Sitting in his room at the Community Living Center on the James H. Quillen, VA Medical Campus, Harry Brownlow Watson, 99, tells News Channel 11 that God helped him live to see the day.
75 years after D-Day, the former private first class said he would do it again.
“If I had a choice of going,” he said, “I’d go back today.”
Watson’s 22nd Infantry Regiment was expected to land on Omaha beach on June 6, 1944.
“They always told us never to stop,” he recalled.
However, his squadron was rerouted to Utah beach because of weather.
“Probably saved my life going in on Utah,” said Watson.
A few days later, he was captured by German troops.
As a prisoner of war, he spent months marching all over France, working in freight yards unloading boxes and working with farmers.
His meals included worm-infested pea soup and his water came from cow tracks.
The starvation he faced still sticks with his daughter, Linda Lyons.
“Here in America you can go to any corner, any street and see all of the fast food places and everything,” said Lyons, “but until you are hungry, I mean truly hungry, you don’t know what it is.”
In April of 1945, he was liberated with the help of General George Patton’s Army.
Now at 99 years old, Lyons said Watson is in good shape.
“He has all of his original parts,” she said, “where I don’t, my older sister doesn’t, my youngest sister has cancer, he’s in better shape than all of us.”
Watson and his family attribute it to one thing.
“The promise of God,” he said, “[He] was my leader.”
“He had his hand on daddy during the war,” said Lyons.
Watson arrived by train on June 12, 1945 back to Johnson City.
There was no parade or welcome party, just his dad who met him on the street coming to the station from work.