Ernie C., 88, is a remarkable Navy Veteran and a true American hero. At 17 years old, he joined the U.S. Navy, and was sent to Europe just weeks later during the height of hostilities and shortly before the invasion of Normandy. His Wish of a Lifetime was to return to the beaches of Normandy where he fought on June 6th, 1944, for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
Ernie left for a Naval Training Base in New York from his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, during his older adult year of high school. He volunteered to be in a Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU); their mission was to clear the way for the landing of the Allied infantry by clearing the beaches of enemy-placed obstacles. He was assigned to an eight-member unit, NCDU #23, and was sent to Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6th, 1944. Ernie was among the first troops to arrive at the heavily fortified Omaha Beach on D-Day, arriving aboard landing craft #13. Ernie was the lone survivor of his eight-member unit. The NCDUs on Omaha Beach suffered the highest casualty rate on D-Day with over 50% wounded or killed.
After the invasion of Normandy, Ernie was sent back to the States. He returned to Providence, finished high school, and took a job for the next 35 years as a photoengraver with the Providence Journal. For most of his life, when asked if he would ever return to Normandy, Ernie would reply, “once was enough.” It wasn’t until he turned 80 years old that he first considered making the trip back.
Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime and the WWII Foundation, Ernie’s dream was realized on June 2nd, 2014, when he traveled to Normandy, France with his wife of 62 years. This wish was sponsored in part by Catamount Constructors, Inc.