WWII vet DiBacco stormed the beach at Normandy on D-Day
Editor’s note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series, which features veterans in our area and shares first-hand accounts of their military service. The series is published each Monday through Veterans Day.
THOMAS — A local World War II veteran and native of Thomas recalls many detailed memories from more than seven decades ago, from a time that changed his life forever.
Now 96 years old, Vincent DiBacco was in his second year of studying to become a priest at St. Charles College during 1942, when he made himself available for the draft.
On D-Day in June 1944, DiBacco found himself on the beaches of Normandy serving for the United States Army’s 61st Medical Battalion.
He was the message center chief for that battalion, making sure messages would get to company commanders.
As if it were only a short time ago, DiBacco spoke of stories from the horrific day in great detail during an interview this week.
“On D-Day, I went in with the second or third wave, and when I got to the beach I had a friend from West Virginia. … We were on our way into the invasion together. We had to keep low so (the enemy) couldn’t see us, and when we hit the beach, they said to flare out — not to concentrate in one position,” DiBacco said. “There was a barrage, and we hit the ground. That’s when I buried my face in the sand — I thought I was going insane.”
He went on to say he was lucky enough to get up, but his friend was hit with shrapnel and did not make it.
DiBacco described the beach as a mess, saying the water along the shoreline on that “crisp” morning was red from blood because of the amount of casualties and injuries.
For his efforts during the war, DiBacco received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
He recalled some of the dangerous situations when he tried to save fellow soldiers.
“There were snipers all over the place, and they needed to get some plasma to a wounded soldier,” DiBacco said. “Snipers started shooting at us, but I stayed with him.”
DiBacco went on to say medics would remove their accouterment because enemies would oftentimes use the red cross as a target.
In 1945, DiBacco ended his career with the Army, going out with the rank of sergeant.
After returning home from the war, DiBacco said he assisted his family with businesses they owned in the Thomas area, but only as he was able.
Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, DiBacco said he had many aspirations but he was unable to achieve them.
“I wanted to go back to seminary school, but I just couldn’t do it,” he said.
Many years later, he still thanks a doctor from Elkins, Sam Roberts, for saving his life.
“He took my case and he worked to wean me off all the medications I had been prescribed with,” DiBacco said. “He saved my life — that’s not hyperbole.”
DiBacco came from a large family, and he was one of three brothers to serve the United States during WWII. He said having two brothers in the military — one in the Army and another in the Navy — played a vital role in his decision to join the Army himself.
Throughout his time in the Army, DiBacco noted that he served with a number of people who were natives of the Mountain State, including Alex Goldberg of Elkins and Virgil Hart of Beverly.
Today DiBacco resides in Tucker County and says he loves his home.