HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when more than 100,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II. Leo Scheer, 90, of Huntington was a Navy medic in the first wave invading Omaha Beach.
Scheer went from graduating at Huntington Catholic High School in 1942 to storming the beaches of Normandy two years later. He wanted to be a seaman with the Navy when he enlisted, but said he was instead placed as a medic.
On June 6, 1944, Scheer says his battalion was paired up with a group of army engineers and headed for Omaha Beach on a landing craft. They were supposed to drop off the Army engineers and then head back for more men.
But instead, Scheer said the landing craft hit a couple mines and caught on fire. Only 20 years old at the time, Scheer dropped his medic pack and jumped in 10 to 12 feet of water 200 yards away from Omaha Beach.
“I had a couple incidents going in, trying to help a frantic guy. He almost set off a mine himself,” Scheer recalled.
As the 20-year-old medic headed toward the beach, he had a near-death experience when a German machine gun began firing his direction only a couple feet from shore.
“You can’t run. You can’t duck. You’re just standing there as targets. Well, those bullets are hitting the water coming toward me out on this side and it stopped about [a foot] from my side,” Scheer said. “They stopped. And all my life I wondered, ‘What stopped that?’”
Unarmed, the medic eventually army-crawled up the shore to the seawall and found another medic ranked above him.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think we ought to be doing?’ He was frozen with fear, that guy was. And he didn’t say a word,” Scheer explained. “So I said, ‘Ok, I’ll go do what I can do by myself,’ which is what I did.”
The former medic continued, “We didn’t bring any bandages with us ’cause we threw ours off on the landing craft. So we learned to take bandages off dead people and their water if we needed it. And one particular guy, we put 14 [bandages] on him.”
As the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaches, the 90-year-old is left with haunting questions while reflecting on the price that was paid.
“It’s an emotional thing. Why am I here and all those kids are laying out there dead and I ain’t one of them?” asked Scheer. “You still grieve for the people that died. You can’t help it.”
Scheer also spent some time as a medic on the Pacific front following the Normandy invasion. He went on the Honor Flight to the World War II Memorial on May 28 and said the Washington Post has been working on a story about his service. Leaders at the Huntington County Historical Museum say that story should air online on the D-Day anniversary, which is Friday.