‘Dunkirk' will have a different meaning for John Carpenter

We spoke to a soldier who made it out of Europe during the Battle of Dunkirk.

KUSA - People will pack movie theaters this weekend to see a story Americans might not be particularly familiar with.

It involves the Battle of Dunkirk in World War II and the 338,000 Allied troops who made it out alive a year before the U.S. first joined the effort.

John Carpenter will be in the audience with his family this weekend. He has a different perspective than most – because he’s one of the troops that made it out.

Carpenter left his London flat and got a uniform in 1939 – just months before Britain declared war.

“I sat on this bunk and I thought to myself: ‘whatever am I doing here?’” Carpenter asked. “I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here, going to war?”

He arrived in France a short time later. Soon, he found himself at the center of a German surprise attack.

“All of the sudden … the retreat came on and the officers said to us ‘you are on your own,’” Carpenter said.

Carpenter and his friend took shelter in an abandoned French home.

A Crucifix and a rosary were still hanging up in the house. He made a promise he’d give it to his mom. Then, he ran for the beach.

“Little boats from England were coming in, fishing boats, paddleboats, and the boys are swimming out and every man for himself,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter couldn’t swim.

“I just laid down on the beach and said ‘that’s it …. I couldn’t care less what happened,” he said.

He says a Scottish soldier came along and helped drag him through the water and out to a pedal steamer, which eventually brought him home.

“I was lucky, really, but it upset me to see so many of those boys get killed like that,” Carpenter said. “I felt terrible when I got back.”

It’s a feeling that never left him. What a 20-year-old boy witnessed still plays in the mind of his 99-year-old man.

But he’s still here, and glad the rest of the world will get to see the heroism he witnessed all those years ago.

“It did affect me,” he said, “but I’ll get over it when I get over it.”

Carpenter and his wife moved to the states in the 1970s and settled down in Parker. She died a couple of years ago.

John’s granddaughter will take him to see the movie “Dunkirk” this weekend. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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