Updated: November 11, 2019 07:12 PM
Created: November 11, 2019 06:52 PM
CHARLTON - Lincoln Dietz, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday, has the recall of a man half his age.
"It's an era I gotta explain to you," said Dietz during a recent interview.
Born and raised in South Hadley, Mass. during the Great Depression, the fifth of eight kids went to work at the Springfield Armory after high school.
Dietz was making M-1 rifles when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Within a year or so he'd go through basic training and then found himself headed to Liverpool with 12,000 other soldiers.
"And we boarded the Mauretania."
He was part of A Company, 802nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, not knowing then or even soon after that he'd be a part of history.
"They talk about D-Day, Jesus that was the best kept secret in the world. None of us knew anything about D-Day."
They landed at Utah Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
"Holy Jesus, it was bouncing around. I didn't think we were going to make it, myself."
They did, and the days and weeks ahead were harrowing.
"We went in this valley twice and boy we got hit hard. A lot of casualties. They tried to counterattack and we poured it in on them. This was going on and on and on for what seems like an eternity."
He saw more than his share of carnage. "We had a five-man crew and we lost two."
He prefers to focus on the light-hearted moments.
"What you really look forward to in military service is the little good times that happen in between."
Like the time his unit came across vats of Champagne in the French countryside and word spread like wildfire.
"You never seen anything spread so far and so fast in your life. Trucks were coming in from all over to load up," Dietz said with a laugh.
After the war, Mr. Dietz came back home and married Margaret Baker and raised two children. He transferred from the Springfield Armory to the Watervliet Arsenal in 1966 and retired after 41 years of service at the two armories. He still lives in the Charlton home the couple bought in 1966.
He says his is often called the "greatest generation" because they endured the Great Depression.
"You don't depend on the government or somebody else to do something for you. The first thing you do is try to do things for yourself."
He's living proof that some also do for their country.
"I did what I was ever ordered or told to do," he said.
Copyright 2019 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company