RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Today marks 75 years since when the Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, France during D-Day. 8News learned that a famous photo of General Eisenhower, taken on the eve of this day in 1944, has ties with a family in the Richmond area.
A young man from Central Virginia named J. Early Wood, just 22-years-old in 1944, told his children he was one of the young paratroopers listening to Eisenhower on that day. His children spoke with 8News on Thursday about their father’s legacy.
“I’m still amazed that he survived and the fact that we are actually even here,” said Wood’s daughter, Lil Harris.
Hours before Wood jumped out of an airplane into the night skies of Normandy, the 22-year-old paratrooper stood right under General Eisenhower’s nose in an iconic photo. Wood’s two children say it wasn’t until the late ’90s when their father started going to World War II reunions and sharing memories of D-Day. “We had no idea he got shrapnel jumping out a plane on D-Day,” Jay Wood told 8News.
Wood earned his first of two purple hearts on that day. He would later add a bronze star to his medal collection. It took Wood even longer to tell his children he was in the photo of Eisenhower. Jay Wood and Harris told 8News they wonder if the memories were too intense to bring up.
“Because he did describe it as the worst day of his life,” Harris recalled.
Wood’s children said they wish they could have taken their father back to the storied beaches of Normandy.
“Just knowing what that day was,” Harris said, “I just would’ve loved to work harder gone into debt whatever it took to take him back there one more time.” Wood and Harris paused to honor their dad’s service on the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
“It’s amazing looking back at all he did and how humble he was,” Wood said.
“I know I’m very honored to have been able to call him my dad,” Harris told 8News.
J. Wood and Harris told 8News their father had done at least three dry runs ahead of D-Day. Wood told them before he passed away that he would fill his canteen with wine instead of water for the next practice. On D-Day, Wood jumped out of the airplane with a little liquid courage by his side.