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Website Offers WWII Veterans Way to Share Experiences - 2004-06-03

In time for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, a website for veterans of the British Armed Forces has started an online forum, where World War II veterans can post their stories and answer questions for a new generation that is largely unfamiliar with what they did.

More than 20 veterans of the Normandy invasion are participating in the project called "Meet the Heroes." Internet users can log on to the website and ask the veterans questions about their war experiences, especially what it was like on the day when more than 150,000 allied troops landed on French soil to face Hitler's army.

The website's managing director, Ross Williams, launched "Meet the Heroes" May 27.

"The idea is so the younger generations can talk to D-Day veterans directly," he said. "It gives them the opportunity to tell the younger generation what it was like. Typically, these people were 16, 17, 18 years old at the point of D-Day, so very young indeed. Those veterans who are still alive and able to speak to the younger generation, we think it is important for them to be given that opportunity now before it is too late for everyone."

A recent poll by Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper says 73 percent of British people under age 25 do not know what D-Day was. Some of the 1000 young people surveyed said they think the event happened in Japan in 1962.

One D-Day Air Force veteran who is part of the Meet the Heroes project, Edwin Redman, said that it is important for young people to remember what the D-Day generation did.

"I want to say how difficult it must be for younger generations to understand exactly what effort was put into it," he added. "And how hard everybody had to work to get to where we got. To build a force as large as we built by 1944 with the Americans and the British and all the other Europeans that were free people to do and join to go against the Nazi regime. It is something that should never ever be forgotten, the effort that was made against the Nazi regime and the effort it took to knock them down in the end."

Mr. Redman arrived in Normandy six days after D-Day. He is returning to the area this weekend for the first time since the war.

Veterans participating in the Meet the Heroes forum can post essays to share their memories and thoughts and website visitors can ask them questions.

The website founder, Mr. Williams, says is also designed to enable British veterans to connect with each other. In addition, friends and families of veterans who have died can find other former soldiers who knew their loved ones. The site now has about 80,000 members. For the Meet the Heroes project, one veteran named Brian Guy wrote, "Where did the time go? Where are Jock and Harry and all the others that never returned? Where are they now? ? From the fields of Normandy I brought back many memories. Beneath those fields, I leave many friends ... What happened to the time? Where did it all go?"