HELEN, Ga. — A profile of Andrew “Andy” Negra Jr., of Helen, Georgia, one of a dwindling number of veterans took part in the Allies’ European war effort that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Born: May 28, 1924, near Avella, Pennsylvania.

Service: Army’s 128th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division. Landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on July 18, 1944. Fought in the battle of Brest among other battles. Later served in the occupation of Germany. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 17, 1945.

“Because we saved the world”

It was 1943, and Andrew “Andy” Negra Jr. had just finished high school. He was thinking of attending the University of Pittsburgh. “But Uncle Sam had that finger pointed at me. ‘I need you.’ And, I was drafted.”

The third of four children born to immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Negra expressed no qualms about entering the service.

“There was a war going on, so I went along with everybody else. I just went into the service with an open mind.”

Now, he proudly lays claim to being part of “The Greatest Generation.”

“Because we saved the world,” he said.

He has made the trip back to France before but says his return this year for the 80th anniversary of D-Day is special for the people of Europe, and for himself.

“I’m talking about the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium. All of them are coming to this and there’ll be 35 different countries,” he told The Associated Press ahead of his trip. “So it’s going to be a pretty big event. And at the same time, I’m saying to myself, they’re going to celebrate my birthday,” said Negra, who turned 100 on May 28.

He considers himself lucky to have survived uninjured.

“I saw a lot of bad things. A lot of death,” he said.

But he also recounts meeting his wife at a dance while he was deployed there.

“Second song they played was “People Will Say We’re in Love.” And I told her, I said — at that time, I’m 19 — I told her, I said, this is going to be our song for the rest of our lives. And I only knew her ten minutes.”

As the D-Day anniversary approached Negra was making plans to visit the scene of one of his life’s most harrowing moments. He recalled being on the road with the 6th Armored Division, part of a push to retake the French port city of Brest, when his column was strafed by five German planes. He scrambled out of his half-track and hid behind a well.

“These five airplanes all dove for that well,” Negra recalled. “And I was behind that well. So, when they strafed, fortunately it was a brick one, and solid.”

His plans for his return to France include revisiting the scene.

“They say the well’s not there, but the location is there. So, if possible, we’re going to we’re going to go see that.”

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