Video: Northwestern alum Stephen Colbert reads uncle’s D-Day letters

A paratrooper veteran reenacting the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
An unidentified U. S. veteran jump frees a C-47 Dakota plane over Dekots Saint-Mere-Eglise, Normandy, Sunday June 5, 1994. Veterans from the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted onto the areas around Saints- Mare- Eglise in a reenactment of their D-Day jump. | File photo.

Comedian and Northwestern University alumnus, Stephen Colbert is known for his comedic caricature of Republicans on the Daily Show and Colbert Report.

But on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Colbert offered a more sincere and sobering glimpse into the funnyman’s family tree.

1st Lieutenant Andrew Tuck III of Fox Company, 101st Airborne, 506th PIR, was Colbert’s uncle. Tuck parachuted into Normandy hours before the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944. He sent dozens of letters home to his family in the days leading up to D-Day and the brutal days that followed.

The letters reveal the grizzly reality of war, such as a request for a new stiletto blade, to salacious regalements of Parisian models and cognac while on leave from the front lines. Regardless of subject matter, the letters are often eloquent and pensive.

“Here I am on a hillside, master of all I view,” Colbert read to Tapper from Tuck’s letter to his mother. ”Each valley smiles back up to me, its face wrinkled with roads and gardens and clustered houses. This is England in the Spring of ’44 and warriors gaze eastward, as warriors have before.”

Tuck died in a vehicle accident in Austria shortly after the defeat of the Nazis. He was 23-years-old.

Colbert reflects after sharing the letters with Tapper, the letters from the uncle he never met, who took part in a history impossible to forget.

“The idea of marching into the teeth of that fire, running into the teeth of that fire is unbelievably harrowing and unbelievably terrifying, and heart wrenching,” Colbert said in his interview with Tapper. “It’s alive. It’s not history. It’s alive.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Tuck was in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, he was in the 506th. 

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