WWII veteran Ray Goulet salutes the crowd, who gathered to celebrate his 98th birthday, on Jan. 14, 2021, in Portsmouth, N.H. Goulet, who was among the first wave of soldiers to storm Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day in 1944, died on July 4, 2022 at the age of 99. (Deb Cram/Portsmouth Herald via AP)
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Joseph Raymond Goulet, a veteran who landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day, has died.
The New Hampshire resident died on July 4. He was 99.
Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to parents who emigrated from Canada, Goulet voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, according to an obituary. His math and organizational skills led him to the Army Service Forces — now the Army Quartermaster Corps.
When Army officials realized that Goulet spoke and read French fluently, he was sent to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division to use those language skills to connect with local French leaders and help open routes to the Army’s objectives inland following the invasion.
On June 6, 1944, he landed with the first wave of the 1st Infantry Division at Omaha Beach, but never ended up having to use his French language skills.
During the rapid advance toward Germany, Goulet drove trucks loaded with fuel, ammunition and other needed supplies to the advancing front lines. He became part of what became known as the “Red-Ball Express” which ran truck convoys nonstop regardless of the enemy, the weather or other obstacles.
For much of the rest of his life Goulet carried the same battered, old leather wallet that accompanied him everywhere throughout the war.
After the war, he worked at several jobs in the electrical supply industry before retiring and relocating permanently to New Hampshire.
In January 2021, Goulet was the center of a birthday celebration outside the Margeson Apartments, where he lived, according to the Portsmouth Herald.
Turning 98 at the time, Goulet had planned to spend his birthday alone in his residence because of the coronavirus pandemic. A social media push led to 3,000 birthday cards being written and sent to him, including from all 50 states and as far away as Afghanistan.
Goulet is survived by several children and grandchildren.