Medic honors grandfather's legacy on Normandy beach
June 5, 2009
NORMANDY, France (Army News Service, June 5, 2009) Aca,!" As hundreds of servicemembers arrive in here to commemorate the D-Day invasionAca,!a,,cs 65th anniversary, one Soldier is also here to honor his family legacy.
Master Sgt. Joseph Simpson joined the Army in 1936 during the Great Depression. Simpson ended up in the 4th Infantry Division and was part of the third wave to land on Utah Beach. Right after the landings he went on to the Battle of Sainte Lo.
"He said that one of the major things that he noticed was that there was not one brick that was left on top of the other because the bombing and artillery had just devastated the town and that was when they got into intense fighting with the Germans," said his grandson, Pfc. Scott Simpson, a medic with Headquarters Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Although Simpson did not talk very much about his war experience, he did tell his grandson about his run-in with one of history's most infamous generals - 3rd Army's Gen. George Patton.
"He told us a story about Patton," said Simpson, laughing. "He was in charge of the motor pool and the fuel supplies and Patton came racing up in his jeep and gave my granddad (a hard time) because he wasn't getting the fuel out to the tanks fast enough during the breakout."
Simpson was also taken prisoner by the Germans.
"He was captured and liberated again in the span of three weeks.... He said that when he was held by the Germans they treated him with respect and that they knew a lot about the States and that really impressed him," said Simpson.
His grandfather later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and it was there that he was taken off of the line due to frostbite in his feet, a common ailment during the battle.
When the war was over Simpson stayed in the Army until 1947 and then went into the Air Force when the air service split off from the Army to become its own separate branch. He retired from the military in 1958 and died in 1999 at the age of 84.
His grandson says serving in the Army is a family legacy.
"It is kind of like carrying on the family tradition. My great grandfather was with Gen. Pershing in Mexico, my grandfather of course fought in World War II, and my father was in Vietnam, so it's kind of like a continuation of everything," he said.
Simpson has also had the chance to walk in his grandfather's footsteps at Utah Beach since he has been in Normandy.
"It gave me goose bumps. It sent chills down my back because here is where he came across to Europe," he said, reflecting on the experience.
Simpson took some sand from the beach as a special token.
"I'm going to keep it with me when I go Afghanistan and keep it as a good luck charm," he said.