On June 6th, 2,501 Americans and 1,913 Allies were among the 4,414 Allied casualties. Long believes the figure appears low because we’re used to seeing estimates of the total number of D-Day deaths, which includes fatalities, wounded, and missing. Did you know who was the First Soldier to step onto the beaches of Normandy during D-day?
Leonard Treherne “Max” Schroeder Jr. was the first allied soldier to set foot on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion. He survived and received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 90.
Colonel Max Schroeder on D-day
Leonard Treherne Max Schroeder, a 25-year-old captain, was in command of 219 men in Company F, which was part of the 2nd Battalion, the 8th Infantry Regiment, and the 4th Infantry Division on June 6, 1944. The 8th Infantry Regiment was ordered to be the first to land on Utah Beach.
The night before the landings, the men listened to General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, as he encouraged the troops in his radio address: Together, we shall achieve victory. Later, the commanders were called together by Lt. Col. McNeely, the 2nd Battalion commander, to the USS Barnett from England to France.
Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s quarters, where they received their final briefing before the invasion. Following that, the officers exchanged handshakes and best wishes. Lt. Col. MacNeely approached Schroeder, nicknamed ‘Moose,’ put his arm around his shoulder, and said, Give ’em hell! Well, colonel, I’ll see you on the beach!
Roosevelt asked Schroeder to take him in his boat and bring him to shore. Roosevelt was not in the best of health at the time. Schroeder and his crew boarded their landing craft at 2:30 AM on June 6, 1944, after leaving the USS Barnett. Before embarking on that journey, Schroeder wrote to his wife, informing her of his location and discussing his mission.
He also expressed his feelings for her. Later that morning, at 6:28 AM, Schroeder’s unit was the first of 20 landing craft arriving on Utah Beach, two minutes ahead of schedule. Schroeder and his 22-man boat, including Roosevelt, were the first to arrive at the beach, and Schroeder became the first American soldier to set foot on the Normandy beaches that day. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr, accompanied him. (Source: Dumpling Defense)
Aftermath of D-day on Colonel Max
Because of the rough waters in the English Channel, nearly 80% of the men on the boat were sick, and as they approached the shore, the Allies continued to shell their intended destination. Schroeder waded in the last 100 yards after leaving the landing craft, keeping his pistol above the water.
The soldiers were subjected to enemy fire, underwater mines, barbed wire, and trenches. Schroeder’s task was to travel five miles inland and liberate a nearby village. The march would end with half of his men killed and Schroeder shot. The wounds he received in his left arm necessitated hospitalization in England and South Carolina. Schroeder’s arm was almost amputated due to the severity of his wounds.
Schroeder later stated that he was too scared to think about much of anything, let alone being the first man ashore. He would be known as the first.
GI will invade Europe. As a result of his actions during World War II, Schroeder received several awards and decorations, including a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. (Source: Dumpling Defense)
Image from BaltimoreSun