Shepard Smith Talks to D-Day Hero in Gripping, Emotional Interview: ‘We Were Absolutely Petrified’


“It’s just hell. It’s hell on Earth.”

Those words describe what it was like crossing that beach in Normandy 75 years ago, from a first-hand account on Fox News on Wednesday.

To mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and as part of their coverage of the commemoration and history, Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith interviewed in studio a hero of that incredible, dramatic day, Army veteran Cpl. John McHugh (Ret).

At times overcome with emotion, at others still bravely defiant, McHugh’s account of events and his answers to Smith’s questions were gripping to watch.

“Ninety-five-year-old John McHugh served in the Army’s 1st Infantry Division,” Smith began his introduction. He described McHugh’s war-time exploits, including not just D-Day but the Battle of the Bulge.

“On this day in 1944, he landed at about 7:30 in the morning. He says there were about 10 others in his landing craft, and as they tried to get to shore, a German shell blew up the boat behind them,” Smith recounted. “Corporal McHugh was carrying a tripod for a 30-caliber machine gun. But along with the tripod goes the actual 30-caliber machine gun. And the soldier who was carrying that, died. So Corporal McHugh had to crawl along that beach without any gun at all while the Nazis fired at him all day.”

“On day two of the invasion Corporal McHugh says that the Allies faced enormous hedgerows, and they had no way of knowing if the enemy was behind them. There was just so many obstacles to overcome in a long and bloody push,” continued Smith. “After surviving The Invasion at Normandy Corporal McHugh spent months fighting the Nazis in other historic battles including the Battle of the Bulge, he earned several medals and awards, including the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the Bronze Star for meritorious service, the European Theater of Operations ribbon that includes the Silver Arrow or Silver Arrowhead I should say, for the Normandy invasion. Two presidential unit citations and the Combat Infantry Badge.”

After the Allies triumphed in 1945 Corporal McHugh came home to New York and married his childhood sweetheart,” said Smith. “The couple has three children three grandchildren seven great-grandchildren he’s a first generation Irish-American. His family says Corporal McHugh has a beautiful Irish tenor voice and they still ask him to sing “Danny Boy” on special occasions. And he’s with us now, onset. A member of America’s greatest Generation Corporal John McHugh. Welcome.”

“We honor you today sir, thanks for being here,” said Smith.

“Thank you for asking, this is wonderful,” said McHugh, who spoke with such genuine candor he was immediately engaging.

Smith asked McHugh for his memories of the day.

“Well D-Day was– you really can’t describe D-Day. You’re so, you’re petrified. You’re absolutely petrified,” said McHugh. “A guy falling over there, a guy falling over there. It’s hell. It’s just hell on Earth. I can’t describe it any better. I don’t think anyone can really describe it. It’s a– needless to say, I had a bad day.”

He talked about how he had a pistol, even though they lost the machine gun, but that you really couldn’t see anyone to shoot back at. “I just kept crawling up, see how far we could go,” he said.

“And as you crawled along the beach, what were you seeing and hearing,” asked Smith.

“A lot of dead bodies,” McHugh answered.

“A lot of dead bodies,” Smith replied.

“A lot of dead bodies, said McHugh again, becoming emotional. He paused, and he shook his head with the memory. “But… but you just keep going up, that’s all. Gotta keep moving.”

“But there were a lot of dead bodies,” he said as tears were in his eyes. He continued to describe the scene and the events, which defies being transcribed as text and should be watched above. At one point he said again, “needless to say it was a bad day.”

Shep asked him about his big picture considerations back then, such as that they were fighting for freedom.

“I was in the Army, and they told me to go that way, and I went that way,” came the veteran’s veteran reply. He added later “You know, you get drafted. You had to do it, and I did it. Did it pretty good, too.”

One of the best moments of the great interview was at the very end, after Smith closed, McHugh said to him, “that’s it?”

“I think that’s it,” said Smith. And it was.

Watch above, via Fox News Channel.

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