WWII veterans share tales of courage and carnage

WWII veterans share tales of courage and carnage »Play Video

SEATTLE -- Every star on his U.S. Navy cap symbolizes a battle Ralph Holm survived.

Holm, 93, and 91-year-old Robert Garrison, are World War II veterans who both know they're lucky to be alive.

Holm enlisted in the Navy, and the Army didn't give Garrison a choice. He still has the yellowing paper order to report for induction he received in 1943.

"I was going to college and the war came along and I got drafted," said Garrison.
 
The SPU college kid left Tacoma for the bloody beaches of Normandy, France.

"I never saw so many ships out in the harbor, in the bay. And they started firing," he said.

Garrison remembers searching for cover from attacking aircraft.

"All you could do is hop into a ditch and hope they didn't hit you," he said.

That D-Day invasion left more than 9,000 allied soldiers dead or wounded. Holm remembers standing on the U.S.S. Maryland about to go ashore to buy Christmas presents when a Japanese plane flew over.

"He's flying so low I could see his face," said Holm.

Before he was even told, Holm headed for his battle station as Pearl Harbor came under attack.

"Pretty bad, that was the worst. Next day I volunteered to help 'em recover the bodies," Holm remembered.

With the passing of each World War II veteran, we lose another story of sacrifice, another model of bravery. 

"I'm not bragging but I never was scared anytime in the navy I just figured if it's time to go, time to go," Holm said.

And when it was time to go home, Fort Lewis pay phone lines were so long, Garrison hitched a ride with a sign.

"It said give a soldier a ride home, so I was able to get a ride home," he said.

His arrival was a huge surprise for his relatives who also knew how lucky it was to be one of the soldiers who came home.