This website is devoted to all soldiers who served and continue to serve with the 299th.
June 06, 2014 • By Carmen Duarte
Tucsonan Jeannie Tucker was stunned when she saw an old photo for sale on eBay of her father showing her and her mother a map of Omaha Beach where he landed on June 6, 1944.
That 50-year-old photo — taken when Jeannie was 4 years old, and another of her father trying on his Army uniform — were shot by a photographer of the Miami Herald who was interviewing James W. Tucker for a D-Day anniversary article in 1964.
Jeannie Tucker purchased the photos in February for nearly $18 on eBay from a company that buys and sells historic photos. The company had bulk purchased the photos from the Herald.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was really overwhelming,” Tucker said of the photographs that brought her to tears. They now are a part of the memorabilia of D-Day and other battles that her father had served in during his military career.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the Allied forces’ invasion of France in World War II. James Tucker — a leader in the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion — died in 1983 in Tucson, his home since the early 1970s. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
After the invasion, he took part in many other battles across Western Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge. He received five battle stars and a Bronze Star for his World War II service. But Tucker and the men he led onto bloody Omaha Beach 70 years ago today will never be forgotten, said his daughter, who has collected many of their stories to include on a website she designed for the battalion. She is the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion’s historian, archivist and webmaster.
Tucker can recount her father’s stories about that June day that left thousands of Allied troops dead or wounded on the beaches of Normandy. When 24-year-old Warrant Officer Tucker arrived on Omaha he “saw fires everywhere. A wrecked landing craft, still loaded with tanks, burned fiercely. Ammunition exploded. There was shellfire, noise, confusion ... bodies all around,” Jeannie Tucker remembers her father telling her.
As waves of soldiers and boats swept in from the sea, German gunners tore them apart. Tucker was in charge of eight armored bulldozers tasked with clearing the beach of concrete pillars, deadly mine-tipped angle beams and logs, and steel cross-arms built as obstacles by the Germans. Under heavy fire, landing crafts blew up and soldiers drowned, their bodies washed up on the beach.
Her father said the engineers worked to clear mines and obstacles, and Tucker eventually was ordered to dig a temporary mass grave right on the beach. A trench was dug using a bulldozer and bodies were stacked like cordwood and covered with sand.“I understand it was the first American cemetery in Europe World War II,” her father recalled.
“I was only 23 when my dad died. I did research about the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion, and I felt my dad when I met men he led onto the beaches,” she said, explaining that she met about 20 of his fellow soldiers at a reunion of the battalion in Niagara Falls in 2007. "Most of them were in their 80s, and they gave me contact information for other soldiers, or their widows,” she said. She records their stories for their families and future generations.
“I do this from my heart because I think people should always, always remember and never forget their sacrifices,” Tucker said.
She was invited in March by the Army to Fort Carson, Colorado, to share the history of the 299th with the young soldiers who are serving in the reactivated battalion.
The website for the 299th that Tucker created has become a portal for the relatives of soldiers who served with her father. She helps families preserve the war stories of their beloved soldiers.
“I have a sense of purpose, and I understand much more the significance of what my father did after meeting soldiers who remembered him, and respected him as their leader,” said Tucker, who also shares D-Day and World War II history with museums, military organizations and international groups.
Visit Tucker’s website: 299thcombatengineers.com
D-Day Veteran's daughter finds 50-year-old memories for sale on eBaySource: KGUN - Tucson, AZ
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News Report: Warrant Officer James W. Tucker
Channel 13 (KOLD) Tucson, AZ 6-7-09 (JD Wallace Reports)
Jeannie Tucker's father was Warrant Officer James W. Tucker in the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion. He died in 1983, but she has been contacting his fellow members of the 299th to gather pictures and history. She said that her father landed at Omaha Beach with eight bulldozers, and that he dug a mass grave during the combat for those who died fighting. This year, that history is included in tours of Normandy.
"So from here forward on every other anniversary, they will be able to know and share to anybody who goes there, all year, every day, the very brave men in 299th and my father and his group that personally buried their comrades there that day," Jeannie Tucker said.
Tucker has a website that follows not only the 299ths history then, but its current involvement today.
News Report: Warrant Officer James W. Tucker
Channel 4 (KVOA) Tucson, AZ 6-6-09 (Tyler Wing Reports)
Warrant Officer James Tucker was awarded the bronze star for his heroics on D-Day. "His men were so important to him," say Jeannie. "Going in that day they lost 1/3 of their battalion and it was bloody beach. There were bodies everywhere."
Tucker says she's determined to pass on her father's testimony of the morning of June 6th, 1944. "It's unbelievable realizing the horror of that day. It was hard sometimes to have him talk about it, but he did. He shared with me."
All eight of James Tucker's bulldozers made it onto Omaha Beach that day and in the early hours of D-Day, he had the only operational heavy equiptment there. "The 299th were the first men to hit the beaches with the job of clearing all of the underwater and beach obstacles."
Tucker and the chaplain, still under Nazi gunfire, helped bury American casualties strewn across the beach head. "That ended up being the first American cemetery on French soil during WWll."
Tucker and the 299th went on to defeat the Nazi's through France, Belgium and into Germany. "My father himself shot the locks off of one of the concentration camps." However it's tales of honor, bravery and sacrifices which fuels Jeannie Tucker's persistent desire to keep the history of the 299th Combat Engineers and their D-Day triumphs alive.
"They were very brave. I've met so many of them. I feel so honored to be the daughter of one of those men."
It's Tuckers wish that Americans don't take for granted their liberties and those who died for it. "So that our young people, our generations to come will always remember their great sacrifice on that day."
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