TEMPLE There are some memories too horrible to talk about, but too often they are the ones most easily recalled.
When Temple resident Melvin Adams, 89, stormed past 1,200 dead bodies on the bloodied sands of Omaha Beach in Normandy, he didn't have time to ponder the decades of torment that would follow his escape from the Nazi death trap of land mines, machine gun nests and overhead artillery streams.
His eyes were on survival, which was the only prize in the 200-yard scramble from the French shoreline to a rocky bluff.
"You just think, 'What the hell can I do to get out of the way,' more or less," said Adams, a four-year resident of Temple's William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home. "But you can't get out of the way."
His memories of June 6, 1944, are shared by a dwindling society of D-Day veterans who lived through the land, sea and air assault that stands as civilization's largest one-day attempt to crush evil before it crushed them.
During the invasion, more than 150,000 men on more than 5,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft stormed a 50-mile stretch of German-controlled French coastline in an Allied effort to liberate Nazi-occupied Western Europe.
For Adams, who entered Omaha Beach with the 1st Infantry's Dog Red landing at the Les Moulins strongpoint, it seemed like civilization was the most certain casualty.
"You couldn't see anybody; you never knew what was going to happen," he said. "Shoot at someone else before they shot at you."
American casualties at Omaha were estimated at 5,000. In all, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in the five different landings, according to U.S. Army figures.
"There were 1,200 dead on that beach," Adams said of when he came ashore. "That was rough."
He pushed through barbed wire, past land mines, slit trenches and bunkers before scaling the coastline bluffs with three other men, Adams said. When a German commander directing Nazi sharp-shooters from a nearby clock tower was killed, they saw the Germans begin to lose their foothold, he said.
"We all got through," Adams said of his three companions.
His rewards — medals on fading ribbons — hang in a wood-framed shadowbox in his semi-private room at the veterans' home. A squad leader, Adam's European-African-Middle Eastern campaign medal is decorated with five Bronze Stars and one Bronze Arrowhead.
He also has a .30-caliber revolver he took off a dead German soldier. It's stored at his daughter's home in Georgetown.
After the war, Adams returned home on the Queen Mary to a 25-year career with Chicago Bridge and Iron. He later started a foundation business in the Houston area. He says he has never had any desire to return to Europe.
Working 55- and 60-hour weeks was an ironic solace, until memories came flooding back after retirement, he said.
"It's a shame, but your mind don't work like that," he said. "Dead people are something you can't forget."
A widower, Adams passes time making leather crafts and other gifts that he shares with visitors and family. In addition to his daughter, he has a son in Hillsboro, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
"I don't talk to nobody hardly" about the war, he said. "I just don't talk about it. Enough is enough. Nobody in here knows what I did. But I can't forget it."