The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 6, 2014

D-Day Anniversary: Beckley Navy lieutenant’s story of the invasion told at museum

BECKLEY — Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day. Among the men that day was a lawyer from Beckley named Bill File.

File’s D-Day story is immortalized at the Raleigh County Veterans Museum in one of its many displays.

“Bill File was a lieutenant in the United States Navy,” Assistant Curator Joshua Brooks said. “Along with his uniform, we have some original plans of his section to land troops.

“The plans were issued to Bill File to let him know where to drop his ramp and let the troops wade ashore. It didn’t all go to plan. Men ended up landing in the wrong places. They ended up fighting their way through though.”

File was at two of the greatest invasions of World War II.

“He landed troops at Normandy on June 6 and April 1 at the Battle of Okinawa,” Brooks said. “At Okinawa, a Japanese kamikaze hit a destroyer and it proceeded to sink.

“He pulled his landing craft beside the destroyer and saved a very large amount of the crew. He landed troops on a Landing Craft Infantry. It’s about a 50-foot-long landing craft. He received the Silver Star and a legion of merit.”

A Wyoming County man was also at the invasion of Normandy.

“That’s my uncle Billy Cook,” Museum Director James Toler said. “He might have been 18. He had just gotten out of Oceana High School. He was third wave on the Omaha Beach.

“A piece of shrapnel broke his arm. They put him in a field hospital and he was listed missing-in-action. The family thought he was dead. He finally wrote a letter to my grandmother saying, ‘Hey, why haven’t you written to me?’”

Toler said he asked his uncle what he was thinking as he climbed into the barge boat.

“He said, ‘Everybody thought that everyone in the boat was going to get sick except for him,’” Toler said. “The Army had decided to give the men a large breakfast before the mission.

“My uncle was wounded and hid behind a wall above Omaha Beach. The grass was waist high. When he looked up in the morning through a hole, it was cut up like a lawnmower had gone over it. The German machine guns had cut it all down.”

To see these displays and to hear more stories about the men and women who have served our country, you can visit the Raleigh County Veterans Museum on Wednesdays, Saturdays or Sundays. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission for adults is $2 and admission for children is 50 cents.

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com

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