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'It smelled terrible' D-Day veteran describes his job on Omaha Beach

As our WWII vets pass away, listening to the details of D-Day becomes even more valuable to appreciate our freedom.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — D-Day veteran John Frank, now in his 90s, remembers his days on Omaha Beach with crystal-clear clarity.  

Too much clarity, actually.

Credit: First Coast News

"I just turned 19," Frank said. He was seaman first class, a sailor trained to cook as his first military job at NAS Jax. 

"I think about it many a time, many a time, many a time," Frank said, as his eyes reveal the punch of a memory most of us can't understand.

He says his job, initially on D-Day, was on an LCT, a landing craft, which could bring in tanks to the beaches.

But then after the fierce fighting on Omaha Beach, he was sent in with a new job -- pick up body parts. 

"You do what you gotta do," he said. 

"It was a heck of a job," he recalled. "I was just a kid. We were all kids. They couldn't get them out right away because of the mines."

So the bodies stayed on the beach for days.

"It smelled terrible," he said, "and to this day, if I talk about it or think about it, ugh, I can smell it."

It would be harsh enough to pick up the bodies of his comrades, but it was worse than that.

"Sometimes it's arms and legs," he said. "Sometimes they got no heads, but we picked up the parts and put them on an army truck."  And, yes, he said he did all that with his bare hands. No protective gloves or gear.

But Frank is proud of his service. 

"It took Hitler out of power," he said.

Now he's hoping the rest of us will appreciate our freedom as we near the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  

One more note -- the one thing which gives Frank a bit of a chuckle. 

Soldiers during WWII were allowed to take "souvenirs" from the battle areas.

Frank found a helmet on a dead German soldier. You can see where the bullet hole pierced the helmet in the top.

Credit: FCN

Frank told us he wanted to take it because the other guy "didn't need it anymore." 

Now, 75 years after D-DAY, he still keeps the helmet in his apartment.