YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On this 75th anniversary of D-Day, we sat down with a Youngstown man who was not only part of the initial assault, but also was part of one of D-Day’s most famous pictures.
One of the most famous pictures of D-Day was taken from inside a landing craft as crews headed toward Omaha Beach. One of the men in the water is most likely John Bistrica, who still lives in the northside house he helped build after the war.
The famous picture hangs on his living room wall, a red mark highlighting what is likely John himself, wading through the ocean toward Omaha Beach as part of the first assault wave of D-Day.
“I kept looking at the picture and I see the radio pack on Bob McQuen. I said that’s got to be us, but I can’t prove it,” John said.
“It’s very interesting to people when you say he was on the assault wave,” said John’s son, Joe Bistrica.
Even at age 96, John remembers what it was like that day on the beach.
“I’m thinking how many times I heard a noise [of a war missile or gunshot] beside my helmet, which was a round [that] missed me,” John said.
Memorabilia of a WWII hero is scattered around his house — the standard posed picture as a young soldier, a picture of John being honored by then Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and a picture of him marching in a Memorial Day parade after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
One of John’s most prized military possessions is his Eisenhower jacket that’s covered with medals, which, by the way, he can still fit into. On it, there’s a Battlestar bronze arrowhead for his involvement in D-Day and a handmade patch given to him by a young French girl.
“There was tears in her eyes, and the little girl handed me that and says, ‘Thank you, American soldier,” John said.
A concussion in October 1944 ended John’s time in Europe. He spent the rest of the war in England before returning home.
“Do I think about it? Lots of times. Something always in my life came up that I think about D-Day,” he said.