WWII D-Day veteran set to revisit Normandy, gets special sendoff in Springfield

Published: Jul. 17, 2021 at 7:25 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 17, 2021 at 8:06 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Jack Hamlin is a WWII veteran who served in the United States Coast guard on D-Day. Hamlin received a hero’s sendoff Saturday in Springfield before boarding his flight.

Hamlin was a member of Rescue Flotilla Number One. On June 6, 1944, he jumped into the 46-degree waters of the English channel to rescue injured and drowning soldiers.

“I was scared all of the time,” said Hamlin. “I hear people say, ‘I don’t remember if I was scared or not.’ I remember I was scared every moment. People ask me, ‘did you hear the guns going off?’ I don’t recall the guns going off. But right now, I couldn’t tell you if I heard one of the guns going off from the Germans or one of our battleships. That wasn’t on my mind.

Hamlin said that the 60 Coast Gaurd Cutters would save 1,486 soldiers and one British nurse that day.

“On my mind was getting this soldier, getting him to our Coast Guard cutter, and getting him back to safety,” said Hamlin. “I had never seen a dead person before in my life, hadn’t been around anyone who was wounded. But this time, when I went out there you would go to pick a man up and half his face would be gone. You wouldn’t know if he lost a leg or an arm in the water. I just had to find if they were alive and bring them back to where we were.”

Jack Hamlin also assisted with shooting down a Nazi aircraft during the invasion of France.

“The little bit that I did, I didn’t sleep in a fox hole. I wasn’t a paratrooper. I didn’t jump out of the sky. All I did was just being a sailor, being a lifeguard. That’s all I did, and I don’t consider myself a hero in any respect,” said Hamlin.

Hamlin was supposed to return to Normandy in June 2020, but due to pandemic travel restrictions, the trip was postponed. On Saturday, he took off to visit Normandy.

“I’m more nervous this time than I have ever been,” said Hamlin. “I really am. This will be my sixth trip back, including D-Day. The way they treated me here and the people of Springfield, well I just don’t deserve it. Thank you.”

Hamlin was treated to a hero’s sendoff that included a motorcycle and police escort to the airport. Once he lands in France, he is planning on meeting the daughter and granddaughter of a woman he dated while in the service.

“She was a lovely lady and I really mean that,” said Hamlin. “I went with her for practically six months while I was stationed in Cherbourg. She was a lovely lady and I mean a lady.”

Hamlin was given the French Legion of Honour, which is the highest military award given to Allied soldiers by the French government. He also was recognized for his service by the Queen of England. He’ll celebrate his 100th birthday this year.

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