Hometown History #63: Some Local D-Day Heroes to Remember on June 6


Above, the USS Corry, sinking off of Normandy, June 6. 1944.

More than two years after the United States entered World War II, D-Day, the actual invasion of Europe finally unleashed the full force of the western Allies against Hitler. It was truly the beginning of the end. But, again and again, every day of the war and every small progress toward its conclusion had a human cost. And many young Americans put themselves in harm’s way in the process; some of them from Franklin.

One of them, Bernard ‘Bernie’ Velluti, a 1941 graduate of Franklin High School, was serving aboard the destroyer, USS Corry. Bernie had already braved hazardous duty as the ship participated in the Battle of the Atlantic and escorted the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in arctic waters, seeking out Germany’s last super battleship. And fate put him among the tens of thousands in the giant, 6000 ship Armada on that the morning of June 6, 1944.

And it took him into harm’s way. The Corry, and other Navy ships were there to provide close support gunfire as American troops hit the beach. But the Germans were shooting back. And the Corry and her sisters were being bracketed by large caliber five- and six-inch rounds that could mortally wound such a vessel.

Unbeknownst to the Captain, although the beachhead area had been swept by some 300 minesweepers, a few of those deadly devices still lurked beneath the waves – and as he maneuvered the ship to avoid the rain of death from above one of them exploded below, breaking the ship in two. 

Bernie and hundreds of other survivors of the blast forced into the 50-degree water – cold enough to kill a man in an hour or two – awaited rescue as shot and shell continued to fall among them.  Of her crew, 24 were killed and 60 were wounded.

Bernie was a fortunate one. He survived, returned to Franklin and despite his close call became an avid amateur sailor, dying at the age of 96 some two years ago.

While Bernie faced peril at sea, thousands of American, British, and Canadian soldiers were hitting the beach. Many didn’t make it to dry land. Those that did, especially on the beach code-named Omaha, faced withering fire. Thousands were killed.

But thanks to organization, strategy, logistics, firepower and the ultimate bravery and self-sacrifice of individuals. More allied soldiers poured ashore. The invaders could not be dislodged and within days began the crawl and then the race across France. The allies and the Germans alike, knew it was the beginning of the end.

Another Franklin man, the late Howard Crawford – a new transplant from Maine, thanks to his courtship of and marriage to young Santina Accorsi, was spared the first wave. But, as an artilleryman, went ashore Day Two of D-Day with his battalion of long-tom 155s and followed the war from there across France, through the Battle of the Bulge, where he recalled that his guns, designed to hit targets miles behind enemy lines, had to be depressed and fired point blank to keep their positions from being overrun -- and on into Germany...and then home.

Of course, the beginning of the end, was simply the end for many. Franklin’s Anthony Mucciarone, went no further than Normandy, a casualty of the bitter fighting in a war that killed more than 400,000 Americans.

More than 800 Franklinites served during that War.

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