A Bear whose actions at Normandy in WWII merited the Bronze Star
Operation Overlord, the World War II Allied operation to invade German-occupied Western Europe, began 70 years ago today on D-Day. At least one former Baylor student was there, earning distinction for his heroism.
On this date in 1944, American, British, Canadian and other Allied forces under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower mounted an airborne and amphibious invasion of the heavily German-fortified coast of Normandy, France. Over the course of the three-month operation, more than 226,000 Allied soldiers died, were wounded or went missing in action. But the courageous action of so many led to Allied victory in Europe and freedom from Hitler’s tyranny.
Charles Wilson Finley, BA ’40, attended Alvord High School and Decatur Baptist College in North Texas before coming to Baylor, where he was a member of the Noze Brotherhood and the Esquire Club. After graduation, he went to work for the Southland Life Insurance Company before joining the U.S. Army on May 6, 1941. There, he was part of General George Patton’s 2nd Armored Division.
On June 11, 1944, as his LST (landing ship tank) was approaching the “Omaha” beach, a German S-boat launched a torpedo that struck and exploded. Finley jumped into action, organizing the men and ensuring that the wounded were evacuated. In less than an hour, the ship sank with loss of life, vehicles and equipment; Finley was one of the last men off the ship. For his bravery and quick action, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
In total, Lt. Finley served 25 months during World War II with the Second Armored Division in North Africa, Sicily, England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He earned two Bronze Star medals before being killed in a tank battle on February 28, 1945, near Hemmerden, Germany.
On this day, we remember and salute the sacrifice of so many who have served for the freedom of the world — men and women like Lt. Finley.
Sic ’em, Bears who serve!
[The photos above and most of the information in this post comes from Frank Jasek’s excellent Soldiers of the Wooden Cross, which tells the story of each of the Baylor veterans killed in service who are honored on the memorial lampposts across campus. Copies of the book are available at soldierswoodencross.info; proceeds benefit student scholarships.]