Wichita, Kan. -- With the 70th anniversary of D-Day observed in both the United States and across Europe this week, so it is that we give praise to those who fought and died, and to those who fought and returned.
Ralph Fiebach is one of those who came back. Now the former president and CEO of KG&E, now Westar, was the Captain of a minesweeper that retrieved German mines from near the beaches where the landings took place on D-Day. For him, and thousands like him, they had a job to do and they did it. 70 years later he still remembers.
“It certainly does not feel like it was 70 years back. It feels like maybe six months ago.”
96-year-old Ralph Fiebach’s job on D-Day was to clear the mines of the coast of the beaches of France just hours prior to the landing of the troops. He was Captain of this minesweeper.
“The way I felt about it was, that whatever it was, we would measure up to it. And I never really had the feeling that I didn’t think we were going to make it.” says Fiebach.
“I’m grateful that we were effective enough, and that we put enough manpower on the beaches to win that conflict.”
A few days after D-Day, Ralph was headed along the coast when shelling from the coast came too close.
“One went off right outside the forward magazine. It splashed water over everything on the ship...There were so many others who gave so much more, even their lives.”
Today, Fiebach and his wife live comfortably in Wichita, but there is always someone watching his door. That would be his favorite actor, John Wayne!
“He shows me confidence. I always get a lift when I either go out the door or come back in.”
Inside, surrounding him, are paintings he made after he retired…a talent, he didn’t know he had.
“I had a yen to paint, but never really had the time. I really did enjoy it.”
And with the 70th anniversary of D-day, this modest man says he’s thought more about those years this week, than any other time.
“I have to say that I am proud to live in the U-S-A.”