WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- "I was on Normandy Beach a month after those who got there first."
At 95 years old, Robert "Bob" Brodbeck of Wilkes-Barre is still a jokester, making his family and friends laugh with his wit. But 75 years ago, Brodbeck was facing the horrors of war at just 20 years old.
"I went into Normandy with my hands over my head holding my gun, and water up… We went down out of those boats that used to, you know, the front loader went down, and we walked in. It was kind of wet, kind of scary, but I guess we were too frightened to worry about it. But like normal, it was war," explained Brodbeck to Newswatch 16 during a recent interview at his apartment in Wilkes-Barre.
Arriving one month after the initial invasion, Bob and his unit were charged with guarding the beach and shooting down enemy planes. As they moved inland, they protected airstrips, ammunition dumps, and seaports, moving through France and eventually on to Germany.
"I remember a lot of the pleasant things, you know, and I guess you put some of the unpleasant things out of your mind. But it was cold in Germany, too, so we froze. We slept on the ground in pup tents, we ate C-rations, and we did the best we could," said Brodbeck.
Born in Hughestown in the back bedroom of his family home, Bob is the oldest of five children of William and Lillian Brodbeck. After graduating from Hughesville High School, Bob was drafted to serve in the Second World War, which came to an end on Bob's 21st birthday.
"They ceased firing on May 7, but on the next day, the way I understand it, was (President) Truman's birthday, so they declared the armistice on his birthday. And my mother was furious. She said I was more important than he was!"
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While Bob says he doesn't remember dates too well anymore, he's still as sharp as a tack -- or a sewing needle.
Bob trained as a tailor after returning home from active duty, but it wasn't until he was age 91 that he made his first quilt. He now keeps busy making pillows, table runners, and quilts for family, friends, and neighbors out of scraps of cloth and men's neckties.
Despite enduring the horror of war so young, Bob maintains a positive attitude at 95 years young.
"We all look ahead instead of looking backwards, that's my motto. People ask me what my secret to living so long is. I say, 'I have no secret I just keep breathing,' which is important," Brodbeck said with a laugh.