"We had no idea what an invasion was really like," Fournier recalls. After practice runs loading and unloading equipment, he and his fellow navy construction troops "were pretty cocky." Waiting on a barge while fighting raged six miles away on Omaha Beach, his buddies played pinochle while Fournier watched for the flashing lights that would summon them into history.
When the battalion finally landed near dusk, Fournier stumbled and fell over what he quickly realized was a corpse. "Charlie's had a hard day," one of the GIs joked. "Everyone laughed," Fournier says, "to keep from crying."
Their first task, the next morning, was graves detail. About 3,000 young Americans died on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Fournier's Seabees picked up the bodies--"all shot up, maybe the legs missing and the arms missing"--and delivered them to freshly dug graves.