Limestone County WWII historian recounts life at home on D-Day

WAAY 31 spent the day with a World War II expert, talking about D-Day, and we heard fascinating stories about life on the homefront 75 years ago.

Posted: Jun 6, 2019 8:27 PM
Updated: Jun 6, 2019 8:53 PM

World War II historian, Jerry Barksdale, is a man you can expect to find at the Alabama Veterans Museum in Athens.

Barksdale has studied WWII history for more than 20 years, has interviewed 65 WWII veterans from Limestone County, and has written books about their accounts.

On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Barksdale gave us insight as to what it looked like in North Alabama while soldiers stormed the beaches in Normandy.

“‘Pistol-packing Mama’ was showing at the Ritz Theater," Barksdale said. "That’s a comedy, but most people were not interested in comedy. They were all tense.”

If anyone knows what Athens, Alabama was like on D-Day, it’s Jerry Barksdale.

The World War II historian says it was a beautiful spring day on June 6, 1944 when an alarm went off around 6:40 a.m.

“The siren on top of Athens City Hall sounded and people rushed out into the streets to see what was going on," Barksdale said.

Barksdale told WAAY 31 folks flocked to their radios, and that’s how they learned about the invasion in Normandy.

“A lot of them had folks who were in that invasion and they couldn’t focus on work," he said. "They had husbands and brothers and fathers.”

Barksdale said faith played a huge roll in comforting those who were in Athens, waiting to hear if their loved ones were okay.

“They joined hands and they went around the square, singing ‘Onward, Christian Soldier.’”

Several men from Athens took part in the invasion and never made it back home. Barksdale told WAAY 31 he’ll forever be grateful to those soldiers.

“The people back home knew a lot of people were going to be killed. And a lot of people were killed," he said. "They were all young. They were patriotic.”

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