Thursday, June 6, 2019

Remembering Tyler Campbell ’42

Today is the 75th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary moments in all of history.

As you probably know, it was 75 years ago today that Allied troops crossed the English Channel and landed on the French coastal town of Normandy, where they began what would be a nearly 11-month process of liberating France and eventually destroying Nazi Germany to end World War II in Europe.

The first day was horrific, as 4,414 Allied soldiers - primarily Americans, British and Canadians -  were killed on those beaches, code-named Juno, Sword, Gold, Utah and of course Omaha, where nearly half of those casualties were killed. Another 6,000 were wounded.

Imagine, if you possibly can, the horror of crossing the channel that morning, knowing what probably awaited. It was heroism of the highest order, and there was really no alternative way to win the war. TigerBlog, for one, cannot.

The planning that went into the invasion was enormous, complete with deceptions to fool the Germans as to the actual location of the invasion and the commander who would lead it, as well as parachuting dummies to try to make it seem like there was another attack already underway elsewhere.

In the end, there would be 156,000 Allied troops who would be part of the operation in some fashion.

And that was D-Day, 75 years ago today.

Not that all heroism was reserved for that day. The Allies' march across France and into Germany wasn't easy even after the beachhead at Normandy had been established.

If you've ever been on Finney-Campbell practice fields at Princeton and wondered who Campbell was, he was Tyler Campbell. And who was Tyler Campbell?

Tyler Campbell came to Princeton from Gilman in Baltimore as a member of the Class of 1942. He was small at 150 pounds, but he played hockey and lightweight football at Princeton. And lacrosse.

He was a goalie, in fact, one good enough that he is a member of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

He was also a chemical engineering major, but he when the Americans were drawn into World War II, Campbell left Princeton to join the Army one year short of getting his degree. He would never make it back to Princeton to finish.

He completed Officer Training School and then volunteered for a front line position. He would be killed on Sept. 21, 1944, in Southern France, at the age of 22.

TigerBlog wrote a feature about Campbell back in 2010. Here's part of what he wrote:
Before his death, Campbell would serve in North Africa and be part of amphibious landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio (where he was first wounded) and Southern France. He would be wounded twice, and he would earn a Silver Star, a Bronze Star Medal and an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star Medal.
He was promoted to First Lieutenant and then to Captain.

On Jan. 31, 1944, he led his outnumbered platoon against a German unit that was firing on him and his men from a house. Campbell led his men to a covered position and then directed a mortar attack while standing in clear view of the house.

On May 28, 1944, he coordinated an artillery attack on another German position as shells exploded 10 yards from him, this after he again led his platoon into a ditch to shield them from the attack.
On Sept. 13, 1944, eight days before his death, he climbed a tree to give him a clear line of sight to the German position. Wounded once by a shot to his ear, he left briefly for medical attention and then returned to the same tree, ultimately spending 45 minutes in the tree until the German machine gun nest was wiped out.

"They put him in a hospital bed," Cook says. "He just got up, left the hospital and went back to the same tree. Unbelievable."

Five days later, he sat down to write his brother. Three days after that, he was dead.

"On the day that he was killed," General O'Daniel wrote to the Campbells, "near le Marchessant, France, he was leading his company up a heavily wooded hill and while personally directing a flanking movement of one of his platoons, was killed by machine gun fire. He died almost instantly. He was buried on 23 September at the U.S. Military Cemetery at St. Juan, France."

You can read the entire story HERE.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, which started the liberation of France and the end of World War II. It came with an extraordinary cost.

One of those who paid the highest price was a former Princeton men's lacrosse goalie named Tyler Campbell.

The field that bears his name is one that few people ever notice or consider when they walk past it.

Perhaps they should.

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