Behind The Scenes

D-Day Through The Eyes of Technical Sergeant Nick Tanis: What’s Your WWII Story?

Courtesy Tanis family

This October, the New-York Historical Society will present WWII & NYC, a massive exhibition looking at the effect World War II had on the city. Fathers, husbands, and sons were shuttled overseas from New York’s ports, while mothers, wives, and daughters picked up the work the men left behind.

WWII & NYC features many firsthand stories of life during the War, but there are thousands of stories out there that need to be told. We want to hear yours! Did your grandfather serve in the Navy? Do you remember the headlines on D-Day? Tell us your connection in the comments! In the meantime, here is one story featured in WWII & NYC: The story of New Yorker Nick Tanis, Technical Sergeant, 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion, who landed at Normandy on D-Day.

Nick Tanis was born on August 15, 1914 in Samos, Greece. He immigrated to the United States in 1928 and married Elizabeth Santoro in June 1940 in Astoria, Queens. Although not a citizen, Tanis was drafted and inducted on April 21, 1942 at Fort Jay.

Tanis was initially part of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment.
The unit left Brooklyn on August 6, 1942, arriving in Ireland on August 18, 1942 where they began
training before heading to Scotland and then to North Africa to partake in the invasion on November 8,
1942. The 2nd battalion was attached to the 26th infantry regiment.

. . .

His regiment landed at D-day at H-Hour plus 2 (8:30am). They watched from the water as the battle unfolded on the beaches of Normandy until it was time for them to land on Utah Beach. They saw the bombers overhead and the warships bombarding the shore defenses and coordinating with the men on land to bomb specific targets. Landing on the beach, several of the fortifications had already been taken by the Americans and the unit got to work setting up guns, clearing mines, and fixing the sea gates that the Germans released to flood the area.

After D-day the regiment’s title was changed to the 1186th Engineer Combat Group. Tanis was in the H&S Company of the 3052nd Engineer Combat Battalion, one of the three battalions in the 1186. After spending several months in Normandy beaches working on the beaches handling the massive amounts of cargo entering the continent the battalion loaded into French boxcars and journeyed for three days to Belgium landing in Eben Emael on November 20, 1944. They mined bridges and remained on the periphery of the Battle of the Bulge. They then returned to France and in March 1945 the 1186th was attached to the Fifth Corps of the First Army, staying in France until the end of March and then moving into Germany in the spring of 1945.

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