Before joining the 29th Infantry Division, the young men who splashed through the ocean and stormed Normandy’s Omaha Beach mostly enjoyed carefree lives.
“We were pretty young and ordinary when we went into military service,” said Morley Piper, who was 19 years old and a 2nd lieutenant in charge of a rifle platoon of 42 soldiers on June 6, 1944.
After D-Day, those who survived that epic battle that would change the course of the war would not be innocent or ordinary anymore, however.
“Bravado comes easily to young men,” Piper said, “but the baptism of fire on Omaha Beach was heart-stopping.”
Piper was the keynote speaker at an event that drew about 100 people to the Eagle-Tribune’s office on Friday to celebrate the release of “North of Boston: Salute To Veterans,” a coffee-table book featuring thousands of local veterans.
Published by North of Boston Media Group, the parent company of The Eagle-Tribune, as well as The Daily News of Newburyport, The Salem News and the Gloucester Daily Times.
“Salute to Veterans” pays tribute to local veterans from the Civil War forward. Individuals who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and Iraq and Afghanistan were represented at the event, along with family members, friends and many people who just wanted to be present to show their appreciation.
“I was sort of in awe of them when I heard their stories after I told mine,” said Piper, an Essex resident and longtime journalist who is executive director of Newspaper Association Managers Inc. “It was an honor to be among them. I thought many of them had better stories than I had.”
The crowd gave Piper a standing ovation following his speech about D-Day and the importance of talking about war experiences, even when it’s difficult because the memories are tragic.