From his home in Greene County, 98-year-old Arthur Ricker can see the mountains. But when he closes his eyes, he can still see Utah Beach just as it was 75 years ago.
“Thank God I survived it,” Ricker said.
A combat engineer with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, Ricker had spent months training for what seemed to him like every conceivable combat situation. He said his Division almost got sent to North Africa.
But then when he and others were trained for an amphibious landing attack, “We knew something was brewing,” he said.
Ricker said as his transport arrived on the coast of France, he knew that death was a strong possibility. “There was a lot of thoughts running through mind about what was in store for us,” he recalls.
As bullets came at them like rain, Ricker said he immediately sensed that death was all around.
“One of my friends was standing about five or six feet from me, and they killed him.”
But Ricker pressed on, tasked with the duty of clearing roads of traps and mines. “Anyway to make something to kill you – that was their motive. And they had many ways to kill you.”
In his pocket, Ricker carried a New Testament that an English chaplain had given him before the invasion. Inside the front cover, he wrote “June 6, 1944.”
“Thank the Lord he took care of me,” Ricker said. “The main thing you wanted to do was… you wanted to survive.”
Why was Ricker willing to risk his own life that day? Was it simply because he’d been told to?
Ricker says he knew the fight was about more than liberating Europe. He was fighting to keep his homeland from facing what had happened to the people of Europe.
“The main thing I thought about was…. this could happen to our country. And I didn’t want it to happen. So that gave us hope.”
D-Day was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s plans for global domination. But for Arthur Ricker, it was just the beginning of the bloody conflicts that took him to the Battle of the Bulge and German concentration camps.
In all, 4,414 Allied troops died in the D-Day Invasion.
Ricker says he always knew the USA would win. “I had confidence in our Government, And I think our government did us well. They are to be commended.”