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Dwain Luce
Dwain Luce
Mobile, AL
Dwain Luce was born April 25 1916, and grew up in Mobile. His father was in the lumber business. Luce graduated from high school in l934 and from Auburn in l938, with a reserve commission. After graduation he went to work at his family's cannery business in Mississippi. On December 8, 1941 he asked to be recalled to active duty, and reported on January 15, 1942. He married Margaret Wilson on February 24, 1942 and their first child was born in early 1943; their second child was born in November of that year.

Luce began the war as a lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division's 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion and trained extensively before participating in the invasions of Sicily and then Italy. He was promoted to captain and, along with his unit, sent back to England to train again, this time for the invasion of France.

Early in the morning of June 6, 1944, the tow rope on Luce's glider broke on takeoff, and it was several hours before he was able to take off again for Normandy. The fighting was already raging when he landed near Saint-Mere-Eglise, and Luce soon discovered that there were no established lines separating the Germans from the Americans there. The fighting was so confused that the men of Luce's artillery squad often found themselves firing two howitzers simultaneously in opposite directions. Luce survived 33 days of fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy.

A few months later, Luce and his unit went into combat again, dropping behind enemy lines into Holland in September as part of Operation Market Garden. Luce's glider crash landed some five miles southeast of Nijmegen, a few hundred yards from a German anti-aircraft battery that had been firing at them minutes earlier. After a brief firefight the Germans backed off and Luce and his men set off the find the rest of their unit. It got dark, and Luce soon discovered that they had inadvertently wandered into Germany but he managed to lead his men safely to the American lines by the next day. Luce would remain in Holland for six weeks, battling the deepening cold as well as the relentless German shelling.

Luce and the 82nd went into action again during the Battle of the Bulge, where they were assigned to anchor the northern flank of the American lines.

On May 1, 1945, as Luce and his unit reached the Elbe, he was surprised to see droves of German soldiers coming towards them, hoping to surrender to the Americans rather than the advancing Red Army. The 82nd Airborne took 144,000 prisoners that day. A few days later, while stationed in the German town of Ludwigslust, Luce saw for himself horrifying evidence of the Nazi's industrialized barbarism. A few miles out of town was Wobbelin, a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp, where some 50,000 slave laborers who had worked in German armament factories had died over the course of the war. Luce and his unit found 1,000 unburied corpses at the camp, along with 4,000 men who barely clung to life. On May 8th, the 82nd Airborne ordered the German civilians from the community to bury the dead in the gardens in front of the town's imposing palace so that no one would ever forget what had happened there.

Dwain Luce returned to Mobile after the war in Europe ended, went to work in a local bank and studied accounting at night. He eventually became president of the bank and a leading citizen of the city.