From Nor­mandy beach

The Covington News - - Local news - By Tharon Gid­dens tgid­dens@cov­news.com

Por­terdale na­tive Clarence Capell got to ride across Europe dur­ing World War II.

He was a me­chanic, gun­ner and as­sis­tant squad leader for a re­cov­ery unit that took dam­aged or de­stroyed tanks and other ve­hi­cles away from the front to be smelted down and trans­formed into more fight­ing gear.

That duty took Capell, 89, from the beaches of Nor­mandy and into Aus­tria at war’s end. It also earned him a Sil­ver Star.

Along the way he saw both the won­ders of Europe and the hor­rors of war.

He ar­rived in Nor­mandy in 1944 just days af­ter the beaches were taken and got to work.

“Any­thing of mil­i­tary sig­nif­i­cance, we’d haul back to Nor­mandy,” he said.

His unit in sup­port of para­troop­ers helped lib­er­ate the con­cen­tra­tion camp at Dachau and bore wit­ness to its in­de­scrib­able in­hu­man­ity. They per­formed mop-up du­ties of a sort, track­ing down camp per­son­nel and their guard dogs. “It was ter­ri­ble,” he said. Bet­ter days were ahead. Af­ter the con­flict ended in Europe, his unit was set to take part in the in­va­sion of Ja­pan, but the Ja­panese sur­ren­dered while Capell was in Aus­tria. The an­nounce­ment was greeted with cel­e­bra­tion.

“We had a ball after­ward,” he said. “We opened our ma­chine guns, just shoot­ing into the air.”

Capell had en­listed at Fort McPher­son in At­lanta in 1943 and was dis­charged at the base in fall 1945 and re­turned to Por­terdale.

Clarence Capell

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