JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It can be hard to find the words to describe war.
At 99-years-old, Edward Eisele carries the memories of fighting Germans and eventually fighting for his life. He enlisted in the Army in 1943. After training, he and thousands of other soldiers shipped out of Boston heading for England.
"A convoy of ships as far as you could see," Eisele said.
He says when he arrived in Britain, he was shocked by the damage the country had sustained. He knew the D-Day invasion had begun when he looked up and saw a sky packed with planes.
"The sky was full of planes, you couldn’t believe it and we were amazed," he says.
Six days later, he and others arrived on the beach at Normandy to be reinforcements. Eisele remembers carefully moving up the beach looking out for mines, a tense first day knowing the Germans were still watching.
"They knew as soon as we got settled, they would shell us," he said.
From there, he joined up with the 4th Infantry Division, the fighting was intense. He was the First Scout, going through his rounds of ammunition.
"I think one time we gained one thousand yards in eight days," Eisele said.
But they continued to push forward. Eisele says the men could barely sleep at night with the noise, but each day he and others continued to push the Germans back. Fighting in the hedgerows, liberating Paris and eventually reached the Siegfried Line. Eisele's unit was the first to attack into Germany from Belgium. At times the Germans had them bogged down, he specifically remembers battling Nazi soldiers and three SS officers inside a building.
"We fired at the door every time it opened until we brought a tank up and fired into the door and they all screamed with a concussion and surrendered," Eisele said.
The next day, during the fighting, he and five others were hit by artillery bursts.
"Shrapnel went through my helmet and lodged into my head and it is still in there today," he said.
The other men were killed, Eisele was unconscious for five days and woke up back in Normandy. He couldn’t move his right arm or leg and he lost part of his left foot. He was brought back to the United States and spent the next year of his life in the hospital.
In time he regained partial movement in his right side and was awarded the Purple Heart.
He couldn’t go back to working in a machine shop due to his injuries, but he did become a photographer for the Federal Government and he met and married his wife, Phyllis, and they raised two children together- Julie and Gregg.
His family says it wasn’t until a few years ago that he began opening up about his time in France and Germany during World War II and they continue to be amazed by his stories. But he says his motivations were simple, he was just doing what he could to protect his country and its people.
"We were just trying to keep the country safe," Eisele said. "That was the main thing."