POTSDAM — Lloyd B. Brown was the guest of honor Friday afternoon at the Potsdam Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, where he celebrated his 91st birthday and reminisced about the role he played 70 years ago during the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy.
The World War II artillery solider shares his birthday with the infamous D-Day and told his neighbors he wanted to spend time at the VFW where he would see some old friends.
So Bonnie S. Boyd and Timothy H. Champlin, both of Douglas Road, decided to surprise their friend with a cake to celebrate his birthday and the anniversary of the Allied troops’ invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany.
“These World War II veterans aren’t going to be around much longer,” Ms. Boyd said. “If you want to know the real story, you have to get it now.”
Mr. Brown, a life-long Potsdam-area resident, is hard of hearing, but he still drives, mows his own lawn and plays guitar. He smiled as he walked into the VFW to find patriotic party decorations and a cake waiting for him.
As a corporal in an Army artillery unit, Mr. Brown said, he was responsible for manning cannons aboard an anti-aircraft ship the day it arrived at Omaha Beach, his 21st birthday. He remembers being surrounded by gunfire, smoke and a great deal of chaos.
“It was so noisy you couldn’t hear yourself think,” he said. “You couldn’t even see in the sky.”
The infantry soldiers were first to hit the beaches, so it was several hours before Mr. Brown and his fellow artillery soldiers disembarked with cannon and other heavy weapons. When they did they were surrounded by fallen soldiers.
“The beaches were loaded with bodies. They were floating in the water,” Mr. Brown said.
He also remembers winning a bet with a fellow soldier regarding what day the invasion would occur.
A storm in the English Channel postponed the invasion from June 5 to June 6, which meant Mr. Brown won the $5 bet.
After returning from the war, Mr. Brown said, he worked various jobs including logging and serving as a deputy St. Lawrence County sheriff.
He loves to fish and is teaching Mr. Champlin to play guitar.
His wife, Edith, 84, resides at United Helpers’ Maplewood campus, Canton.
Ms. Boyd said getting to know Mr. Brown has been a joy.
“When you have someone as old and as sweet as Lloyd Brown, you want to look out for him,” she said.
Robert Crary, Potsdam VFW post commander, said he was happy the VFW could help honor Mr. Brown and recognize his involvement in D-Day.
“The things he saw we can only imagine,” Mr. Cary said. “He was there when it happened. He was part of it.”