Lester K. Zick, a retired postal supervisor and decorated World War II anti-tank gunner who wrote of his experiences landing with the 29th Division on D-Day, died of respiratory failure Tuesday at Franklin Square Hospital Center. The longtime Overlea resident was 89.
Mr. Zick was born in Baltimore, the son of a Belair Market stall-keeper, and raised on Milton Avenue. He was a graduate of city public schools.
In 1941, he enlisted in the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division, and in late 1942 shipped out with his division aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth for England.
Mr. Zick spent the next two years training at Tidworth in Cornwall.
"After a year and nine months of extensive training in England, we were ready for the anticipated invasion that our destiny had brought us to this point," Mr. Zick wrote in the the 29th Division Association newsletter.
On May 30, 1944, Mr. Zick's anti-tank company was loaded aboard a landing ship tank and cruised up the English Channel, where they anchored until invasion day, June 6, 1944.
At 6:30 a.m. June 6, they headed toward Omaha Beach.
"The 116th Infantry Regiment was to land first, followed by the 115th and then the 175th. The 116th was pinned down on the beach by heavy German fire. So the 115th moved about 500 meters up the coast and quickly secured the high ground near St. Laurent-Su-Mer," he wrote.
"To look at the bodies on the beach and floating in the water, was a terrible sight to see," he wrote. "Because of the hills, the 116th could not advance off the beach. With sheer guts they breached a gap and moved out of the hellhole."
It wasn't until the next day that Mr. Zick and his unit finally landed on the beach and fought their way through to St. Lo.
In his account, Mr. Zick recounts an incident when a U.S. enlisted man on horseback murdered two prisoners of war. The enlisted man was in charge of two Germans soldiers and nine Poles who fought with the Nazis.
"He then took out his pistol and shot the two Germans prisoners in the back of the head. He turned his horse around and returned the way he came. I told the Polish prisoners to continue down the road until they met some American soldiers who would direct them to a prisoner of war camp," he wrote.
"I then told my men, 'Let's get the hell out of here.' We're not getting involved in anything like what just happened."
While recuperating in England after being wounded, Mr. Zick learned that the soldier was being held for the murder of the two German prisoners.
His monograph also recorded lighthearted moments, such as when he and his men were frustrated in their efforts to dig foxholes because residents of a French village had buried hundreds of dishes for safekeeping.
He also recalled watching a woman who took advantage of a momentary lull in battle. The woman came down a country road and milked a cow standing in a field near where the Army had placed a 57 mm anti-tank gun. Once her task was completed, she slowly shambled back up the road.
Mr. Zick, who was seriously wounded by shrapnel while fighting in Brittany, managed to hobble to a battalion aid station where he wrote that he was "shocked to see so many wounded in the tent I was in, with just one nurse to treat them."
Recovering from his wounds, Mr. Zick wrote, "After coming back from the depths, I considered myself one lucky and proud GI."
Mr. Zick, who attained the rank of staff sergeant, was awarded the Bronze Star for "meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy," and a Purple Heart.
He remained active in the Army Reserve and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1975.
Mr. Zick worked for more than 30 years as a U.S. Postal Service supervisor at the Dundalk and Gwynn Oak post offices. He retired in 1975.
In 1994, he and his wife, the former Marianne Sandoz, whom he married in 1947, returned to Normandy to participate in the 50th-anniversary celebration of the D-Day landings.
An active member of the 29th Division Association, Mr. Zick was also a Mason and a member of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He was a member of St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church.
He enjoyed traveling to England, where he had met his wife at a dance in Birmingham during the war.
Services were Friday.
Also surviving are two sons, Terry L. Zick of Abingdon and Brian M. Zick of Overlea; a daughter, Sally K. Hohene of Fallston; and two grandchildren.