Local WWII veteran remembers D-Day

Published: .
Updated: .

One World War II veteran said Friday that "You had to be there to truly understand."

Joseph Alexander, 91, from Indianapolis was there -- and survived to tell us about D-Day and the top secret preparations that led to it.

"I can't imagine being up there fighting the enemy in one of those things," Alexander remarked after completing a quick flight in a PT26 fighter that was built in 1944.

Who could blame him? After all, he was in the water down below - skipper of a Landing Craft for Tanks (LCT).

"They pick it up and put it on top of another ship to take it across the ocean," he explained.

They were found for Omaha Beach.

"There were 5,000 ships in that armada going into the channel. It was awesome," he remembered.

He had studied the top secret briefing documents until he knew them by heart.

"I felt like we were invincible. I had a lot of confidence in our armed services....I remember going into the beach and the shells hitting us."

That's when Alexander said his feelings began to change. His disabled LCT drifted and finally sank on the beach.

"People don't know the misery that was caused by that maniac, by that madman. The next morning when I woke up and I looked down the beach, all I could see was dead bodies," he says with an angry tone that has survived 70 years. "I will never forget it if I live 1,000 years."

He still has a treasure trove of information about that day and the preparation that led up to it.

Now, thanks to Indy Honor Flight, he got a good look at what those above the waves had to deal with on that day. The skies were blue 70 years later - and friendlier - but the PT-26 fighter that he flew in Friday gave him a very different perspective.

"I just thought a plane was just a box with a motor, but that was detailed," he said as he climbed out of the PT-26 at Metro Airport. But 70 years later, he feels very different.

Joseph Alexander is part of the Greatest Generation. The incredible thing is, he was 20 years old when he enlisted, 21 when he was commissioned. That is how old he was as he led 20 ships onto Omaha Beach.