Calvin Post is in the winter of his years.
He needs a walker to get around and he doesn’t hear so well anymore, either.
Yet his memory works fine.
Never miss a local story.
Especially on June 6.
“The high point of my life,” the 86-year-old said at his condominium. “Every anniversary I think about it.”
Sixty-seven years ago Monday, 155,000 Allied troops stormed ashore at Normandy, France in history’s largest amphibious invasion, a critical turning point in World War II.
Calvin Post was there.
A 19-year-old Sherman tank driver with the 759th light tank battalion, he landed at Utah Beach -- one of five beaches in the operation -- hours after the assault began.
“Once that ramp dropped down, I prayed to God and said, ‘Here we go,’” he recalled. “We were lucky to get put in so close to shore and didn’t have to wade through much water. Some of them, especially on Omaha Beach, got dumped in water too deep.
“We were young, we had trained hard for combat and we were ready to fight.”
Post’s sentiments reflected those of millions of young Americans just like him who took up arms for Uncle Sam in WWII.
He grew up the youngest of 13 children on a farm in East Taghkanic, N.Y.
There was no running water, only a wood stove for heat.
He walked two miles on a dirt road to a one-room elementary school and took a bus 17 miles to attend high school.
“We didn’t know any different,” said Post, who would spend 42 years working for New York’s state parks. “We grew up in the country, we were happy and went on about our lives.
“That included war.”
His shooting war started hours after landing at Normandy, when the battalion joined troops two miles inland.
“We were able to shoot at machine gun nests and things like that,” Post said. “It was a new experience.”
One he’ll never forget.
Between the French hedgerows -- thick bushes and trees planted atop bulky dirt mounds and stone walls up to 10 feet high -- and battling German armor, it took the Allies 50 days before finally breaking out of the Normandy peninsula.
“Stinking hedgerows,” Post said. “Every piece of land was broken up by these hedgerows and we didn’t know what was on other side of them.”
If it was a team of German Panzer tanks, Post’s battalion of Sherman tanks were at a disadvantage.
“Our tanks weren’t capable of fighting them head on,” he said. “They had a better gun than we had and our shells would bounce off them. We had to wait until we got a side shot to put them out of commission.”
By early August, Post’s battalion was on the move.
He unfolded an old commemorative campaign map that had a thick undulating red line tracing his battalion’s conquests across France, Belgium and Germany.
“We covered all that ground, yet I don’t remember what was around us as we went,” Post said. “Don’t remember the country at all. All I saw was out of that periscope.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.