Seventy-five years ago today, as part of Operation Overlord, Allied troops began the invasion of Normandy. 156,000 troops took part in what we now call D-Day, including troops from Boone County. To commemorate this battle and the Boone County soldiers who took part in it, Local History is remembering those individuals and life on homefront in June 1944.
Men, both young and old, were drafted and sent overseas, leaving their families and loved ones behind. They were sent to different places all over the world, to places like Europe, North Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Japan, to name a few.
On the homefront, Boone Countians were active in the war effort. Many resources were rationed, like gasoline, coffee, and sugar. Wilma and Clayton Ryle’s ration books, for instance, are in the BCPL digital catalog. Towns within the county also memorialized those who went, like Petersburg and Rabbit Hash. The monument in Rabbit Hash is still standing! Young women from Boone County also went abroad to serve their country as cadet nurses in the Army Nursing Corps.
Families of the soldiers and nurses stationed abroad stayed in the loop with the series “With Our Boys in Service,” published by the Boone County Recorder. Letters from Boone County soldiers shared their experiences in columns called “Letters Home,” which can be seen in the Recorder in the 1940s.
The invasion of Normandy, which led to the liberation of France, understandably made headlines. The Walton Advertiser on June 8, 1944, included an invasion prayer on the front page. Gradually, the news trickled in about which local boys were part of the invasion. Here are some of those individuals who were part of D-Day:
William Morgan Campbell (1921-1980)
A graduate of Walton-Verona High School, S. Sgt. William Campbell fought in North Africa and England before being part of D-Day. He described the invasion “like walking against a wall of lead” (Walton-Advertiser, 17 Aug. 1944).He later received a citation for removing underwater obstacles during the invasion (W-A, 14 Dec. 1944).
Franklin L. Hood (1924-1944)
Pfc. Franklin Lloyd Hood attended Hebron High School but joined the army before he could graduate. He had only been overseas a few months before taking part in D-Day, where he was injured. Hood received the Purple Heart and Sharpshooters medal. He was killed in Germany on November 20, 1944.
Jesse Lee Marvin Kelly (1925-2005)
The son of mail carrier Wilbur Kelly, Pvt. J. L. Marvin Kelly was wounded in the invasion.
Alfred E. Love (1919-1988)
Born in Union, S. Sgt. Alfred E. Love received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his performance on D-Day.
James Pierce (1920-2002)
Sgt. James J. Pierce was one of the first planes to arrive at Normandy on D-Day. He was awarded the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, and after the invasion, he spent a 30-day furlough in Boone County with his family. Previously, S. Sgt. Pierce had served in Italy and Sicily.
Jack D. Rector (1922-1971)
Cpl. Technician Rector’s unit received a citation for their “immeasurable contributions to the success” of Operation Overlord (BCR, 23 Nov. 1944). Rector had also served in served in North Africa, Germany, Belgium, Holland, and England (BCR, 20 Sept., 1945).
Thomas J. Stewart (1922-2004)
Stewart of Burlington received a citation for his service in D-Day. He was later promoted to Corporal.
These are just a few of the Boone County natives who took part in D-Day, and there are countless other residents who served during World War II. We thank all military veterans for their service. For more information about World War II in Boone County, you can read: https://www.bcpl.org/cbc/doku.php/world_war_ii
–Kelly and Liza
Kelly Bilz is a Local History Associate in Boone County Public Library’s Local History Department.
Liza Vance is a local history associate at Main. She is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University where she received her B.A. in Anthropology and History (’17) and her M.A. in Public History (’19).