Valdosta Daily Times

October 23, 2013

The man who never forgot D-Day

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Early each June, Earl Blocker would call or visit The Times office. Each time, his message was clear and succinct.

Don’t forget D-Day.

He would call or drop by to remind us to publish a story about the anniversary of June 6, 1944, which was the largest combination air, sea and land invasion in the world’s history. D-Day: The bloody introduction of Allied forces to conquered Europe.  

“On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy,” according to the D-Day Museum. “The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 34,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7,900 airborne troops.

“By the end of 11 June, 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches.”

Estimated Allied casualties for D-Day were 10,000 with 2,500 dead.

D-Day: Earl Blocker was there. He faced the choppy seas, the overcast skies, the relentless artillery fire erupting from German pillboxes. At approximately 7 a.m., June 6, 1944, as planes dropped bombs, as Allied battleships and destroyers fired their guns at German positions, 18-year-old Earl Blocker rushed off the lowering heavy doors of LST 522 onto the bloody sands of Normandy.

Each June, he would come to The Times to remind us and the rest of the area of what he and so many other young men — teenagers, really — sacrificed and accomplished so many years ago.

“A lot of people tend to forget what happened,” Blocker said in a past interview, “but if we wouldn’t have stormed that beach, everyone would be speaking German and bowing to the (Japanese).”

Come next June, Blocker will be unable to remind the area about the 70th anniversary of D-Day. We will have to remember on our own.

Like so many World War II veterans, Earl Blocker succumbed to age.

A few weeks ago, on Oct. 6, Blocker died at his home. His last war was with cancer. He was 88 years old, nearly 70 years older than the young man who stormed Normandy. A Navy combat veteran, Blocker served in World War II and the Korean War.

In addition to surviving D-Day in the European Theater, he fought in Okinawa in mid-1945. His obituary noted that Blocker was stationed in Okinawa “during the contemplated invasion of Japan. He was ‘aboard ship’ in Okinawa ready for battle when President Truman approved the dropping of the atom bomb that ended World War II.”

He served in the Navy Reserves following World War II but was called back to active duty to serve during the Korean War.

Outside of his military service, Blocker was a 1943 graduate of Glennville High School. He attended the University of Georgia and Southern Technical University; he graduated with a degree in engineering. He worked for Thompson Industries/ITT in Valdosta; he worked in insurance and retired as a broker in 1984. He worked with Reames & Son Construction Company.

He and wife Joan Reames Blocker raised two sons and two daughters.

His interests included fishing and he had a “special passion for football of any kind from the youth leagues to pro leagues with a keen zest for the Valdosta High Wildcats and the Georgia Bulldogs.”

Yet, as a lifetime member of Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 1777, American Legion Post 13, the Voiture Local 711, and Forty & Eight Veterans organizations, Blocker never forgot what he experienced at war and he wanted no one to ever forget the sacrifices of his comrades.

He could never forget.

“Brother, this was hell,” Blocker said several years ago of D-Day. “The (Germans) were throwing everything they had at us, and believe me, we were blowing them apart.”

With 2,500 dead, Blocker considered himself lucky.

“On one of the trips back to the beach, I got some shrapnel in my eye, but considering what happened, it was nothing. If you were able to walk, you were able to fight.”

Throughout his life, into his 80s, Earl Blocker would say, despite what he saw, despite what he knew, if his nation called, he would fight again.