This month, Lt. Col. Tom Mullikin traveled to Europe to understand the experiences of his father Charlie Mullikin, a veteran of World War II.
The elder Mullikin landed at Normandy, and fought his way across Europe as a member of a special reconnaissance unit of the 407th Infantry Regiment. His outfit was led by 1st Lt. Roy "Buck" Rogers, and the stellar unit would earn them the nickname "Rogers' Raiders" (not to be confused with Rogers' Rangers, the American unit that achieved fame during the French and Indian War).
Mullikin shares a story of his father's unit from February 1945 :
At exactly 0300 Buck Roger’s Night Raiders of the 407th Infantry pushed out into darkness, out into the narrow torrential Roer (River). … A German machine gun opened up not 50 yards away … Two long minutes later … the boats hit the Roer’s east bank. …With clocklike precision dark figures fanned out around the ominous machine gun. …One man returned the fire. Another grasped his grenade. A good throw. A dull thud. A scream. Silence.
One group… swung toward the railroad bounded by a dense minefield … The rest of the patrol slugged south mopping up one nest after another. At H-hour—30 minutes later—the first assault wave of the 407th Infantry crossed without a hitch. Their bridgehead, the first across the Roer, was established.
When the 30 minutes of intense action had ended, the Raiders had destroyed five machine gun nests along with six other automatic weapon positions, killed 15 and captured eight of the enemy … all without losing a single American.
Walking the beaches - and SCUBA diving among the wrecks as Mullikin did - would be a wonderful experience, but I can imagine that splashing through the same surf your father did when landing at Normandy 66 years earlier would be absolutely incredible.
More information on the operation is available here.