As the world remembers the staggering sacrifice of the allied forces as they set about liberating Europe on June 6, 1944, some remarkable stories of courage, hope and faith continue to emerge down the family lines.
The storming of Normandy beaches, officially code-named “Operation Overlord,” resulted in the deaths of thousands. Between D-Day and August 21, just over 2 million allied soldiers landed in Northern France. Tragically, over that period, the Americans suffered the loss of over 20,000 men.
Among them were two brothers from Bedford, Virginia. Raymond and Bedford Hoback were some of the first soldiers to land on Dog Green sector, Omaha Beach with A Company, 116th Infantry Regiment. Their likelihood of survival, under the bombardment of German heavy machine guns, was minimal.
“They were the first to go in and I guess they just really didn’t have a chance, because I guess from what we heard the Germans were there and they were just mowing them down as they hit the beach,” Lucille Hoback Boggess, the brothers’ younger sister, told NBC 10.
Boggess remembers the day she received the dreadful news of their deaths, sent via telegram. “We got a telegram, it was about the middle of July, because communications took a lot longer back then and the sheriff, as I remembered, the sheriff brought the telegram to our house just informing that Bedford had been killed,” she said. Her other brother, Raymond, was missing in action and presumed lost.
“It just devastated my mother and father too, but daddy would go out to the barn to cry, he didn’t want us to see him cry,” Boggess said.
Personal Bible discovered on the beach
Then, as the family grieved the loss of these beloved brothers, they recieved an unexpected and extremely welcome gift in the mail — the Raymond Hoback’s Bible.
Accompanying the previous item was a letter from a fellow allied soldier.
“I was walking along the beach D-Day plus one. I came upon the Bible and as most any person would do I picked it up,” it read.
“He picked it up from the sand to keep it from being destroyed and he just thought that my mother, my parents, would like to have it, something that had belonged to Raymond,” Lucille explained.
The letter and Bible are just some of the prized keepsakes that Lucille continues to store in an old briefcase to this day, as a way to honor and remember her fallen brothers.
“My mother always treasured the Bible and I have it now, because she said next to Raymond she would have wanted his Bible,” Boggess added.
“We have a part of him, the last thing he probably held on to was the Bible.”