June 14, 2009
Anybody who saw the movie "Saving Private Ryan" should have known my friend Jack Truluck. On June 6, 1944, Jack drives one of the landing craft that drops our guys on Omaha Beach at Normandy. After he unloads his "passengers" and before he can back away from the shoreline, a German artillery shell blows up his Higgins boat.
Jack survives, but his only choice is to swim ashore. Unarmed and with bullets flying everywhere, Jack crawls over dead bodies in the surf. Then he hears the familiar high pitched whine of a landing craft.
Turning around, Jack sees a shipmate piloting another Higgins boat, getting ready to pull away from the beach. The friend signals Jack to swim out to his boat. Jack does, but as he climbs aboard his buddy's landing craft, another German shell blows that boat into little bits.
Here's Jack, for the second time that day, making an impromptu landing on the beach at Normandy. "Nobody should have to do this thing more than once," Jack says of his bizarre wartime experience. Eventually Jack is evacuated to a hospital ship. His wounds are non-life threatening.
Back at home, after the war, Jack pursues a career as a newspaperman. When I meet Jack he's an investigative reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. Now his hair is white and there's less of it. But what a guy is Jack Truluck. His instinct for getting to the heart of a news story is unparalleled.
Jack retires from The State paper and in the late eighties takes a job as public information officer at the Police Academy. During his later years, before cancer gets him, Jack rarely talks about D-Day. But when he does, he gives a great big Truluck smile and tell you he never worries about anything.
He'd say, "I got blown out of two landing crafts at Omaha Beach -- after that everything's gravy!"
Posted by Bob Ford at 6/14/2009