Paul William Calhoun, a World War II Army paratrooper who recently shared his harrowing story of surviving D-Day behind enemy lines, passed away on Wednesday morning.
Calhoun, 92, parachuted into German-held territory in France at 1 a.m. on June 6, 1944 — five hours before Allied troops invaded the beaches of Normandy. He was captured by Nazi soldiers but soon escaped and hid in various locations with the help of French families until American troops liberated the area.
In the weeks leading up to the 70th anniversary of D-Day, surviving rescuers from France wrote Calhoun, thanking him for his service. The emails led the ex-soldier to publicly speak about his wartime experiences for the first time.
Calhoun developed pneumonia on June 10 — four days after the D-Day anniversary — and died Wednesday in Saratoga Hospital surrounded by family members. He will be buried next to his wife, Ruth, in George Washington Memorial Park & Mausoleums in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
"Dad's emotional French reconnection related to D-Day and the equally emotional and gracious reaction of so many people were major highlights of his long life," Calhoun's son, Paul Walter Calhoun of Saratoga Springs, said Wednesday.
Calhoun served with the 101st Airborne Division's 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, later made famous in the 2001 HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers."
On D-Day, he was assigned to attack German installations and secure the coast for the coming seaborne invasion. But Calhoun was one of about 30 paratroopers to be dropped about 10 miles from their intended target. German soldiers shot him in the hand and captured him. He escaped from the back of a truck and ran into the French countryside.
An underground network of French families nursed his wounds and fed and sheltered him for nearly a week. Calhoun hid under a haystack, in a pile of firewood and in a hole in the forest.
He fought at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, Hitler's last-gasp effort to reverse the Allied tide.
The former Army corporal graduated from Temple University and worked in the cement business in Allentown, Pa. Calhoun moved to Saratoga Springs in 2010 and resided in the Wesley Community. He received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his military service.
Survivors include three children, Candace, John and David Calhoun, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.