Brothers who Fought On D-Day: 1 Lived; 1 Died

Curtis Wesley Campbell, Dorothy Cox and Jesse Thurl Campbell. (Photo: Courtesy Nancy Carr Curtis)
Curtis Wesley Campbell, Dorothy Cox and Jesse Thurl Campbell.
(Photo: Courtesy Nancy Carr Curtis)

In Jesse Campbell’s last letter home, he didn’t have much to say.

It was May 18, 1944, somewhere in England. The Nashville, Ind., native was “just fine,” he wrote his father.

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“Tell everyone hello for me and write when you can.”

There is no hint in the Army private’s short note of the tragedy that was fast approaching.

Less than three weeks later, Jesse and tens of thousands of Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. D-Day, as it would be known. The day the Allied forces launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

The day Jesse Thurl Campbell, 24, died.

Like the thousands of other young men who perished on D-Day, Jesse’s story is quickly slipping away.

“I met him one time,” said James Campbell, Jesse’s oldest nephew. “I was about 4. He came to visit my parents, his brother. He brought me and my sister both a gift. I think mine was a Tonka truck.”

James may be the only person alive who remembers Jesse. The rest of the family knows him only through old stories, a few newspaper clippings, and a trunk full of letters and photos the young man left behind.

Jesse was born in 1920 in Brown County, Ind., one of at least 10 brothers and sisters. He wasn’t the youngest, but most of his siblings were many years older.

His mother died when he was 13. The family isn’t sure exactly what his father did for a living. Alexander Campbell may have been a doctor or a teacher. One nephew heard he was a traveling farmhand, a niece thinks he owned a grocery store before the Great Depression wiped it out.

According to old newspaper articles, Alexander at one time served as Brown County assessor and was a Brown County commissioner. The family was certainly well known. Jesse was 21 when war broke out. He and several of his brothers were inducted into the Army. Jesse was assigned to the 741st Tank Battalion and in the summer of 1943, he arrived in England.

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SOURCE: Jessie Higgins, Evansville (Ind.) Courier and Press

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