“The first few hours [of D-Day] were filled with confusion, adventure and the unknown. We surprised the Germans, but we were surprised, too.”
After several weeks in Normandy, the 101st went back to England, then prepared for another jump in Holland. After being seriously wounded from mortar attacks in Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, Whidden was sent back stateside to recover and was discharged.
After the war, Whidden went on to become an elementary school teacher, marry and have two sons.
Whidden says his letters are a constant reminder of what he went through. He went back to Normandy in 1994 to pay his respects to lost soldiers — and to what he considers a lost society.
“There’s no question [D-Day] was the deciding factor that [turned the war in our favor], but I like to think of the people who died so young.
“We had a different mentality then because of how we grew up through the Depression. We did things with honor.
“You could get money from the bank with a handshake. That’s not happening today.”
(Photos courtesy of Whidden family)
Tina Johnson-Marcel is news editor of AARP Bulletin Today.