WELLINGTON, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wellington veteran, who survived arguably two of the most brutal battles of WWII, says when he arrived back on U.S. soil, he felt lucky to be alive.
Paul Ybarra said even preparing to sit down to talk to us about his experience, caused him to have dreams about his time in WWII.
He said more than seven decades later he is sharing his story of survival, so his family will be able to share the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, for generations to come.
“We were in a movie, and they showed it on the screen, and everybody jumped up and went home, and locked their doors it was just something unbelievable,” WWII Veteran Paul Ybarra said.
Ybarra said that was the response in Wellington, when word got out the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
He said he was so young at the time, he never anticipated he would go overseas, then he was drafted.
“Scary, not knowing what we were going into,” Ybarra said.
He says when he was drafted there was no backing out, he felt like it was his duty to go.
He said the soldiers soon found themselves knee deep in water, and they were storming the beaches of Normandy.
“To think how I got through it, yeah it was pretty rough,” Ybarra said.
He also said it was the longest day ever, where he remembers carrying his comrades.
“We had to climb over the hedge rows with some of the wounded, to a road and then go back and patrol,” Ybarra said.
He said they lost so many men in their unit.
“Like a miracle, to be there and to have made it back,” Ybarra said.
He said after they liberated Paris, they headed to a German village.
“It was an open field, where we was going through and that’s where I got a bullet wound in my back,” Ybarra said.
In no time, Ybarra was back on the front lines and was wounded again.
He said German stragglers were dropping mortar shells.
“One of them shells hit the tree tops as I was going, and they were dropping down and shrapnel hit me in the leg,” Ybarra said.
For his wounds and heroic actions, Ybarra received two purple hearts and a bronze star.
“I think really I deserved them, and I am real proud of them,” Ybarra said.
The decorated soldier would then go back into action, he also fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
“I feel like I done something great for the county,” Ybarra said.
Following the last German offensive campaign of the war, Ybarra said his war buddies snapped a photo that featured a man with his back to the camera. The man was a German prisoner of war.
Ybarra said the photo was captured, just before the greatest journey of all, home.
“I can’t believe it, after we went through all that and come back and talk about it,” Ybarra said.
Ybarra said he was shocked to see the German soldiers were just like them.
He said they’d been made to believe the Germans were super soldiers.
He said when he was face to face with the enemy he realized, they looked just like the guy who lived next door to him in Kansas.