He later moved all across France, through Holland and Belgium, and saw the end of World War II overseeing the Elbe River in Hamburg, Germany. Yet it was the arrival at Omaha Beach — the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion in the Normandy landings — that left a special impression in Schofield’s mind.
“You didn’t know what was coming up next,” he said. “The front had moved way into France at that time. You just lived day by day.”
Being drafted in January 1943, Schofield stayed with the U.S. Army after the war and served another approximately 30 years until his retirement as lieutenant colonel in July 1972. His military career included being stationed in Europe for a total of 10 years, being sent on a tour to Vietnam in 1968 and serving as a professor for military science at what was then Gordon Military College.
And while the 89-year-old Griffin resident and New Jersey native has seen much of the world even after his retirement from the U.S. Army, it wasn’t until this October that he and his wife Elaine took a trip back to the place he’d last seen 68 years ago in his uniform — Normandy.
“I could see a lot of familiar sites,” he said. “It brought back old memories.”
The 10-day tour to France, where the couple rented a house and took day trips to various sites, was a moving experience for the local veteran — one he still dreams about, according to his wife.
“It’s a very emotional thing to walk back on the beach,” she said. “It’s been probably one of the most rewarding trips we’ve been doing.”
The trip back in time also took the Schofields to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel, where a friend of Schofield’s friend is buried. The cemetery, which was prominently featured in the beginning of the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” contains the remains of 9,387 U.S. soldiers, 307 of them unknown.
Speaking about his overall impression of the visit to France, Schofield said he felt that a lot of the places he saw had not changed much over all these years. He also pointed out the hospitality of the French people he and his wife came across.
“They couldn’t have been more friendly,” he said.
The Griffin couple has no plans for more trips in the near future, but the most recent one has left its mark, said Elaine Schofield.
“It was a very emotional experience for both of us,” she said.