A veteran's memories: Charlie Maupin was in the June 1944 Allied invasion of France that turned the tide of World War II

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 9, 2013 

Walk into Charlie Maupin's third-floor, one-bedroom apartment at Covenant Woods retirement community and look around.

Look closely. Look on the walls and on the tables. Just look.

You will see medals that signify courage and bravery during World War II. There is a Purple Heart on the wall in the living room next to a Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster. On a table below the framed medals is the French Legion of Honor, signifying service in two campaigns to liberate France from the Germans.

Next to that is a decorative box containing sand and rocks gathered from Omaha Beach on a return trip in 1993.

All memories and honors from another time, long ago.

On Monday, the nation will stop to honor Maupin and other veterans, young and old. But to honor an older veteran like Maupin, it helps to know where he came from and where he is today.

On June 7, 1944, Maupin was finding his way ashore at Omaha Beach in the Allied invasion of France that turned the tide of World War II. A young man from Columbus drafted into the U.S. Army at a time of war, Maupin was a radio technician in the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.

As you walk through Maupin's life as documented by what he displays in his apartment, the military honors stand out.

But try to look past that. Look at the computer on Maupin's desk. Look at the laptop with the screensaver of the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.

It all shows that at 94 years old and a widower since 2006, Maupin has not surrendered to life's latter years. Trained as a Morse code operator during the war, Maupin has embraced today's technology -- even social media.

He is on Facebook and has been for about four years. Last Monday, more than 30 people wished him a happy birthday on his Facebook page. He writes letters to the editor of the Ledger-Enquirer; most of them espouse his conservative views.

He sends text messages on his cell phone and responds rapidly when someone texts him.

He can't hear well, which is why he would rather communicate through text, Facebook or email.

But Maupin recognizes the significant changes in technology.

"It is amazing how much they have changed in my lifetime," he said. "Some of it is for the good. Some of it is for the bad. The way I see it, technology has a curse as well as an advantage."

Ready for war

Maupin was married, working at Georgia Webbing and Tape Co. in 1942 as the war was beginning to rage. Because his textile company manufactured fabric for the Army, he was able to defer his service until later in the year. By November, he was facing the draft and decided to enlist in the Air Force.

"I went down to volunteer and talked to the recruiting sergeant and he told me to wait," Maupin said. "He said I would still be able to pick my service. A few weeks later I got picked, all right, picked right into the infantry."

He spent the next 34 months in the Army, training in South Carolina and England before taking part in the invasion of France.

Shortly before he left the United States for England, Maupin was in line to make a phone call home to his then-wife, Frances. With a long line, he almost gave up, but the operator told him to wait a few more minutes.

He did.

"I got through to her that night," he said. "And I didn't talk to her again until I got home in October 1945."

The day that stands out is when his unit landed on Omaha Beach. They were in the third wave.

"As the sun came up, everywhere I looked I could see a ship," he said. "There were ships of all sizes and shapes headed to France. Later that morning, there were what seemed like thousands of planes overhead. I didn't know what to think."

He still remembers what he saw that day when he finally reached shore: "Rows and rows of bodies covered with their ponchos."

"Even I can't imagine the courage and determination those first soldiers showed," he said.

Maupin marched through France and finished his service as part of the German occupation for five months after the war ended.

Back home

In 1945, Maupin returned to Georgia. He went back to work at Georgia Webbing and Tape Co., but the company ended up moving to Talbotton, Ga., and he did not relocate. Using the GI Bill, Maupin went to the University of Georgia extension in Columbus, graduating in 1952. He became an estimator, first for the company that later became American Buildings. When the company relocated from Columbus to Eufaula, Ala., he made the move, but ended up back in Columbus, working for Pasco, another metal building company.

He retired in 1987.

In 1993, he and his second wife of 48 years, Marjorie, went to France. Maupin remembers standing on the shore, looking at the English Channel.

"All I could think was, 49 years ago, I came from that direction," he said of the water.

He also had another thought: "Lord, I pray that it will never happen again."

Three years ago, he was on one of the West Georgia Honor Flights that took World War II veterans on a day trip to Washington to visit the memorial erected in their honor.

"I will never forget that welcome we got at the Columbus airport," Maupin said. "Some of my family was there. Everybody was cheering when we got off the plane. It was special."

Service and participation in one of the most significant military campaigns in history has shaped Maupin's view of war.

"War should not be an answer to people's problems," he said. "The U.S. won the war, but we lost 400,000 young people. Is that winning? War is merely an extension of politics by another means. Who starts wars? It's not the people. It's the people in power."

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