Staff photographer Jim Beckel met Art Levine, a World War II veteran, at a Memorial Day Ceremony this year. Jim learned Levine was a paratrooper during the invasion of Normandy and decided to go back and do a story and a video for the anniversary of D-Day. Below is Jim’s story about Art Levine’s experience of D-Day:
Art Levine was face-to-face with an enemy solider less than an hour after he parachuted onto French soil June 6, 1944, during the D-Day invasion.
“He was a German sergeant and he ran right into me.” Levine said.
He recalls in vivid detail the historic day when American troops joined Allied forces in staging a massive invasion at several points along the French coast. This would mark the beginning of the end for the German war machine and within a year, bring to a close Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror in Europe.
It was 3 a.m. and dark, but there was a bright moon and the air was misty. A German soldier was running down the road toward him, Levine said.
“He was a big, fat guy and he was huffing and puffing,” Levine said. Levine could see he was red faced, and was probably tired from running.
“We were about 10-feet apart when I raised my M-1 carbine and squeezed the trigger several times”, hitting him below his left shoulder, but above the heart. “What saved me was the luck of the Lord.”
The German couldn’t get his holster unsnapped to pull his weapon, so Levine fired first. Both soldiers tumbled to the ground. Levine moved toward the wounded man and snatched his weapon, a P-38 pistol. “It was a fine weapon. Better than what we had,” he said.
It was to be Levine’s first enemy trophy of the war.
Only three month earlier, Levine answered a company memorandum seeking volunteers for soldiers wanting to become paratroopers. He attended “jump school” at Ft. Benning in Georgia and after training was shipped to England. It was there that the patch of the 101st Airborne Division was sewn onto the shoulder of his Army uniform. To this day, Levine regards that moment as one of the proudest in his 88 years. He became a member of the Army’s elite division of specialty soldiers that bore the distinctive moniker, Screaming Eagles.
He decided to join the ranks of the airborne units because they “got paid 50 bucks more a month in pay.” With a smile, he said, “50 bucks was a lot of money then.” He also enjoyed the fact that paratroopers wore boots. He didn’t care for the leggings the infantry wore on their feet. And, Levine admits, he also did it “for the adventure.” Back then, Levine proudly admits he was “full of piss and vinegar.”
But he had no idea of what kind of adventures he would experience in the months ahead.
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