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From Normandy beach
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Porterdale native Clarence Capell got to ride across Europe during World War II.

He was a mechanic, gunner and assistant squad leader for a recovery unit that took damaged or destroyed tanks and other vehicles away from the front to be smelted down and transformed into more fighting gear.

That duty took Capell, 89, from the beaches of Normandy and into Austria at war's end. It also earned him a Silver Star.

Along the way he saw both the wonders of Europe and the horrors of war.

He arrived in Normandy in 1944 just days after the beaches were taken and got to work.
"Anything of military significance, we'd haul back to Normandy," he said.

His unit in support of paratroopers helped liberate the concentration camp at Dachau and bore witness to its indescribable inhumanity. They performed mop-up duties of a sort, tracking down camp personnel and their guard dogs.

"It was terrible," he said.

Better days were ahead. After the conflict ended in Europe, his unit was set to take part in the invasion of Japan, but the Japanese surrendered while Capell was in Austria. The announcement was greeted with celebration.

"We had a ball afterward," he said. "We opened our machine guns, just shooting into the air."

Capell had enlisted at Fort McPherson in Atlanta in 1943 and was discharged at the base in fall 1945 and returned to Porterdale.