By Autumn Hendrickson – Young Historians
The small town of Reading, Massachusetts lost one man in the invasion of Normandy despite the dozens of paratroopers from town that took to the skies on that fateful June day. His name was Roy James Sherrod. Roy was born on April 3, 1923, and lived at 13 Washington Street in town with his parents and two younger brothers. When Roy graduated from Reading High School in June of 1942, he had a plan. According to his senior bio, Roy had every intention of joining the submarine fleet if Uncle Sam called, but less than six months after his graduation, something changed: Roy enlisted in the Army, and then volunteered for the paratroopers.
After going through the extensive training that would be required of him to qualify as a paratrooper, Roy was assigned to Company I, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. When he shipped out to England, I wonder if he thought about his plans to join the submarine fleet and laughed at his 180 degree turn from being deep underwater to jumping out of airplanes.
Leading up to the invasion of Normandy, Roy would have been closed into the airfield that he was assigned to. As the sun began to set on June 4, 1944, after having spent most of the day getting his gear squared away, and probably writing a last letter home, Roy would get the dreadful news that their anxiety would be prolonged: the invasion was called off for June 5, and they would re-evaluate in the coming hours. It makes me emotional to think that because of that change, Roy would get to see one more sunrise. The next day, the invasion was set to go ahead on June 6, 1944, and thus, the paratroopers got themselves ready to jump on June 5.
Roy would load up onto his C-47 in the evening hours of June 5, with all of his gear on. There would be no dramatic music, or any powerful quotes to send him off except for a brief notice from General Eisenhower that included the words: “The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”
Roy was 21 years old when he died on June 6, 1944. I wish I could have been there to comfort him when he died. According to Roy’s casualty card, he took a bullet to his neck, and likely died not long after. I don’t know if he died alone. I don’t know if the bullet that killed him was one he saw coming. I don’t know if the man who shot him was a fellow paratrooper who reacted in fear. I don’t know if he was shot point blank or from far away. All I know is that the town of Reading missed him dearly, as did his family and friends. I do know that on June 6, I stayed up into the early hours of the morning to be with Roy in spirit, so that he didn’t die alone for the 77th year in a row.
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