MCLEANSBORO - Bert Teffertiller remembers June 6, 1944, when there was but 10 minutes left to prepare for Allied forces to cross the English Channel "even though it was dark and the sky was as thick as blackbirds with our planes and the British planes."
The McLeansboro resident was an Army technical sergeant and waded in the English Channel loading troops onto LST boats and service equipment when needed.
Teffertiller grew up in Christopher and worked in a clothing store through high school. After attending Southern Illinois Normal College (now SIUC), he managed a clothing store in Herrin.
In December 1942, many of his friends had left to fight in World War II and Teffertiller decided he should follow. After training on bases in the United States, he eventually landed in Scotland and served in England, preparing for the Normandy invasion.
As a supply sergeant he oversaw the supplies for a company of 112 men, providing necessities such as clothing, weapons, ammunition and vehicles. He said Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and later U.S. President, was often in the area where he worked.
There was not much time for calm before the invasion.
"We were sleeping in foxholes five to six feet beneath to avoid bombs and missiles going over-head," Teffertiller said.
He said sleeping in the foxholes caused a bend in his spine and forced him to stay on medication for more than 60 years.
Waiting for the invasion, Teffertiller said, took its toll on the soldiers' nerves. He said on June 4 and June 5 weather conditions were too rough to begin the invasion.
"By that time all the soldiers were on edge," Teffertiller said. "They were ready to go."
On the day of the invasion he recalled loading young soldiers onto the boats who were carrying large rolls of barbed wire and other equipment that weighed them down to the point that it was difficult to walk. The invasion costs the lives of thousands of Allied troops, some from his company.
After D-Day, Teffertiller decided he had done enough, accepted his honorable discharge and headed home. After venturing across the At-lantic Ocean on the Queen Mary, he settled in McLeansboro, where he opened a general store, clothing store, shoe store, sold homes and opened his own car dealership, Tef-fertiller Motors.
He was known for his festive promotions that included parades, celebrations and carnival rides. One promotion in 1958 included a massive sale on men's shirts to battle a recession and save a factory that had begun to lay off workers.
The promotion was so noteworthy that Life Magazine came to McLeansboro and wrote a feature on the event.
Teffertiller has since sold his stores and passed the dealership down to his son. But he still works at Teffertiller Motors where he said he mostly contributes to public relations and answering some phone calls. Now 89, he said a lot has changed since he was a 21-year-old shipping off to Europe but he is pretty happy with the way things turned out.
"I've had a full life," Teffertiller said. "I was one of the younger ones going in, but I'm one of the older ones now."