Staff Sergeant Rettig was drafted into service from Cleveland, Ohio on February 9, 1943. He had previous experience working with machinery in the factories around Cleveland, and proved to be an excellent candidate for the combat engineers.
Mr. Rettig was eventually assigned to an ESB (Engineer Special Brigade) and crossed the Atlantic on a troop ship for England. In the months before the Normandy invasion, troops were drilled regularly on how to invade designated beachheads.
On June 6, 1944 Staff Sergeant Rettig found himself in a Higgins boat approaching Omaha Beach with the 147th Combat Engineers. His landing craft was sunk by enemy fire, and he and his comrades were forced into the high tides of the ocean, and many succumbed to enemy fire and the weight of their equipment. Sgt. Rettig stripped off his equipment and was able to make it to Omaha Beach where he recalls intense German machine gun fire. Rettig recalls the troops were unable to advance due to this withering fire.
Staff Sergeant Rettig served with the 147th combat engineers for the rest of the war, and later got frost bite from the bitter cold during the Battle of the Bulge. Sergeant Rettig proudly recalls his company in the 147th was the only to be issued the same boots as US paratroopers.
I was lucky enough to talk with Mr. Rettig over the phone. He had forgotten much about his service but he vividly recalled D-Day, and talked about having his higgins boat sunk. He recalled stripping his gear and ditching his rifle to make it to the beach. He spoke about what a mess the beach was and nobody could advance due to the high rate of incoming fire.
Thank you for your service Staff Sergeant Rettig!