Seventy years ago, a 19-year-old from St. Louis was on a small attack boat launching rockets at the Germans during the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Lawrence Peter Berra, a minor league baseball player who would later become known worldwide as Yogi, emerged unscathed from that bloody day. Now 89 years old, Berra was honored Friday by the Little Falls, New Jersey, museum that bears his name, as well as by the Navy and several veterans groups.
His age prevented him from participating in ceremonies in France. He sat in a wheelchair, wearing a Navy blue Yankees windbreaker in the air conditioned room, along with a Yankees cap.
Berra did not speak during the ceremony. But he told The Associated Press afterward that D-Day was “amazing” and “awful,” as he fired at the Nazis from 300 yards offshore.
“You saw a lot of horrors,” he said in a voice now grown soft with age. “I was fortunate.”
Berra, who went on to win 10 World Series titles with the New York Yankees, was part of a six-man crew operating a 36-foot LCSS boat, the letters standing for landing craft support, small. Berra previously joked that the letters stood for “landing craft suicide squad.” Their mission was to fire rockets at German gun targets to protect Allied troops struggling to storm the beach.
Three of his comrades died in the invasion, which included 150,000 Allied personnel. It is widely considered the beginning of the turning of the war in the Allies’ favor.
“We had orders not to go on the beach,” Berra said. “They went on their own, and they got it. We had to stay back and protect them.”
Clearing the bases
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