Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I am honored to know a man who landed on the beach that day.
Morley Piper was 19 years old and was a second lieutenant in the 29th Infantry Division. On D-day he and his platoon of 30 men landed on Omaha Beach.
I have heard him speak about that day several times. It is chilling. He was a young man in charge of other young men. It was a horrible day and a pivotal day. It would form the rest of his life and the future of our world.
Right now, Morley is with his family in Normandy. He will walk on Omaha Beach on the anniversary to attend a ceremony for all those that did not make it off the beach.
Morley is my friend and is what I call a classic piece of work. He ran our newspaper professional association for many years in New England. He signs all of his notes “Onward” and is affectionately known as “Chief” to the people who have worked with him.
Morley is a good and humble man. He did not talk about his service to our country for a long time. Over the last several years, he has been more open and tells the story. As a result, he teaches those who hear his talks about the horrors of war, the bravery of young men, and the definition of courage (being afraid, but doing it anyway.)
I love talking with Morley. He has one of the most wry senses of humor I have ever come across. He is a gentleman who chooses his words carefully. To Morley, words count; they mean something. He has always made sure that what he says has impact.
In a story in the Salem News of Salem, MA, Morley says of this day 70 years ago, “Fire was coming at us for quite a long time. We never really knew we were safe. We could get behind a little protection, but the mortar shells could still reach us. We were always in danger. The prevalent attitude was that we didn’t think we would make it off the beach.”
Morley did make it off the beach when the Navy blasted a hole in a concrete wall. He says that one hundred men were hanging on for their dear lives as they gathered in a small village.
Leadership comes in a package that, from the outside, appears as a kindly, old and dapper Yankee. His quiet thunder has affected so many of us in New England. I am honored to know this brave and wonderful man.
Not too long ago, Morley and I were dining on lobster rolls as we overlooked the harbor in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I looked across the table at this sturdy rock that I had come to know even before I moved to the Boston area ten years ago. He brought me to Boston to talk about what I thought were the changes about to hit newspapers. I was a lone voice and Morley stood behind me. He would later take more chances with me.
They don’t make them like that anymore. That is what I remember thinking as we ate our lunch. The honor, the courage, the dedication to country, and the understanding of what defending our freedom truly means; that is what makes up the man Morley has become. It also made up the men that died that day on June 6, 1944.
God Bless you Morley Piper. You are a living monument to that day on Omaha Beach. You were afraid, but you did it anyway. Thank you for your courage.