All these years later, the memories are still vivid for Newburyport’s James Gabaree.
How could he forget propping himself upright in a trench next to an enemy he had just killed, his senses fading from two bullet wounds that had ripped through his back, his hands and clothes soaked with his blood. Almost everything his commanders had told him had gone terribly wrong. Dozens of the young men he had trained with, as well as his best friend, had died in the past few hours. Alone in a place where the enemy lurked all around, he felt himself succumbing to a slow death. His rifle muzzle was planted in his mouth, his finger on the trigger. He waited for the Germans to find him; but he had no intention of being captured.
“I’m going to turning 90 years old,” said Gabaree, recalling those moments when he waited alone. “I didn’t think I’d make it to my 20th birthday.”
As the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion is commemorated today, veterans from across the nation are recalling their contributions to the battle that led to the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Two men from greater Newburyport — one who fought on the sea, and one who fought on the land — shared their memories with The Daily News.
On the sea
By the time the D-Day invasion was launched in June 1944, Amesbury’s Geoffrey Mullis had been fighting in the war far longer than most. A native of Great Britain, he had joined the Royal Navy a couple months before the war began in 1939. He wanted to be a Navy pilot, but he was one of 25 in the class of 80 who didn’t make the cut.
“It was the worst moment of my life,” he said.