Charles Celusnak: Normandy veteran shares story 70 years after D-Day

By: Brian Louwers | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 4, 2014

 Charles Celusnak, 90, landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 6th Naval Beach Battalion. He stayed there for weeks, and celebrated his 21st birthday on the beach on June 14.

Charles Celusnak, 90, landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 6th Naval Beach Battalion. He stayed there for weeks, and celebrated his 21st birthday on the beach on June 14.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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Charles Celusnak
90, Sterling Heights
Omaha Beach

Charles Celusnak served as a radioman with the 6th Naval Beach Battalion and landed on Omaha Beach at 11 a.m. on D-Day.

He said he waded ashore from a landing craft and spent the rest of the day in chaos, helping with casualties and trying to organize the beach landings, while dodging artillery fire from German 88mm guns.

“You could see just-wounded or dead soldiers all over the place. It was a mess,” Celusnak recalled.

He spent the first night on the beach huddled at the foot of an embankment, about the only place he could find that offered any protection from the deadly artillery.

“I laid down next to a guy. I thought he was dead,” Celusnak said. “In the morning, I felt something tapping on me, and he’s just, ‘You got a cigarette?’ It scared the hell out of me.”

June 6, 1944, was the first of many days Celusnak spent on the coast of France. While the Army fought its way inland, the Navy men stayed behind clearing obstacles and working to coordinate the massive onshore flow of Allied personnel, equipment and firepower.

Celusnak turned 21 on Omaha Beach on June 14. By incredible coincidence, the mail caught up to him around that time and he opened a package from his mother that contained a small bottle of whiskey and a little piece of birthday cake.

He was there until August before he was sent back to England, then to the U.S., and then to the Pacific.

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