Bernard Olliff was born in Candler County, Georgia on February 26th, 1924. He had two brothers, Herman and Billie, and two sisters, Grace and Annett. He had a girlfriend, Myrthe, whom he married in November 1941.
Bernard enlisted in the U.S Army on February 20th 1943, at 19 years old. He was assigned to the 175th Infantry regiment, 29th Infantry Division— ‘’Blue and Gray".
The 175th Infantry Regiment trained at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. The American soldiers who enlisted early in the 29th Infantry Division were sent to England on October 5th, 1942 on the RMS Queen Mary, which you can visit today in Long Beach, California. They were based throughout England and Scotland and intensively trained to prepare the Invasion of France and Europe. Then, the Division moved to the invasion assembly area in Devon.
This letter was written by Bernard to his wife on March 21st 1944. He wrote a lot of letters to his wife and family during the war.
The 29th Infantry Division was split in several Infantry Regiments. The 115th and 116th Infantry Regiments landed at Omaha Beach on June 6th 1944 as part of Operation Overlord, the codename used by the allies for the landings in Normandy. Omaha Beach was called “Bloody Omaha”— of the five beaches, it was the worse place to land for the brave American soldiers.
Bernard landed at Omaha Beach on June 7th with the 2nd battalion of the 175th Infantry Regiment. The first landing craft arrived at 12h30; some were destroyed by mines. The different battalions landed at Vierville sur Mer and Saint Laurent sur Mer. At the end of the landings, the soldiers moved to the town center of Vierville sur Mer.
On the 8th of June, Bernard and his comrades launched an attack on the Radar Station at Cardonville and finally took the position strongly defended by the Germans.
From the 9th of June to the 18th of June, his regiment continued to hold their position. Then, they launched an attack on the village of Lison and Montmartin en Graignes with the objective to take the town of Saint Lo.
At the end of June, after very hard battles, the three regiments of the 29th Infantry Division had some days to rest. It was mentally and physically necessary for the soldiers.
On the 12th of July the regiment headed toward Saint Lo. After an intense battle at Martainville, many soldiers were killed. Bernard was seriously wounded by shrapnel on the 13th of July.
Newspaper clippings telling that Bernard was wounded in action
His wife Myrthe Olliff received a letter from the War Department on the 4th of September 1944. The Major General Ulio was pleased to inform that her husband Private First Class Bernard Olliff was recovering from his wound.
After being urgently treated on the battle front, Bernard was sent to England to recover, where he stayed in a hospital for several months.
This v-mail was sent by Bernard to his wife on October 10th 1944; he was still at the hospital in England.
He was finally assigned to the 156th Infantry Regiment, K Company. This regiment acted as an independent infantry regiment performing guard duties at rear Headquarters and prisoner of war camps in North Africa and France. Bernard served in this regiment until the end of the war in 1945.
Bernard received the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart medal for his wounds. He worked until 1986 for the Orlando Sentinel, a newspaper in Florida.
He died on May 19th 2017 at 83 years old; he is buried at Greenwood Cemetery Orlando, Orange County in Florida.