BILLINGS- As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a Laurel man is thinking back about his own uncle, who lost his life in the invasion of Normandy.
It was about five years ago that Dan Kautz first took a good look inside an envelope that his father had passed on to him, and it took him straight back in time to 1944.
“I never really looked at it in detail. And then one day, I didn’t have anything to do and dug it out. And I was pretty amazed,” said Kautz.
The papers inside included the dreaded Western Union telegram, alerting the family that Kautz’ uncle, Private Henry Kautz of Laurel, had been killed in action in France.
Private Kautz was one of the thousands of 101st Airborne paratroopers who landed in Normandy on D-Day. His family didn’t find out about his death until a month after it happened. They didn’t learn the details until that fall, when they received a letter from the privates commanding officer.
“They parachuted in on D-Day,” said Kautz. “Their plane was off track a little bit, so of course when they parachuted in they were off track.”
The group spent three days trying to fight their way back to the rest of their unit, taking some German prisoners in the process when they again came under fire.
“My uncle was trying to use them (the prisoners) as a shield to get the other men by and it did work. It got the other men by but then my uncle was killed.”
The letter goes on to say that private Kautz died a soldier’s death—that his parents should be proud– and that his company would always honor his memory.
“Of course, he received a purple heart because everybody who is wounded or passes away receives that. The one thing that I thought he should have had is a bronze star because of what he done. He saved these guys risking his own life and got them through,” said Kautz.
Private Henry Kautz never returned home. He lies buried in France with the many other unsung American heroes who gave their all when the fate of the world hung in the balance.