel was 17 when he first heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as he was getting ready to drive his mother to church.
“I was waiting for her, to take her, because we always went to the last mass,” Seychel said. “I was dumbfounded. ‘Where’s Pearl Harbor?’”
Seychel landed in the “Easy Red” sector of Omaha Beach at 7:30 a.m. on D-Day while serving with the 6th Naval
Albert Seychel was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for his service with the 6th Naval Beach Battalion in Normandy. He landed on Omaha Beach at 7:30 a.m. on D-Day.
Photo by Brian Louwers
Beach Battalion. Carrying a hand-powered radio generator for ship-to-shore communications, he was the fifth in line to jump from one of two ramps of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft.
“The Coast Guard had a guy that would run down the ramp. He would have a great big anchor that he was carrying,” Seychel said. “He would run forward as far as he could and would bury the anchor in the sand. The reason for that was so the ship wouldn’t drift back. But they killed him.”
Seychel said the sailor in front of him was shot as he left the ramp and jumped into surf 7-8 feet deep. He spent a few moments making his way to shore with the wounded man.
Later that morning, Seychel was wounded when a blast from a German 88mm gun exploded on the beach near where he and seven members of his group were lying shoulder-to-shoulder in the sand.
“Those guys could put an 88 in your hip pocket,” Seychel said of the German defenders.
He said shrapnel went through a 17-year-old Navy corpsman in front of them and struck the man next to him. He was then hit by a fragment after an artillery blast blew his buddy and their team captain out of a hole on the beach and disemboweled them.
The shrapnel hit Seychel in the back and cut him. Fortunately, it also struck his gun belt, likely saving his life. He said he never found the belt that also carried a knife his uncle gave him before he went off to war.
He said 27 out of 404 men in the battalion were killed on D-Day and that close to 100 were wounded.
“I don’t know if I did anything heroic,” he said, 70 years after he landed on Omaha Beach.
After he left Normandy, Seychel was sent to the Pacific, where he took part in landings in New Guinea and the Philippines, and was part of the occupation force in Nagoya, Japan.
He returned to Detroit in February 1946 and worked as a Fuller Brush salesman while he attended classes at the University of Detroit. He married twice and had three boys and three girls. He has nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Seychel retired as a branch manager after a 30-year career at the U.S. Postal Service. He also spent 40 years working part-time for the Detroit Red Wings organization, where he met Gordie Howe and other hockey greats.
He said he never talked about his experiences on D-Day until he went to his first battalion reunion 20 years ago.
“Once I became a family man, I completely forgot about it,” Seychel said. “I didn’t tell my brothers, I didn’t tell my dad, I didn’t tell any of my friends — nothing. I don’t think my brothers even knew that I was wounded in the service. That was something that was in my past and was a forgotten episode, until I went to my first reunion.”