William Stafford: Normandy veteran shares story 70 years after D-Day

By: Brian Louwers | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 4, 2014

 William Stafford, 91, arrived at Omaha Beach on D-Day with the U.S. Army’s 183rd Field Artillery Battalion.

William Stafford, 91, arrived at Omaha Beach on D-Day with the U.S. Army’s 183rd Field Artillery Battalion.

Photo by Brian Louwers

 Stafford was part of a 12-man gun crew that hammered German positions in Normandy and throughout Western Europe.

Stafford was part of a 12-man gun crew that hammered German positions in Normandy and throughout Western Europe.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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William Stafford
91, St. Clair Shores
Omaha Beach

William Stafford was born in Detroit. He graduated from Southeastern High School the summer before the United States was thrust into World War II and knew he’d be called to serve after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

“I knew I’d be 1-A. I just waited for the letter,” Stafford said during an interview at the kitchen table of his home in St. Clair Shores.

He was inducted into the U.S. Army in January 1943 and spent months training to become a soldier and an artilleryman in the 183rd Field Artillery Battalion, destined for deployment to the Pacific.

Fate turned, however, and Stafford found himself on a ship bound for Liverpool the following December. He waited five months before the men of the 183rd were loaded onto transports in the middle of the night and shipped across the English Channel.

Stafford arrived in Normandy at 10 a.m. on D-Day in the second assault wave. The battalion’s “prime movers” towed their 155mm guns from the ramp of the landing ship, through the surf and across the sand of Omaha Beach.

“I saw a lot of soldiers on the beach yet. I don’t know what you call them — they were like motorized barges that were taking bodies off the shore,” Stafford said. “I saw a lot of craters. I saw one pillbox that was blown open. It was on a rise up there. Someone had done a good job on that one.”

He spent D-Day moving off the beach to positions inland, from where the battalion’s guns hammered German defenders dug into the French countryside around Saint-Lô and Sainte-Mère-Église.

Stafford spent the rest of the war in Europe in combat and was discharged from the Army soon after hostilities there ended in May 1945.

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