D-Day was the first successful opposed landing on French territory—the country was held by the Nazis—in over years. D-Day was 70 years ago, and to midshipmen of today, it is all but ancient history. There is a tendency to conceive of the Allied landings on D-Day as a single event, but in fact it was just the first step.
Did Churchill and Roosevelt agree about the when, where, and how of D-Day and the invasion of France? H-hour, also from the same military order of Sept. Today, the Associated Press invited us to pause and reflect on the past by taking another long look at the present: images of the men who are still able to return to Europe for the anniversary.
Bob Collins was with Minnesota Public Radio from Army veteran in the 29th Infantry Division poses for a photo in Burlington, N. Corsini served during D-Day on June 6, , at the invasion at Normandy. Memories of our feat of arms are fading. Yet it was an event that ought not soon to be forgotten.
For it was not simply a vast international military operation that succeeded against the odds; and one which called for human endeavour on a heroic scale: it was made possible by the ordinary man. It was the sum of his courage that led to our success. And the cemeteries scattered through this region of France remind us of the extent of his sacrifice.
How it felt to storm through those fortified beaches and what it took to keep going through that long day is best conveyed through this snatches of personal recollection. This is a story from which all of us, and particularly the descendants of those who took part, can draw pride. W F Deedes. E A Neale Landing-craft deckhand, Royal Marines, HMS Glenearn June 6, was very wet, with gale-force winds, and deteriorating rapidly - not the sort of weather to make a landing on a beach.
As we left Southampton Water for the French coast, the waves were about 30 feet high and the ship, although 29, tons, was thrown about like a cork. Nature has healed the wounds. The pre-training for the landings had been very intensive, so initially it just felt like another exercise. The realisation that anything was different came when the first salvo of 16in shells screamed overhead from one of our Dreadnoughts somewhere to our rear.
The shock was indescribable. At about the same time, we came alongside a rocket carrier as it launched its rockets in banks of about 20; the noise was deafening. Suddenly Jerry started to return the fire; I heard someone in the craft say, "Oh, God. I heard someone sobbing and felt the urge to do the same. We hit the beach, the ramp was dropped and the steel doors opened to reveal about 20 to 30 yards of water-covered beach for the lads to negotiate.
The German opposition was intensifying and we began to get heavy mortar fire. The lads left the craft knee-deep in water, holding their rifles above their heads. I saw several men stagger and fall, and can remember thinking, "God help you poor bastards. Having disembarked the troops, the cox called for "Full Astern" and it was then we discovered we were beached on a sandbar. Suddenly there was an explosion in front of us and the bow of the craft reared up in the air.
D-Day: In the words of the BBC journalists (text version)
Fear welled up inside me and I had visions of being blown out of the water. Another explosion erupted and suddenly I realised that we were afloat. The stoker put the engines in reverse; only one responded, but at least we were able to move away from the beach which by now was chaotic, as shells rained down and Jerry began to throw everything he could at us.
Our craft had been damaged and we were shipping water very fast; the sergeant was on the rotary hand pump while my colleague and I were frantically bailing out with whatever would hold water. This was it, I thought; this is where it is all going to end. I felt the tears rolling down my face and was weeping quite unashamedly, working in an automatic fashion. I resigned myself to dying.
I was suddenly aware of shouting; we were passing a control vessel and someone was calling us through a loud-hailer, instructing us to return to the beach. I remember the sergeant shouting back, "Get fed, you stupid bastard," and I was laughing and crying hysterically. We carried on for some distance but were not making any headway when out of the blue our flotilla leader hove into sight to see where we had got to, threw us a rope and took us in tow back to our mother ship, the most welcome sight on earth or water.
Once back on board things were happening around me as if in a dream.
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I saw severed limbs and feet in buckets being thrown over the side of the ship and thought to myself how pink and clean they looked, without any feelings of repugnance. My experience changed my whole attitude to life and death. Life has become very precious and I have resolved to enjoy every minute I am privileged to remain.
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On the evening of Monday, June 5, I remember that - even physically - there was a very strange atmosphere here. My cousin and I had been to church. We came out and I said to her, "I have the strangest feeling, as though I'm surrounded by cotton-wool," and she said, "I can feel something under my feet. I stayed up late because I always did. And then I really did feel the earth moving under my feet, faintly but quite definitely.
Surviving D-Day veterans reveal incredible stories in their own words
I thought there must be something wrong with me. Then I raised my eyes to the window and I saw an extraordinary light. I called my mother and my father, and at that moment, a terrible uproar started, a bombardment. We watched and saw that the sky over the sea was on fire.
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Some of the houses on our road had been taken over by the Germans, and one on the corner of the Rue de la Marine was occupied by officers. Suddenly we saw them running, one losing his boots, others losing their caps, trying to get on bicycles, fixing their things on their backs, and - oh, it was lovely! Sometime towards morning, a neighbour of ours, a Monsieur Georges Aligot, called us over to his house.
There we had a view onto the sea, and it was really something. The sun was coming up and we could see a multitude of ships. We were suffocated by emotion. That evening our neighbour came back and said to my father, "The English are up on the cliffs. I saw the first of English soldiers, helmeted, carrying big mine-detectors. There were about four of them. That was when I realised it all at once - liberty, joy, the prisoners coming back, family life sweet as I had known it before - that was when the tears came. We were the other side of the River Orne, in an area that had been fought over ever since the drop by 6 Airborne Division.