He joined the Army in 1942 at 18 years old, but he had no idea that he would be such a crucial piece of America’s history.
Army Ranger Bill Bradley just celebrated his 95th birthday, visiting the Portland Library War Memorial 75 years after D-Day to remember those he fought beside that never returned home.
“We had to do it. If hadn’t you’d have a swastika on the front door and a rising star on the back,” Bradley said, “That’s how close he was. Hitler would have been here. And Japan was already here.”
Part of the 7th Armored Infantry Division, PFC Bradley landed on Omaha Beach a few days after the invasion began.
“First thing I saw was a B-47 plane come straight over us,” Bradley said, “It was a German head, they captured it. That was the first bullet I heard fired.”
That and memories of the waves when his boat approached the shore are memories he has every day but doesn’t like to talk about.
“Were you scared?” News 2 asked.
“Yes, absolutely, anybody who says it wasn’t is just lying to you, I was scared the whole time,” he said before pausing, “But the only thing you can do is the job you’ve got to do.”
“I talk to the man upstairs and said ‘Take me out, go ahead and do what’s said.’ So, I was one of the lucky ones,” he said with tears in his eyes.
Those stories inspiring his grandson, now Colonel Trey Brannom of the Tennessee Army National Guard.
“My grandfather was there when I got commissioned as a second lieutenant and he was there when I pinned on my bird as colonel,” Brannom told News 2, “There have been several times in my career, when I thought that things were too hard, and I realized that, that what I have to go through is nothing compared to what he gave me to get here.”
And now a great-grandson to continue the legacy.
“Very proud, very proud,” Bradley said.
When Bradley returned home, he went to school and ran a business. He says when he sees children, he’s proud that they can live a life, not in a Nazi uniform. He hopes these future generations will take advantage of the life they’ve been given.