Ray Woods, a World War II veteran and veteran of D-Day is shown with the book he wrote about the experience - Putnam Sentinel
Ray Woods, a World War II veteran and veteran of D-Day is shown with the book he wrote about the experience. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Ray Woods refers to D-Day as “Devil’s Day.” Seventy-five years ago, on June 6, 1944, he was on board the USS O’Brien, a destroyer, when his captain disobeyed an order, and went to Omaha Beach on that historic day.

Woods was a witness as 156.000 Allied boys stormed the beach as “Operation Overlord” was launched. American soldiers had to take Omaha Beach, a five-mile beachhead that linked British troops on Gold to the East and Americans at Utah to the West.

On that day 1,465 American soldiers died, 1,928 were missing, 3,184 were wounded and 26 were captured.

Woods, an Ottawa native, now living at The Meadows of Leipsic, said it is important we remember that day and the sacrifices. Storming Omaha Beach involved living through release from a landing craft, then wading through surging surf to get to 200 yards of open sand. The soldiers then had to scale a massive rock wall into dug-in German bunkers, who were raining mortars, artillery shells, small arms and machine gun fire to stop the soldiers. The open sand was soon littered with bodies as the soldiers were shot down.

“It’s been a few generations since that happened,” Woods said. “It’s been so long ago. for some it doesn’t seem realistic.”

Woods said the O’Brien was positioned off Utah Beach early that morning when the ship’s captain heard over the radio about the events happening at Omaha Beach and decided to race there to help.

When the ship was about 4,000 yards from the beach, Woods recalls seeing dead bodies floating by the vehicle. The captain realized that the German tanks were doing much of the damage and were getting information from a communications tunnel on the beach.

“He knew he needed to knock out the Germans’ line of communication,” Woods recalled. “No one else had the guts to do what he did and figure out how to do it.” Woods said the captain zig-zagged closer to shore, fooling the Germans into believing he was going to crash into shore.

The captain then gave his crew the order to fire at the tunnel,” Wood said.

The O’Brien and two other destroyers were able to take out the German communications. Woods said this took some of the pressure off the U.S. troops landing on the beach. He estimates that about 1,000 American lives were saved because of the actions of the O’Brien and two other destroyers.

He has written a book about the experience titled “D-Day Hero Destroyer, Identified after 68 Year Search.”

Woods said he wrote the book because he did not feel the captain was treated right following his actions that saved lives. Instead his research discovered missing documentation about the O’Brien’s part in D-Day.

“I don’t believe they treated our captain right, because he disobeyed an order,” he commented.