KINGSPORT, Tenn. - 70 years ago, on June 6, 1944, American troops stormed Normandy to liberate France during World War II. Most of the 150,000 men landed by sea but some came through the air hours earlier.
Kingsport-native George Williams was one of the first people to arrive on German-occupied soil, as a 19-year-old paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division. He told us even decades later he can still remember D-Day vividly.
"It was supposed to be dark, and it was, but the sky was full of tracers and anti-aircraft guns and stuff and it looked like jumping into a carnival," Williams described.
He was in the C Company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Williams told us there were about 250 men in his company. The battle was still hours away when they dropped behind German lines with one goal.
"[It] was to disrupt communications so they wouldn't be able to notify the armies that we were in there," he said.
Williams told News 5 he can still remember using clippers to cut phone lines and the moment hours later when he stopped to adjust his gun.
"About 12 or one o'clock, I got hit in the right shoulder," he said, "I just got up to move my gun a little and it, of course, knocked me to the ground, my helmet went over that hedgerow."
They patched his wound in the field and in a few days he was sent back to England to recover. Williams was awarded a Purple Heart.
He told us some wounds you never recover from, a lesson he learned when he returned to his company in August.
They continued into Holland and to what's now known as Hell's Highway, he said. At one point, Williams started having trouble with one of his feet so his friend took over his guard shift. Williams told us by doing that, the fellow soldier saved Williams' life.
"There was a stray 88 shell and it just cut him in two," Williams described.
He told us only four of his original company members made it through the end of the war. His memories of those heroes are still vivid all of these years later.
Williams said when he returned home he was able to track down and get in touch with many of his comrades. He told us they've had reunions ever since.