D-Day Survivor

More from this show

June 6 marks 73 years since the World War Two D-Day invasion in Normandy. Arizona resident the late General Seth McKee was there as a Lieutenant Colonel. McKee remembered that day vividly, and told Arizona Horizon from his home about that fateful day.


TED SIMONS: WHILE THE U.S.S. ARIZONA IS A REMINDER OF PEARL HARBOR AND THE EVENT THAT BROUGHT US IN TO WORLD WAR II, JUNE 6TH WILL MARK 73 YEARS SINCE THE START OF ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT WORLD WAR II BATTLE, D-DAY. LATE LAST YEAR WE TALKED TO GENERAL SETH MCKEE, WHO PILOTED THE PLANE OVER THE NORMANDY INVASION. HE SHARED VIVID MEMORIES OF THE BATTLE THAT HELPED TURN THE WAR IN THE ALLIES FAVOR.
SETH MCKEE: I WAS IN ENGLAND. JUNE 5, 1944, HE WAS A LIEUTENANT IN THE ARMY AIR CORE. HE COMMANDED A FIGHTER GROUP. THAT EVENING THEY WERE GIVEN THEIR ORDERS. THEY WERE HEADED TO NORMANDY, FRANCE. HUNDREDS, 400 OR 500 LOADED WITH PAIR TROOPERS TO DROP BEHIND THE LINES. I TOLD MY BOYS, THIS IS IT.
THIS WAS D-DAY, 160,000 ALLIED FORCES, AN ENORMOUS AIR AND SEA INVASION TO HELP DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF WORLD WAR II. MCKEE LED A GROUP OF P36 FIGHTER PLANES. THEY WERE FAST AND AGILE AND HIS SQUADRON WAS AT THE FRONT OF THE ACTION.
SETH MCKEE: WE WERE SCHEDULED TO BE OVER THE BEACH, MY GROUP, AND I WAS THE LEADER. I TOOK 48 OF THEM. WE WERE TO PROTECT THE BEACHES FROM ENEMY AIR. PROTECT THE BEACHES FROM THE WALL OF GERMAN GUNFIRE, IT SEEMED AN INCREDIBLE TASK. THOUSANDS OF ALLIED TROOPS TOOK TO THE BEACH EXPOSED TO ENEMY FIRE. WE DID IT WITH MACHINE GUNS ON SHORE. WE GOT BEHIND THOSE AND STEPPED THEM OUT OF BUSINESS.
ALLYSA ADAMS: FROM HIS VIEW ABOVE THE BATTLE, HE REMEMBERS TINY DETAILS OF THE MEN WHO THOUGHT THAT DAY.
SETH MCKEE: I REMEMBER FLYING. THE WEATHER WAS OVERCAST. I WAS NO MORE THAN 2,000 FEET ABOVE THEM. I HAVE 2010 VISION. I COULD SEE THEM LIKE I CAN SEE YOU. I CAN SEE YOUR EYEBALLS. I SAW THE GERMANS ABOVE THE CLIFFS. OUR TROOPS HAD TO GET ACROSS THE BEACHES. WE ARE EXPOSED TO THEM FROM ABOVE.
ALLYSA ADAMS: GENERAL MCKEE REMEMBERS THAT THE BOATS AND SOLDIERS JUST KEPT COMING. HIS VIEW AFFORDING HIM THE PERSPECTIVE OF ALLIED POWER.
SETH MCKEE: THERE WERE FOUR LINES OF TRAFFIC SOLID STREAM FROM ENGLAND TO THE CONTINENT. AND A SOLID STREAM GOING BACK FOR MORE TROOPS. TROOPS DOING MULTIPLE TRIPS. THEY WERE BUSY ALL DAY LONG. IF I COULD HAVE JUMPED 10 FEET, I COULD HAVE WALKED FROM ENGLAND TO FRANCE WITHOUT GETTING MY FEET WET. THEY WERE THAT CLOSE.
ALLYSA ADAMS: GENERAL MCKEE FLEW 69 MISSIONS DURING THE WAR BUT THE D-DAY MISSIONS WERE THE MOST INTENSE AS A PILOT AND COMMANDER.
SETH MCKEE: I LOST A HUNDRED AIRCRAFT FIRST HUNDRED DAYS. EVERYBODY ON THE GROUND SOLUTED ME. ANYONE WITH A .45 WOULD SHOOT AT US.
ALLYSA ADAMS: GENERAL MCKEE MADE IT HOME TO HIS NEW WIFE AND YOUNG FAMILY. TOGETHER THEY MOVED AROUND THE WORLD FOR ANOTHER 30 YEARS. WHILE GENERAL MCKEE COMMANDED US AIRFORCEES, AND SALLY AND THEIR THREE BOYS REPRESENTED THE COUNTRY. THEIR SHELVES OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND ALBUMS CATALOG NOT ONLY THE IMPORTANT MOMENTS OF THEIR FAMILY BUT ALSO OUR COUNTRY. THAT DAY IN 1954 IS A VIVID MEMORY, NOT FOR THE GLORY, BUT FOR THE SACRIFICE.
SETH MCKEE: THEY CAME ASHORE AND THERE WERE A LOT OF BRAVE PEOPLE THAT DIED ON THAT BEACH. GENERAL MCKEE PASSED AWAY IN DECEMBER AT THE AGE OF 100. AT THE TIME, HE WAS THE HGIHEST RANKING SURVIVOR OF THE D-DAY INVASION. WHEN WE RETURN, THE SOLDIERS THAT CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM HAD A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE FROM SOLDIERS OF PREVIOUS WARS. WE HEAR FROM ONE VETERAN THAT FOUND PEACE WITH HIS TIME IN BATTLE, THROUGH WRITING.

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
airs May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: