Local 99-year-old Merchant Marine remembers D-Day
CORNING, N.Y. (WENY) -- In 1943, Gerald Early graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy, which helps train civilians to ship supplies or transport military personnel. The next year, on March 2nd, he became a 3rd assistant engineer on the S.S. Courageous headed for France.
"On the 4th of June, we laid off at Land's End, England," said Early. "We didn't anchor, we just laid there until [it was] time to go in."
During D-Day, at just 24-years-old, Early was about 150 miles off the beach of Normandy. While Early says he wasn't near the beaches on D-Day, he still remembers going there two days after the invasion.
"I saw lots of soldiers going up the hill," said Early. "But I never went ashore myself. Then on the subsequent trips from Southampton to the beaches, I saw a lot of soldiers going up the hill."
After serving 8 years as a Merchant Marine, Early got out in January of 1950. 62 years ago he moved to Corning with his family where he spent most of his time owning laundromats and renting apartments. He's currently 99-years-old and retired only two years ago. With the 75th anniversary of D-Day, he still thinks about the people he served with. As well as how thankful he is to have made it out safely.
"I feel very fortunate that I went through the whole period and never got hurt," said Early.
On March 4th of 2020, Early will be celebrating his 100th birthday.