Owensboro veteran mentioned in Trump's address

Lt. John M Spalding

On June 6, 1944, Lt. John Spalding of Owensboro joined thousands of his fellow soldiers in the charge up Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasions.

Seventy-five years later, President Trump recognized Spalding during a speech at the anniversary ceremony in Normandy, France.

"Lt. Spalding and the men from company E moved on to crush the enemy strong point on the far side of this cemetery and stop the slaughter below," Trump said.

Before his time as a soldier, Spalding lived in Owensboro and attended St. Frances Academy as a child. Later, he worked as a sports writer for the Owensboro Messenger and Inquirer.

On D-Day, Spalding's company was in the First Infantry Division, also known as the Big Red One, and was among the first wave of soldiers to charge onto the shores of Normandy.

After he left his Higgins landing craft, Spalding headed for a natural ridge along with his fellow soldier Joseph T. Dawson.

Together, Dawson and Spalding cleared a gun battery atop the ridge, ending the killing of Allied soldiers on the beach below.

By the afternoon of June 6, Spalding and his men were holding a defensive position west of Colleville-sur-Mer. Lodged in drainage ditches, Spalding's men were surrounded by nightfall and had just 100 rounds of ammunition left.

"To this day, I don't know what saved us," Spalding told a reporter in 1945. "We decided to make a break. It was our only chance. One by one we crawled along a ditch right through the German lines and back to our own outfit, got help and went right back and finished the job."

Spalding was recognized along with Dawson in Stephen Ambrose's 1994 book "D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II."

Spalding would go on to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, along with four other men in his platoon.

Now, 75 years later, the Normandy American Cemetery sits directly next to that ridge.

Spalding died in 1959 and is survived by his grandson, David, who watched the president's speech Thursday from his Owensboro home.

"It made me feel extremely proud," Spalding said.

Spalding said he never knew his grandfather but has spent about two decades researching him.

"Growing up, we had a picture of him being decorated by Gen. Eisenhower on the wall and to me, it was a picture of two men who I didn't know," Spalding said.

Spalding said that once the 50th anniversary of D-Day came, he realized what that photograph meant.

"I then realized what he had done," Spalding said.

Jack Dobbs, 270-691-7360, jdobbs@messenger-inquirer.com

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