Kingsport Army veteran recounts tense D-Day mission on Utah Beach

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — A 95-year-old Kingsport Army veteran remembers the day he stepped foot on Utah Beach.

News Channel 11 has the story of James “Ed” Collins, one of the few D-Day survivors still alive today.

“We knew where we were going, because some of us were coming back and some of us were not,” Collins said.

James “Ed” Collins still remembers the details of the day he stormed Utah Beach on June 6th, 1944. 

Many of the details, he says, too gruesome to recall.

“You just tried to survive, in other words, shoot the Germans before they shoot you,” Collins said.

The Army private and expert rifleman landed on the beach about 9 a.m.

With no one turning back, and casualties all around him, he was one of the few to make it to the top of the beach by the end of the day. 

He lasted more than seven months after the D-Day invasion before a 60-ton tank blew off his leg. 

“Far as I know, there’s one guy and myself left out of our squad, the rest of them are killed,” Collins said.

But his service didn’t stop there.

After spending years in the hospital and being discharged in ’47, Collins signed up with the Disabled American Veterans non-profit organization.

“From what I had learned, in the two years I was in the hospital, the veterans need help. I could see why really, because if you spend time in combat and come out half sane, you’re lucky. It’s that bad,” Collins said.

He now serves on a number of other veterans administrations. 

Collins says he’s thankful to have lived to 95 years old and wants to help others remember the sacrifices made on D-Day.

“It’s the worst battle that ever happened, the worst invasion to ever happen, it was for the freedom of the world and every person should know that.”
 

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