Jim Radford was 15 years old in 1944. That didn’t stop him from serving in the war.
Though he was just a ship’s galley boy for the British Royal Navy during WWII, Radford is now the youngest WWII veteran alive.
That war is over. Times change, but something remain the same. Radford has always loved music, the Mercury News reports, and has even recorded a few tracks of his own. In June 2019, he released an updated version of one of those songs, a ballad remembering those who fought on the shores of Normandy.
Radford first penned “The Shores of Normandy” in 1969 after revisiting the site for the first time after the war. It wasn’t on the Billboard Music Charts, it wasn’t even on most radio stations. His updated version ranked in the top slot of Amazon’s singles chart throughout early June, however, topping Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, and Billie Eilish.
Money from the sales of Radfords song are going to the British Normandy Memorial, a new installation overlooking Gold Beach in Ver-sur-Mer, which will commemorate those who fought on D-Day 75 years ago.
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“I’m obviously delighted and extremely surprised to be No. 1 on this particular chart, and I hope it does well because the more copies are downloaded, the more money we’ll have to pay for this wonderful memorial we’re building here,” Radford said “It’s very important to me and other veterans that there should be a place like this where people can come and reflect because we’re not going to be around for much longer to tell the story, and the story needs to be told because people need to learn lessons from it.”
Radford’s song echoes memories of a place where tens of thousands of soldiers died. Even Radford had trouble turning those memories into words. Anyone would, as it’s not easy to confront the realities of war.
“I had been back to France, but I hadn’t been to Normandy. I remember it all very clearly, but I thought I’d got it all in perspective and I wasn’t going to be emotional about it,” he said. “It wasn’t until I went back, saw the children playing on the beach, that I was sort of overwhelmed with recollection of what I’ve seen and moved to tears by the contrast, as a lot of veterans were.”
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.