(06/06/2018)
Bob Campbell was one of several Calhoun soldiers who participated in D-Day.

By Bob Weaver 2004

"Dad's landing boat could not get close to shore because the sea was too rough, and he was the first man to jump into the water," recalls his son David Campbell.

It was D-Day - June 6, 1944 and the long-planned allied invasion of Europe had begun at Normandy.

David Campbell's father, Grantsville resident Staff Sgt. Robert Campbell, (left) was in water well over his head, and immediately began struggling for his life, shedding his full field pack, rifle, steel helmet and Bangalore torpedoes.

"He had to learn to swim real quick," said his son, as he sank to the ocean floor.

Campbell's story was written in the Atlantic Monthly in 1960 by eminent war historian S. L. A. Marshall, and later recalled in "Calhoun County in World War II" by Mary Ann Barrows.

Several other Calhoun soldiers participated in the Normandy Invasion.

D-Day may well be one of the most tragic but successful invasions in military history, with many of the assault troops drowning, killed and wounded.

The 116th Infantry's, 29th Division Able Company was the first to try the landing. By the end of the day only two men survived. Then came Campbell's Baker Company, who had already encountered problems with the rough sea, bailing water from their boat using their steel helmets.

Sgt. Campbell fought for his life for nearly two hours, paddling around in the rough sea, said David Campbell. He could see or hear nothing of the battle, often thinking the invasion might have failed.

With his strength going fast, he worked his way to shore. There he found a helmet, a rifle and five of his men, three of which were wounded.

S. L. A. Marshall's article says there was probably not a shot fired by these two companies during the morning of the invasion. Staying alive was paramount, and not many were able to do that.

Those who survived the tumultuous sea, took helmets and rifles from the dead and tried to find cover. Mary Ann Barrows wrote "The chain of command diminished greatly as the killing continued, but eventually Sgt. Campbell and about twenty men from Baker Company took the little village of Vierville."

Sgt. Campbell was given a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant in June, 1944. Fighting his way to Berlin, he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters, having been wounded in combat. He also received two Presidential Citations.

David Campbell said his father, like many other soldiers, was reluctant to talk about his experiences.

"As Oral Nichols (now deceased) said last November - war is a terrible, terrible thing. Unless we listen to these old soldiers, we may never realize what it is all about," concluded David Campbell.

Campbell was the son of Calhoun residents,Ora and Odessa Campbell, Ora was a riverboat captain on the Little Kanawha. Robert married Evelyn Self of Gilmer County in 1941, they had three children, Robert David, Joe Douglas and Deborah Fritz.

He obtained the rank of Major in the Army Reserves and was postmaster at Grantsville for 27 years.

Staff Sgt. Robert and Evelyn Self Campbell


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