75th anniversary of D-Day commemorated at Capitol building
More than 4,000 Allied soldiers were killed on D-Day, the invasion of Normandy during World War II on June 6, 1944. Among the dead were 39 North Carolinians.
The massive invasion turned the tide of the war and began the Allied liberation of northwestern Europe from Nazi Germany power. According to the National D-Day Memorial, 4,413 Allied troops were killed that day.
On D-Day plus 75 years, as the military would describe it, ceremonies in the United States and France honored the sacrifice of those killed and honored those still alive who remember.
Hours before the invasion, Air Force radio operator Ernest Earl Ballinger flew into France on a C-47 with a force known as the Pathfinders to deploy homing devices. C-47s were also the military airplanes used to deploy the paratroopers over France.
Ballinger joined other World War II veterans honored and recognized on Thursday by the state legislature at the old Capitol building in downtown Raleigh. The House and Senate each met in the Capitol, their sessions a time to honor the U.S. service members who fought and sacrificed on D-Day, including those 39 killed.
Ballinger said they took off in the C-47 on June 5 from England and dropped the homing devices inland on June 6, then headed back. He doesn’t remember what he was thinking on the flight.
“When you’re 18 or 19, you don’t worry about it,” he said. Now 95 years old, Ballinger said after he was discharged in September 1945, he went back home to Greensboro and started his career managing production of clay pipes. Eventually he moved to Sanford, where he lives today.
Serving in World War II made Ballinger look at life very differently, he said.
“You see people wounded and killed, and think it could have been you,” he said. “We had a lot of wounded.”
After both chambers’ sessions, the commemoration continued with a ceremony just outside the Capitol entrance and also at the World War II memorial, where the names of the North Carolinians killed on D-Day were read by rank and last name.
▪ Pfc. Bailey (Jackson County)
▪ Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Barlowe (Cabarrus County)
▪ Pfc. Blankenship (Buncombe County)
▪ Seaman 1st Class Buff (Haywood County)
▪ Private Cartee (Rutherford County)
▪ Private Caudill (Alleghany County)
▪ Private Clark (Haywood County)
▪ Seaman 1st Class Clippard (Caldwell County)
▪ 1st Lt. Courtney (Mecklenburg County)
▪ Private Currin (Granville County)
▪ Private Eason (Nash County)
▪ Pfc. Arthur G. Edwards (Alexander County)
▪ Private Gossett (Buncombe County)
▪ Pfc. Gray (Mecklenburg County)
▪ Private Haney (Mitchell County)
▪ Technician 5th Class Harper (Edgecombe County)
▪ Private Holbrooks (Yadkin County)
▪ Private Hooper (Wilkes County)
▪ Technician 4th Class Ingram (Montgomery County)
▪ Staff Sgt. Johnston (Orange County)
▪ Sgt. King (Montgomery County)
▪ Staff Sgt. Long (Forsyth County)
▪ Shipfitter 3rd Class Lookabill (Watauga County)
▪ Private Maness (Guilford County)
▪ Pfc. McDiarmid (Pitt County)
▪ Pfc. McGraw (Henderson County)
▪ Pfc. Carl McKinney (Rockingham County)
▪ Private Francis McKinney (Rockingham County)
▪ Private Meads (Pasquotank County)
▪ Cpl. Mundy (Iredell County)
▪ Seaman 1st Class Murphy (Cabarrus County)
▪ Technician 4th Class Partin (Wake County)
▪ Technician 5th Class Pridgen (New Hanover County)
▪ 1st Lt. Ross (Guilford County)
▪ Private Smith (Rowan County)
▪ Private Tart (Bladen County)
▪ Pfc. Daniel B. Tillman (Alamance County)
▪ Radioman 3rd Class Wade (Carteret County)
▪ Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Weatherford (Rowan County)
The state legislature occasionally uses the 1840 Capitol building for ceremonial events like this. In the Senate, lawmakers praised those who served and hailed the “great generation” of that era.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican, said the World War II generation didn’t do things for Facebook likes.
“They are part of a generation who simply got things done,” Brown said.
Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, a Wake County Democrat, said D-Day was more than a turning point in the war.
“One of the darkest moments in history ultimately brought out the best in humanity,” Blue said.
Louis de Corail, consul general of France for the U.S. Southeast, said that Normandy has become a place of pilgrimage for Americans.
“The French-American friendship is bound in blood,” de Corail said.
U.S. military deaths in World War II totaled 416,800, according to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.