HAMILTON, NJ - Matt Midura was a Hamilton boy, just 19-years old when, one year in the Army, he landed on the shores of Normandy Beach driving a comanding officer's Jeep as droves of soldiers stormed the shores.
He served under General Patton in the U.S. Army Red Diamond 5th Division when they were sent on a secret mission that became a major turning point in World War II. As Midura left the ship, he prayed to himself "oh Lord, please do not let me drown." He had never learned to swim after he lost his brother in a drowning tragedy.
Now, on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Midura says he still has nightmares every night of that day and seeing his "buddies" being killed during combat. He will turn 95 this fall and says he narrowly escaped death several times including from a mass bombing of a barn his unit was using as shelter.
During one push by American troops to sweep a German town, he was told to go in to one house where they believed German soldiers to be hiding. When he kicked open the door, he found a mother crying, clinging to her 18-year old son who was reluctantly about to go off to fight for the Germans.He told the boy who was just a bit younger than he was to go put on civilian clothes in order to help him get to a safer place; and he said he would do it again "because it was the right thing to do."
Midura recalls a visit to the troops by icon Dinah Shore that brought a bit of comfort from home to the battlefield.
"She came to see us and took her lipstick and wrote her name with it on the leather flap of my 50 caliber holster. So I cut it off to save it!" he remembered. Later on, his Colonel questioned him as to the condition of the holster. Not wanting to get in trouble or give up his keepsake, Midura claimed he had cut it off for better access to his weapon while driving superior officers around.
Throughout the war, Midura would trade letters from home with his sweatheart, Loretta, who he met before enlisting in the Army (she passed away in 1996). They would marry after the war and make Hamilton their family's home with three chidren, Patty, Paul, and Bob, who served in the Marines, and seven grandchildren. Matt and Loretta were well-known in the community: he was a long-time health inspector at for the Township; she was a secretary in the Recreation Department.
Midura, now lives in the Evergreen neighborhood of Hamilton with his wife Terry. When asked if he had to do it all over, would he enlist and serve today, he said "Absolutely! And so would any other of the guys back then."
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Elizabeth Meyers and tell her about it.