D-Day was the largest seaborne invasion in history and the beginning of Irv Locker’s World War II journey to Berlin. Along the way he survived the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed the horrors of Nazi concentration camps – a powerful moment for a Jewish kid from New Jersey.
Irv was assigned to the 116th AAA Gun Battalion and landed at Utah Beach on D-Day. He says that a constant refrain on June 6th, 1944 was “You’re a victim if you’re on the beach – get off the beach so you can become a warrior!”
His unit was moved into the Ardennes when the Battle of the Bulge began and found themselves cut off from supply. Due to the nature of their AAA guns they would have to set up in open fields and the cold was a constant threat. Irv would regularly send his supply Sergeant to take clothing and boots off of dead soldiers. To this day he still takes medication for frostbite he received during that battle.
In the spring of 1945 Irv’s unit moved west of Berlin and came across the Gardelegen Camp where 1,000 prisoners were burned alive. “I’m Jewish and the first thing I did was throw up and I sat down and cried at man’s inhumanity to man.” He took photos because he feared people on the home front would not believe him.
Irv was honored by President Trump at the State of the Union address but it was the words of a French youngster that gave him a greater honor. At a 75th Anniversary event in France he saw children wearing shirts emblazoned with “I am a child of freedom, Merci dear Veteran.” When he asked where he could buy one a child said he couldn’t and then took the shirt off his back and gave it to Irv.
TAKEAWAY: “They called that Operation Overlord. We called it Overweight. We had a 3 pound helmet on our head, a 27 pound pack on our back, a rifle, and ammunition across our chest and our waist… everything we owned jumping into the water.”