World War II vet passes away just weeks following D-Day annivers - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

World War II vet passes away just weeks following D-Day anniversary tour

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ROCK HILL, SC (WIS) -

One of the 22 World War II veterans from South Carolina who traveled to France as part of the D-Day Anniversary tour has passed.

Rock Hill's Charles "Floyd" Hailey, 86, was suffering from stage four pancreatic cancer. Prior to his trip back to Normandy, his family said he talked about very little outside of that trip.

For most of the trip, the soft-spoken Hailey never spoke of his diagnosis.

"He probably already knew he only had days, but he knew that," Hailey's life-long friend and veteran Ted Teagle said.

Teagle grew up with Hailey and knew him for 80 years. Both lied to enlist in the Navy at the age of 15 back in 1943.

"We were both too young," Teagle admitted, "but at least I was average size. He was so little, he'd have to run around in a shower to get wet."

Even 70 years later when the two returned to Normandy together, Hailey rarely spoke of his work as a Navy corpsman and being charged with the responsibility of transporting and caring for thousands of wounded servicemen.

"One of the regrets he had was that he couldn't save everybody," Michael Taylor said. " He did his best to try and save all these men. They were wounded and dying. And some of the ones where nothing could be done, he told me he would just hold their hand and make them comfortable as they could be."

The highlight of the trip for Hailey came as he and the veterans visited an apple cider distillery.

"He walks up to this place he's never been, this distillery, and there's a huge commemorative poster," said Teagle.

"He said, 'That's my ship!'" Hailey's friend Jim Null continued. "He saw, from a distance, that that was the ship and he got off the bus and went running over there."

The ship that Hailey referred to was the LST that he spent so much time on. That ship made, according to Taylor, made six journeys from England to Utah Beach.

"I think he had achieved his goal in life at that point," Null said. "He was ready to be taken."

Hailey returned home to spend two final weeks with his family in his hometown of Rock Hill.

"He kinda knew that was the end," Teagle said, "and that was kind of an exclamation point for his life."

Following the war, Hailey spent most of his career as a realtor and appraiser.

Hailey married his second wife and childhood sweetheart, Nancy, 21 years ago. He is survived now by three children and six grandchildren.

Sadly, Hailey and his daughter, Fran, were making plans to go back to Normandy one final time in between his chemotherapy treatments.

Hailey passed away in the hospital last Wednesday morning.

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