PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Hours before the invasion, Rhode Island native Leo Andreoni knew it was drawing near.
The Chaplin boarded his boat, PC1232.
“That indicated to us it was time,” Andreoni said.
His ship, nicknamed the Grey Ghost, was part of the D-Day invasion. The morning of June 6, he said the weather was misty.
When the sun broke, he finally witnessed what they all knew would eventually come to the shores of the Nazi-occupied France.
“I looked around and as far as I could see on the horizon, all I saw was ships,” he said. “There was gunfire going over our heads all day long.”
Andreoni recounts that day over a table of memories from his time in the Navy. He was 20-years-old on June 6, 1944. He was a radioman who sent messages with Morse code.
He said he tried to bury a lot of the memories from D-Day, but he couldn’t.
One of the toughest memories came as the invasion began. A boat of 18- and 19-year-old’s in the army passed them, headed to the beach. He said the men on the Grey Ghost tried to cheer them on.
“I’ll never forget the look on their faces,” he said. “They just looked and none smiled.”
He had a tough time finishing that thought.
“I just couldn’t forget the look on their faces,” he finally finished with tears welling in his eyes.
For two days, Andreoni said his ship of 50 men went from sinking boat to sinking boat trying to save the wounded.
Watch an extended interview with Leo Andreoni below. (Story continues below video.)
“I wasn’t thinking of anything except how to get the guys off this ship and onto our ship because that ship was going to sink,” he said. “It was just a matter of time.”
At 95, he’s one of the last living veterans of the historic day.
His best friends who were also aboard the boat have all died.
When an anniversary of the memorial to D-Day in Virginia was held a few years ago, he spoke to attendees.
President Barack Obama wrote him a letter thanking him for his service.
“That made me feel pretty good,” he said.
Now, he’s looking back after 75 years.
“I was thankful I was able to do what I could for my country at that time,” he said. “I’m sure the whole world appreciates what was done and the reason it was done and just hoping nothing like that happens ever again.”