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**LIKELY USE AS 1A CENTERPICE PHOTO** Sixty-eight years ago today, Verl Clark Davisson, 90, of Iowa City advanced on Omaha Beach as part of the first wave of the D-Day invasion during World War II in Normandy, France. <br />
Davisson left the family farm in Wellman after being drafted in 1942. He saw combat in North Africa and Sicily as a member of the 1st Infantry Division prior to D-Day, but says nothing could have prepared him for what he encountered when he hit the water off of Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944.<br />
“We had no idea what we were going into.  You could see the bullets hitting the water just like rain. Everything was a mess.  There was just no place to go.”<br />
That morning, Davisson was charged with the task of driving a 2 ½ ton truck out of the landing craft and onto the beach. “It hit that water…I was set in water, driving. It went right on up on the beach, never missed a beat. I was pretty proud of that.”<br />
Davisson and his unit spent the next 12 hours fighting their way up the high cliffs over the beach to prepare for what would become the hard fought Battle of Normandy.<br />
To this day, Davisson retains his most prized possession from the war: his war-torn helmet emblazoned with the insignia of the 1st Infantry Division, better known as “The Big Red One.”<br />
About a month following D-Day, Davisson was on patrol in a truck when he came under fire from a rail-mounted German howitzer.  The gun’s large shells exploded all around him.  “It blew a hole that you could’ve drove the truck in and buried it,” he recalls. <br />
After being knocked down by the explosions, he found cover and waited out the onslaught. He eventually returned to base, where he removed his helmet to find a gash ripped in its side from shrapnel impact.   The helmet had saved him from what would have been certain death.  <br />
“It’s been kind of a masterpiece to me,” Davisson says of the helmet.  “It means more to me than anybody. I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’

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Copyright Christopher Gannon