Former Grovetown mayor recalls D-Day on 70th anniversary

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Written in parentheses, Dennis Trudeau’s outcome was somberly labeled on his suitcase by the British Army.

Former Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau parachuted into Normandy in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. As mayor, Trudeau was a driving force behind the town's memorial wall.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Former Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau parachuted into Normandy in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. As mayor, Trudeau was a driving force behind the town's memorial wall.

SLIDESHOW: D-Day Unfolds

View more photos from the invasion

SLIDESHOW: Eisenhower

View more photos of the general

Trudeau: Personal kit H-195460 (Deceased).

“After the war was over, I flew back to England to get my personal items,” the former Grovetown mayor said. “But when I picked up my case, the bag-tag label said I was deceased. There was only one problem – I wasn’t dead.”

Trudeau, a paratrooper for the Canadian Army, survived D-Day, as well as 11 months that followed as a prisoner of war.

For nearly a year, his where­abouts were unknown to Allied troops, while he lived on bread, potato skins, soup and occasionally horse meat.

“I weighed 135 pounds when I parachuted onto land (near Juno Beach). When the war was over, I weighed 85,” he said. “I don’t know how I survived other than there must have been an angel beside me.”

Despite turning 89 last Sunday, memories from June 6, 1944, haven’t escaped Trudeau.

In fact, seven decades later, they’ve grown more distinct.

From the flight from England to the historic night in Normandy, it’s all vivid.

What stands out most are the casualties.

“It’s hard to describe what took place that night,” Trudeau said. “The things I saw … There were boots without legs, arms without hands. It was unimaginable. Truly unimaginable.”

Trudeau was one of 150,000 Canadian, U.S. and British troops battling the Nazis on D-Day.

Thousands were killed, while hundreds were taken prisoner, including Trudeau.

For 11 months, the teenager was held captive by Nazi soldiers, forced to work coal mines and railroads in Halle, Germany.

“We worked from 6 a.m. to 5 or 6 every night,” Trudeau said. “Not only were we not given much to eat, but we were under attack a lot, too. Not a day went
by when I wasn’t scared for my life.”

Finally, he escaped.

“One morning we got up and there weren’t any guards around,” Trudeau said. “They were all gone. So we marched towards this town and suddenly we saw (an American) GI with his helmet on and a cigarette in his mouth. It was May 13, 1945 – the happiest day of my life. We almost killed the GI because we hugged him so hard. At that point, we all knew we were free.”

Trudeau still questions how – and why – he survived.

“There were times when I was inches away from death,” he said. “Literally inches. To this day, I still live with what I experienced. I never imagined I’d see the 70th anniversary of D-Day.”

Although Trudeau recalled his 11 months in captivity as “frightening,” it’s D-Day itself the Grovetown resident remains humbled by.

Flying above the French coast, Trudeau parachuted onto Juno Beach, where his mission was to secure bridges and disrupt Nazi communication.

As his parachute avoided gunfire, only one thought crossed Trudeau’s mind.

“I looked to the good Lord and prayed to see another sunrise,” he said. “That’s all I asked – just one more sunrise. Now 70 years later, I can’t count the number I’ve seen. Let’s just say I’ve been very, very blessed.”

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younameit 06/06/14 - 06:02 am

What a remarkable man is Dennis Trudeau! His brand of servant leadership is so rare that one must go to the scriptures to find it these days. God bless this special person and all those who fought and died so that we could be free to choose - to serve and entertain ourselves or work and speak in service to others.

AFjoe 06/06/14 - 10:34 am

Mayor Trudeau has done more for Grovetown than any other individual I know. He deserves more than a street named after him.
How about the Grovetown City Hall.

my.voice 06/06/14 - 09:07 am
There are no words.

There are no words.

John Locke
John Locke 06/06/14 - 12:10 pm
Thank you sir!

Here is a true soldier, tells it like it is and is humble. Thank you for your service and sacrifice, especially for dealing with being a POW.

scorehouse 06/07/14 - 11:13 am
don't miss

Mr. Trudeau's video above. it is truly the cherry on top! wish there were more in the article about where he landed, how he was captured, how many others were with him, how they were transported back to Germany, etc. my father was severely wounded at the battle of the bulge. his best friend was a navigator on a B=17 who completed his 25 bombing missions, my next door neighbor growing up in berkman hills was an Army Ranger who scaled the cliffs on Omaha beach on D-Day, in the adjacent neighborhood was another Ranger who fought with him. i had 2 teachers at ARC, Mr. Guy and Mr. Bearden, whom both miraculously survived the Bataan "march of death". another friend of mine's dad helped lead the assault on Hitler's Wolf Lair at Bertchesgaden, he had silver ware with AH inscribed he brought home as a souvenir. many WW2 heroes from the Augusta area. my only regret is they never would talk about the war for the sake of history and preservation. may all these heroes Rest In Peace. thank you Mr. Trudeau and all that served with you.

sugarbutton 03/09/15 - 07:29 pm
The years I've spent

The years I've spent working with Dennis Trudeau have been a true testimony of what a good man he is. He was always so fair and kind but was adamant about Grovetown being a good place to call home. Have always loved this man and his sweet wife. When my father passed away I truly felt so close to Dennis and looked up to him. Thank you Dennis and Mary Ann Trudeau for feeding life and happiness into my heart and soul and being surrogate parents for all these years. So proud to call you friend.

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