Linda Orlando of Bellefonte, Del., whose father, Leon Truitt, carried her baby shoes with him during the D-Day invasion, holds the recently returned silver sweetheart bracelet her mother gave her father when he left to serve in World War II. Around her are other artifacts of her father’s life and wartime service.
story by: William H. McMichael, The News Journal
photo courtesy of: Robert Craig / The News Journal
Sixty-nine years ago, 160,000 Allied troops endured a rough English Channel crossing and a deadly German crossfire to crawl into Normandy and begin reversing the tide of World War II. Some 4,414 Allied soldiers, including 2,499 Americans, were killed, according to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation — more U.S. troops lost than in 11½ years of war in Afghanistan.
This story begins a couple months later, when a soldier from Delaware who had joined a D-day invasion unit was shot and wounded. He brought home a sniper’s jewelry — and lost a piece of his own, which lay in the dirt in Brittany, France, for 68 years.
The 115th Infantry Regiment came ashore near Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, on bloody Omaha Beach, late on the morning of June 6, 1944. By July 27, it was fighting in western Brittany, southwest of Normandy, trying to take the port and enable the delivery of much-needed Allied supplies. A month later, the fierce fight for Brest continued.
Technician 5th Grade Leon Truitt of Prices Corner found himself in a field with his company, pinned down by sniper fire. Across a road, a woman, apparently a local Nazi sympathizer who was not in the German army, was firing at them from the attic of a cottage. She killed several soldiers, then spotted Truitt and fired, wounding him.
Truitt fired back, killing her. Truitt took the woman’s rosary, a brooch and her black apron, and stuffed them in his backpack, where he carried his daughter Linda’s little white baby shoes. She would turn 1 the following day, Aug. 28.
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