Rep. Ralph Hall, a Texas congressman who flew Navy Hellcats and Corsairs during World War II, was in Florida patrolling the waters for German submarines when he heard news of a massive Allied landing in France: D-Day.
"I was so proud, but I was worried about my brother," Hall, 91, told Newsmax TV on Friday — D-Day's 70th anniversary. "My brother was in both theaters and he had a hard war. He was in Germany. So I thought about him first."
The oldest member of Congress and one of two World War II veterans in the House, the Rockwall, Texas Republican shared memories of his military service with host J.D. Hayworth of "America's Forum" and reflected on the sacrifices D-Day demanded.
"They were young boys that left home, 19-20 years old, just never came back. For them, the war will never be over," said Hall. "That war will never be over for their families. And that's why we have to respect them."
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The coastal assault on the German Army at Normandy remains one of history's largest and — for those involved — most daunting operations. Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower said beforehand in a recorded address to troops: "Your task will not be an easy one."
At great cost, the Allies got ashore and pushed the Nazis back. What historians have called "The Longest Day," D-Day is on the list of achievements that earned Hall and his cohort the nickname, "The Greatest Generation."
Asked about that, the courtly Texan demurred.
"I think the Greatest Generation were our fathers before," said Hall. "My dad fought in World War I. I grew up in a house that was bought with a World War I pension.
As a naval aviator, "I got an education out of World War II so I benefited, actually," he said. "But I think World War I was the Greatest Generation: They not only had two wars to fight, they had a Depression that was devastating — almost ten years of depression."
Hall said two lessons of wartime service stay with veterans.
"I brought home a respect, one, for freedom, and that's what we were all thinking about," he said. "But the one word that was in almost everybody's mind was a four letter word called 'home.'"
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