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Old 08-15-2018, 02:08 PM
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Thumbs up At 103, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel remembers D-Day like yesterday

At 103, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel remembers D-Day like yesterday
By RICH ARCHBOLD | | Press-Telegram
PUBLISHED: August 15, 2018 at 12:44 pm | UPDATED: August 15, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Photo Link:
U.S. Army Ret. Lt. Col. Sam Sachs, a 103-year-old survivor of the D-Day invasion, talks about his life at his home in Lakewood on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. On D-Day, Sachs landed behind enemy lines in a glider before joining up with his company to go into battle. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Photo link of the General in 1943:

The sun was shining, but the skies were darkened with German anti-aircraft fire as young Army officer Sam Sachs flew in a glider with the grim nickname of “Flying Coffin” as part of the Normandy invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Sachs, who just celebrated his 103rd birthday in April, remembers that memorable day 74 years ago like it was yesterday.

“We were towed from England to Normandy along with so many other gliders that it looked like snow coming down out of the sky,” Sachs said earlier this week from his assisted care home in Lakewood.

Sachs’ glider was filled with machine guns, ammunition and eight soldiers whose job it was to land behind enemy lines and destroy German defenses. As they approached the French coastline, Sachs said the enemy anti-aircraft barrage began.

“They began firing at us with machine guns and rifles,” he said. “In those gliders, you were just like a pigeon up there.”

The gliders, towed by C-47 planes, had no engines and were unarmed. But, somehow, Sachs, then a 30-year-old infantry officer, and his glider landed safely in French farmland two-three miles inland.

“We were shot at many times, but I found only one bullet in the plane’s fuselage,” Sachs said. Shaking his head back and forth in remembering that day, Sachs said, “We were beyond lucky. I think I had a guardian angel on my shoulder.”

Sachs’ memory is amazing, and he enjoys talking about his life and his exploits in World War II.

“I’m willing to talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere,” he said.

He will tell his stories Thursday, Aug. 16, to adult and cadet members of the Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.

Rommel Anacan, the air patrol’s public affairs officer, said the public is welcome to attend the free meeting.

“There is a lot of excitement for this meeting,” Anacan said.

Sachs’ life spans two world wars. He was born April 26, 1914 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, just before the outbreak of World War I, then known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars.

The oldest of three children, Sachs said he felt a responsibility to take care of them.

“When I was 17, I did something that helped me the rest of my life,” he said. “I was a senior in high school and I said I wanted to be somebody when I grew up. I wanted to be an officer in the U.S. Army so I joined ROTC.”

With the outbreak of World War II, Sachs was called into service as a first lieutenant stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He was assigned to various posts in the United States and then overseas, serving as a company commander in Casablanca in Africa and Naples, Italy, in 1943.

His job was to oversee logistics for men, ammunition, food and transportation. He relocated to Ireland and later England where he was involved in the planning of the D-Day Normandy invasion with gliders.

Sachs participated in one other glider landing in Operation Market Basket in Holland near the end of the war. Sachs, who is Jewish, said he was determined never to be taken prisoner by the Germans.

“I was prepared to die for my country,” he said. He helped liberate a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, which he called “an extermination camp.”

He said you could not believe the horror of what had happened to the people in that camp unless you actually saw it.

His last military assignment during the war was waiting in Marseille, France, getting ready to board ships to attack Japan. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war and Sachs returned to the United States.

He continued to serve with the Army reserves until his retirement 32 years later with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After the war, he worked at different jobs before pursuing his love of teaching.

He got his teaching credential from USC. His first teaching job was at Wilmington Junior High followed by teaching positions at Compton Junior High, Roosevelt Adult School in East LA and, finally, Huntington Park High School where he taught from 1955-1982.

After the war, he also met Ida, his future wife, at a public dance hill in Los Angeles in 1946. They were married for 58 years when she died in 2005.

Asked if he had any secrets to his longevity, Sachs said he follows three rules:

1. Moderation in everything you do. “Don’t go off the deep end.”
2. Exercise, exercise, exercise. “I figure I’ve walked 1 1⁄2 times around the world. It revitalizes your mind and body.
3. Stress management by being positive. “There’s always a silver lining in every cloud. I’m always optimistic.” He said it also helps if you have a sense of humor. “When I’m alive, that’s one day less than when I’m dead,” he said with a smile.
Asked if he was looking forward to his 104th birthday, he said, “I’m just trying to manage my life one day at a time.” However, he is looking ahead to June 6 next year for the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.

There is talk that he may receive the Legion of Honour from the French government for his participation in D-Day. “That would be a real honor. I would like to return to Normandy for that,” he said.

There also are plans for him to fly at a later date in an old glider that is part of the Civil Air Patrol glider squadron that meets at the Los Alamitos Base. That would bring back memories of that day so long ago when Sachs and hundreds of others like him flew in Flying Coffins and overcame life-threatening odds to invade Europe and defeat Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Sachs achieved his goal of wanting to be somebody when he grew up.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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