PRESS RELEASE — Friday, May 23, 2014
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Boise WWII Vet Featured on NOVA's ‘D-Day's Sunken Secrets’ May 28

As the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaches, Boise resident Bob Haga can't help but remember what happened on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

He was there.

And he tells his story as part of the PBS two-hour NOVA presentation “D-Day’s Sunken Secrets” on Idaho Public Television Wednesday, May 28, at 8:00 p.m. MT/PT. “Sunken Secrets” is one of six shows about World War II that air on IdahoPTV between May 27 and June 4 to commemorate D-Day's 70th anniversary.

Haga, 88, was an 18-year-old Navy yeoman second class aboard the minesweeper USS Chickadee, which arrived off the Normandy coast on June 5, 1944. The 220-foot vessel was not only part of a pre-assault fleet that cleared thousands of mines from the English Channel, but Haga and his fellow crewmen also provided fire support with canons and machine guns for the Allied troops who landed on the beaches that day.

“That was the most memorable thing from that day,” Haga recounted. “From aboard the ship, it was hard to tell what was going on until the fog lifted, but when it did and the invasion started all hell broke loose. The Germans opened fire and we opened fire at the beach, but then we eventually had to stop once our infantry landed. I still remember the carnage, and I can still see it now — those killed and maimed on the beach, the sunken tanks that [disembarked] too soon [in water that was too deep], and what happened to the Osprey.”

The USS Osprey was a sister minesweeper that was sunk when it hit a mine during the battle. “I was at my battle station when it happened; I had a camera, saw the whole thing, and took photos,” Haga recalled. “I shared the photo with the [NOVA] producers. We moved in and rescued as many survivors from the Osprey as we could. Many of them were badly burned. It was all very memorable — in a bad way.”

At the invitation of the producers of “D-Day's Sunken Secrets,” Haga returned to France last August. There, he revisited the site of the invasion and was interviewed at length. He visited a memorial that listed the ships involved in the assault, spent time at a cemetery where many of those killed are buried, and climbed board a three-man submarine to view dozens of the ships and vehicles that remain beneath the waves. Those remains, the “sunken secrets,” have created one of the world’s largest underwater archaeological sites.

“It was very emotional,” said Haga, who enlisted in the Navy at age 17 when the United States entered World War II. “Especially the graveyard. The graves went on as far as the eye could see. That really got to me.”

A native of Virginia who went on to work in the railroad industry after his honorable discharge, Haga has lived in Idaho with Dorothy, his wife of 66 years, for the past seven years to be closer to their son, a Boise physician. He says he is proud of the role he and his fellow crewman played that fateful day.

As terrible as the toll of human life was, it could have been much worse if not for the USS Chickadee, Osprey and the other minesweepers that cleared the way for the infantry and armored personnel. In less than 24 hours, more than 5,000 ships crossed the English Channel, along with thousands of tanks and landing craft and nearly 200,000 men.

“Those waters were heavily mined,” Haga said. “We did our part, and hoped and prayed for those who followed.”