D-Day hero, from Shavertown, remembers storming Utah Beach in Normandy
Source: Aimee Dilger | Times LeaderEugene Couto, of Shavertown, talks about D-Day
SHAVERTOWN — On the U.S. Department of Defense website, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said it all about the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
“There are moments in a nation’s history when its future course is decided by a chosen few who walked bravely into the valley of the shadow of death,” Scaparrotti said during a wreath-laying ceremony in France on Monday. “In such moments, young men and women pledge their lives so that their nation can live.”
Scaparrotti was talking about men and women like Eugene Couto, 94, of Shavertown, who was part of the D-Day invasion at Utah Beach in Normandy, France, during World War II.
Couto was attached to the U.S. Army’s 116th Gun Battalion of the 1st Division.
On June 6, 1944, during World War II, Couto was with the Allied forces that stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day as they began the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe.
Couto not only was part of the D-Day invasion at Utah Beach, he participated in five battles — including the Battle of the Bulge — that culminated in the surrender of Germany.
Couto’s daughter, Cheryl Baranosky, said her father always recalls that historic day when the anniversary of D-Day comes around.
“Every year we talk about D-Day,” she said. “We talk about all of those young boys, afraid and determined to come home. I know a couple of my father’s buddies were killed on that beach.”
Couto was one soldier who did return home. He married the late Mary Thomas Couto, of Nanticoke, and they had two children — Paul Couto and Cheryl. They also have two grandchildren.
Couto said he wanted to be sure people remembered D-Day and the sacrifices made that day. He said most of the soldiers who were involved are now in their 90s.
“Not many of us are around anymore,” he said.
Couto remembers very clearly going from a big ship to a landing boat to head for the beach.
“All we wanted to do was to get off the boat,” he said. “We waited for the gate to open so we could run onto the beach.”
Couto heard American planes flying overhead as he ran onto the beach and toward a big wall to avoid taking fire.
“They were firing at us,” he said. “You just had to keep running.”
Couto was barely 21 years old on D-Day — as were most of the soldiers in the battle.
“We were all young fellas in our early 20s,” Couto said. “This was our first battle experience. We were all green, and we tried to do the best we could.”
Couto said he was part of the subsequent push to Germany. He endured horrific conditions throughout the Battle of the Bulge, which lasted from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945.
“We went all the way to Germany — I think five battles all told — from that beach to Germany,” Couto said. “It took about nine months.”
Through it all, Couto said he and his fellow soldiers couldn’t wait to return home.
“We were all draftees,” he said. “Our objective was to get it over with and go home.”
Since he returned from war, Couto said he has never picked up a weapon. His daughter said it took him a long time to even want to talk about his wartime experience.
Couto was humble when a reporter thanked him for his service and called him a true American hero.
“Let me tell you something,” Couto said. “All of us who were there are heroes. You see things in war that you don’t ever want to see again.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”
More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe.
The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe to defeat Hitler’s crack troops.