November 08, 2006

A D-Day Veteran Remembers

When General Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his address to members of the Allied Expeditionary Force on the eve of the invasion of Normandy, France, he warned the amassed force of the ordeal to come.

"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely," he said.

Though prescient, Eisenhower's words could not fully capture the trials that would face the soldiers who fought on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Angelo Monte, now 87 and the senior vice-president of Gurney's Inn & Spa in Montauk, is a veteran of that campaign; he was a member of 116th Infantry of the 29th Division, which lead the first wave of American soldiers on to the beaches of Normandy. "We were just young kids; we didn't really understand too much about war," he said.

What he remembers most about the experience is "a lot of confusion" and the loss of life. "We lost half of our outfit on D-Day," he said. But he is matter-of-fact about his participation in one of the biggest military campaigns of World War II. "It was something that had to be done and we went over and did it," he said.

Monte, who enlisted in the Army at the age of 21, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, was sent home in October of 1945, and, he said simply, "we had a pretty good life after that."

The war did not change him much, he said. "I was pretty much the same guy when I came home," Monte said. He went to work as a bartender at his father's saloon in Brooklyn. He married his wife Gladice in 1952, and the two had five children. He began working at Gurney's in 1966, 10 years after his brother purchased the Inn.

As for his military service, he remembers his experiences with pride, and a touch of sadness. He hasn't visited the recently opened World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., though his children have offered to take him there. "I know too many of the kids who are buried there. It would be too much for me," he said.

He added: "I'm very proud that I was able to help this country and very happy to be an American."

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