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D-Day veteran recalls historic invasion

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was 70 years ago Friday that American soldiers landed in France on D-Day. A survivor of that invasion told his story today to a group of people at University of Phoenix offices in Tempe.

George Pillman was a young Navy Lieutenant on D-Day. He steered a landing craft filled with soldiers toward Omaha Beach that day. He said that the soldiers were confident heading into the assault.

"It was not like we were going in there with the idea that we were going to get killed or something," he said. "We went in with idea that we're going to do our job and make the ship perform according to what was expected from us."

Pillman's job was to drop Army soldiers off on the beach, then steer the boat to an area off shore. None of his crew members were killed.

"That's one thing that I was proud of," he said, "that we were able to do what we did and not have any serious problems."

Realizing that thousands of soldiers died during the D-Day invasion, Pillman made a promise to honor them. Pillman now talks about D-Day at schools and civic organizations.

"A lot of guys didn't make it," Pillman said. "I should live my life according to what they would be proud of. I should try to help the country preserve the way of life that they expect, and that they died for."

About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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