Spending the first five years of his life in Regina, Canada and growing up in Los Angeles, California, Economon was one of four brothers to serve during WWII. Two of his brothers served in the Army, and the other two in the Navy. Being drafted in the midst of the depression, Economon had established a a business where he sold common household items similar to tea and rabbit food to make a living. He was ordered to Camp McArthur in Los Angeles, in no time was on a train to Alabama for basic training, and then was sent off into the smoldering center of combat.
Just before D-Day, Economon with several other members of his unit, were pulled out of the Moors in Southern England and were sent to establish a cadre for another unit of the same kind, missing the jump offstage where Normandy was invaded. A few days later, they arrived on the shores of Normandy, and Economon remembers the damage like it was yesterday: “The beach was strewn with all kinds of equipment: knocked out tanks, artillery and everything you could imagine.” He landed in Omaha, where the large, towering cliffs presented a challenge for the 25th Infantry. Upon settling down on a small hill just above the town of St. Leu, his unit watched dive bombers attack the high points of the town. “The dive bombers began coming on the 25th of July, and they caused an awful lot of smoke and dust and the wind was coming from St. Leu and over our positions. As we waited, somebody said, “hey, look up there”. Wave after wave of heavy bombers were coming toward the river. They couldn’t see the river, where they were supposed to drop their bombs, away from us. The dust and smoke had obscured us, so they began dropping their bombs just behind us. They went right through our unit with five-hundred pound bombs. All we had were foxholes. And we jumped in like a bunch of rabbits.”
Economon, the charismatic man that he is, made many friends while serving. Today, he stays in contact with a few of them, and plans to meet the daughter of a close friend with whom he served. Economon recalls one doleful day, when he lost the life of his close friend: “I was in Holland and I was walking towards headquarters and a fighter plane came over and had a bomb dangling. The pilot was trying to get rid of the bomb, and he couldn’t land. Anyway, he dropped the bomb right on our headquarters, killing my friend Arthur Samuels. He was a very kind, thoughtful, and intelligent friend. That was a bad day in my life, but I tried to look up his record when I was in Luxembourg. He wasn’t listed. That bothered me for many years. I would have liked to have talked to his family.”
In spite of all the casualties he witnessed, Economon remained as positive as was possible, motivating himself with the constant goal to “get home”. He and his unit strived to end the war: “We wanted to get that war over, so we got busy and did whatever we could to try and accomplish that. I got a Bronze Star for what they call Meritorious Service, but I didn’t think I earned it any more than most of the others”. His fondest memory of the war is a very unique one. While staying in a small, little town called Meulan, Economon and his two friends hitchhiked to Paris, on the day that it was liberated from the iron-clad fist of the Germans. “That is a day I will never forget. If you had a uniform on they’d give you wine, flowers, food, hugs, and everything. They couldn’t live their lives they wanted to, and all of a sudden, they were free.” A celebration that can only be compared with those right out of a movie.
Economon is an altruistic man who served for our country and remains an inspiration, a role model, and above all a guiding light of how to be an optimist in even the toughest of situations. Today, Economon remains a “lover of this country”. He believes strongly that the war changed him: “The War made me really appreciate what we have here. I went to Afghanistan three years ago to plant fruit trees, not part of the Army, but I realized that those young kids are putting their lives on the line for us. It isn’t a drafted Army anymore, so they asked for it, but I am thankful they are doing it. What we’re there for seems to be dim, and it’s a sacrifice for even the families. We owe them a lot, I believe.”
Interview by Kiersten Hosie on 7/16/2011.