29 June-The oldest living first wave D-Day veteran officer turned 99 years old. Major General John Raaen, of the 5th Ranger Battalion who landed in the first wave on D-Day at Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944.
Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1943, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army. In October of the same year, Raaen was assigned to the newly activated 5th Rangers and underwent extensive training in Florida, England, and Scotland.
In the early hours of D-Day, John Raaen was among the first soldiers to land on Omaha Beach, serving as Headquarters Company Commander of the 5th Ranger Battalion.
During his first time in combat, Raaen, an Army Captain at the time, distinguished himself on the beaches of Normandy. For his valorous actions in the face of fierce enemy opposition, he was awarded the Silver Star and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
He was appointed as an instructor in the Department of Ordnance at West Point in 1945 and transferred to the Ordnance Corps in 1947. After attending the Naval Post-Graduate School in Annapolis, Maryland from 1948 to 1949, he earned an MA in Nuclear Physics from Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, in 1951. Raaen next served as the Executive Officer in the Ammunition Development Branch of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance from 1951 to 1954, involved in the development of combustible cartridge cases, anti-tank projectiles, and armor-piercing small arms ammunition.
From 1955 to 1956, Raaen served in Korea, first as Executive Officer, 8th US Army Ordnance Section, where he expedited the flow of repair parts and new equipment, and then as commander of the 83d Ordnance Battalion, where he revamped the ammunition stock control system. He returned to the United States in 1957 to serve on the Ordnance Board at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG ), Maryland. In 1959, as a member of the Military Liaison Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission, he was involved in developing artillery nuclear warheads and arming devices.
From 1963 to 1965, Raaen served as Ordnance Officer then Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, of the Berlin Brigade. In 1965, he took command of the Miesau ammunition depot in Germany. In September 1965, he headed up the US Army Research Office in Durham, North Carolina, overseeing programs being carried out by civilian researchers and scientists for the Army. Raaen then commanded, from 1967 to 1969, the Ballistics Research Laboratories, the Human Engineering Laboratories, and the Coating and Chemical Laboratory at APG and consolidated them with other agencies to form the Aberdeen Research and Development Center.
In 1969 Raaen served at Headquarters, United States Army Vietnam, as Chief of the G-4 Ammunition Division, then as Chief of the G-4 Supply Division, and finally as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4. He then returned to the United States to serve as Director of Ammunition in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. In 1971, he took command of the Mobility Equipment Command in St. Louis and in 1972 moved to Rock Island Arsenal to take command of the US Army Weapons Command. In 1973, Raaen organized and assumed command of the US Army Armament Command, merging three organizations responsible for 25 ammunition plants and seven arsenals. In 1975, Raaen served as Executive Deputy Director of the Defense Supply Agency, Alexandria, VA, and in 1976 took command of the Defense Fuel Supply Center in Washington, D.C. Maj. Gen. John C. Raaen, Jr., retired in 1979 after 36 years of devoted service.
Today, he is the last known surviving Army officer to have landed in the first wave on D-Day.
“The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” – Patrick Henry