World War II

THE PRIVILEGE OF PLAYING A PART

“February 10, 1944: I am glad to be leaving…it seems there is another job to be done in which I have the privilege of playing a part. I am going to describe my trip…in a hope that it will be of interest to those who read it.”

So began the shipboard diary of Seaman Second Class Jack Edward Rowe, United States Coast Guard, as he diligently recorded his experiences in 1944. He probably didn’t fully comprehend it yet, but the “job to be done” was the biggest and riskiest invasion of the war: Operation Overlord, the Allied assault on Nazi-occupied France. He did, however, understand that what he experienced as a coastguardsman would be a small part of a big war, and should be preserved. His insightful and highly personal diary provides a fascinating glimpse into the days and nights of one man leading up to D-Day.

Never blessed with lucid handwriting, Rowe stowed a small portable typewriter in his seabag and spent a few minutes each day pecking out his recollections, observations, and experiences. Jack was no admiral or staff officer involved in making key decisions; he was just a Seaman Second Class whose perspective was pretty much limited to a single ship. Yet his perceptive (and often witty) observations provide a unique voice to the history of World War II. In 2016, Rowe’s family, seeking to preserve his story and honor his legacy, donated the typescript diary, along with photographs and artifacts, to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Now part of the Memorial’s collection, the diary illuminates an oft-forgotten aspect of the Normandy invasion: the essential role of the U.S. Coast Guard, whose D-Day story is one of courage and sacrifice.

JACK ROWE WAS BORN IN 1922 in Rhode Island, the son of Raymond and Reba Rowe. He seemed to have a typical American boyhood during the Roaring

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