World War II veterans leave their children a legacy of trauma

The trauma experienced by World War II veterans of D-Day left a lasting impact on their children at a time before post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was recognised, leaving families struggling to understand and cope with the psychological scars. Recent gatherings of experts in Normandy highlight both the enduring challenges and the resilience that was passed down through generations.

For the largest seaborne invasion of World War II – along Normandy’s coastline on June 6, 1944 – to be a success, three important conditions had to be met. There had to be a full moon, so Allied paratroopers could have more visibility when landing. The tide had to be low enough that thousands of amphibious landing craft could reach the shores of Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold and Sword beaches. And a morning fog on the horizon was needed to hide the arrival of Operation Overlord from German forces.

They did not know it at the time, but what US paratrooper Arthur 'Dutch' Schultz and British Royal Marine Thomas Nicholls experienced on D-Day would outlast their lifetimes. Both men returned to their homes with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder. They struggled with symptoms like intrusive thoughts, irritability, anxiety, depression and nightmares. While the two veterans dealt with their pain differently, their condition had a lasting impact on their families and especially on their children.

“I was hurt and I felt somewhat abandoned. But at the same time, I felt sorry for him,” she says.

“I wanted to know more,” says Nicholls. “I wanted to know why he repressed it for 40 years.”


Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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