| 17.1°C Dublin

War is 'appalling waste', says D-Day veteran to be honoured by France

Close

Michael D'Alton

Michael D'Alton

David Conachy

Michael D'Alton

Michael D'Alton

David Conachy

Michael D'Alton

Michael D'Alton

David Conachy

/

Michael D'Alton

The landing craft was loaded to the gunwales with scared, seasick men and Sherman tanks when 23-year-old Sub-Lieutenant Michael D'Alton piloted them into the hell of Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944

Now 93, the Dalkey-born war veteran will tomorrow be honoured by the country he helped liberate. The awarding of the Legion d'Honneur by France is not just for Michael's personal heroism, but to mark the contribution of all the Irish who took part in Operation Overlord.

Yet as he rests at his home in Killiney, the memory of war is still a bitter one for Michael, as he remembers lost friends.

"War," he says with a shake of his head, "is an appalling waste."

Memories have faded somewhat, but he says he has grown to understand that he was traumatised by his experiences.

Yet he remains steadfast in the belief that Hitler had to be stopped and his generation had to sacrifice their youth.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1942. He remains feisty, and bristles when asked what it was like to join the British Navy as an Irishman?

"I did not join it as an Irishman but simply as a man," he says emphatically.

He was second in command of the LCT (landing craft). They left for France on June 5 but the weather turned and D-Day was delayed for 24 hours.

"It would have been a grave, grave risk to land on the first day so it was the right decision," he said.

They landed on Omaha Beach just after dawn.

"There was a whole bunch of landing craft. The big thing was to try and get on the beach without crashing into other craft. That took seamanship."

Michael's son, Mark, brought his father to see Saving Private Ryan at the Odeon Cinema when it was released some years ago.

"We went for a pint afterwards. Dad told me: 'It was exactly like that on Omaha Beach'," Mark says.

Michael will receive the Legion d'Honneur from the French Ambassador, Jean-Pierre Thebault, with full military honours on board the French command and support ship Somme at Dublin Port.

Sunday Independent