The First Man To Storm the Beaches of Normandy Was Shot Twice and Lived To Be 90

Leonard “Max” Schroeder would have been 103 years old this year. The Maryland native passed away at the age of 90 in 2020, which is remarkable given the dicey role he played in World War II. That’s because on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — Capt. Schroeder became the first American soldier to hit the sand at Normandy. Amid heavy machine-gun fire, he led his men onto Utah Beach. Wounded twice, in the left arm and side, he directed his troops inland for several miles that day, where he collapsed from loss of blood. He completed his mission and his valor earned him a Silver Star. Being first off the boat wasn’t an achievement the broad-shouldered infantryman had sought, nor was it one he reveled in afterward. In fact, he said it was a little embarrassing. “I’ve gotten a lot of publicity, but there were two million other guys over there at the same time. I’m certainly no hero,” said Schroeder. He would go on to spend 30 years in the military, serving in the Korean War and later during the Vietnam War. He retired as a colonel in 1971. He and his family settled in Florida, where his Army boots and uniform are still displayed in the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo.