Preserving WWII vets' war stories
Family urges others to document memories for future generations
Lishelle Foster has fond memories of her grandfather's war stories.
She said her grandfather was a gentleman and spared the gory details of what he experienced.
"He talked a lot about how blessed he was that he made it back," Foster said. "I remember hearing him say often that he didn't get a scratch on him, but he got the hell scared out of him."
Sgt. Harold Lynn Sutton joined the Army in January 1942, a month after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
He was assigned to the 460th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion.
His son, Brian Sutton, said his father told him he initially thought he would be protecting the American coastline, but he soon found himself in England preparing for a major offensive.
On June 6, 1944, D-Day, Sutton led his 12-man unit onto Omaha Beach as the Allies invaded Normandy.
By the winter of 1944 he was leading his men as they fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
"His big thing was being out there in the forest in the Battle of the Bulge and just how miserable it was, how cold it was." Sutton said recalling his father's stories.
Through 11 months of combat Sgt. Sutton never lost one of his men and never fired a shot.
"There he was in the middle of all these big battles and he just never personally was there shooting at somebody. It was all swirling around him," Sutton said.
Over the years the elder Sutton told his son some of his war stories. He had a large collection of photographs he snapped with a camera he smuggled onto the battlefield to illustrate what he experienced.
In the last few years of his life the family began to make recordings to preserve his memories for future generations.
"He didn't want to glorify this. He didn't want to make it seem like a grand adventure," Sutton said. "He often said that war was a plague on man."
According to the Veterans Administration there are approximately only 1.7 million vets remaining of the 16 million that served in WWII. They are dying at a rate of 740 a day, making it more important than ever to record their stories before they vanish forever.
Even though he started a few years before his father suffered a stroke, Sutton says he still has several unanswered questions including how his father came into possession of a Nazi belt buckle, the only war souvenir he brought home.
"There might have been some crazy story behind that and I didn't get to find that out," Sutton said.
That's why the Sutton family is encouraging other families with living vets to document their personal stories before they are lost to history.
"This is part of the collective American history. This was one of the biggest things that happened to this country and you'll find these stories fascinating," Sutton said. "So don't wait. Do something now."
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