News / Europe

D-Day Vets Return to Normandy for 70th Anniversary

D-Day Vets Return to Normandy for 70th Anniversaryi
X
Henry Ridgwell
June 05, 2014 1:25 AM
World leaders are due to attend ceremonies in Normandy Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Around 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel on June 6, 1944 to Nazi-occupied France. It was the biggest ever invasion fleet, and it helped secure an Allied victory. As Henry Ridgwell reports from Normandy, this year’s anniversary is particularly poignant for the veterans.
Henry Ridgwell
World leaders are due to attend ceremonies in Normandy Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Around 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel on June 6, 1944 to Nazi-occupied France - the biggest ever invasion fleet, which would help secure an Allied victory.

On board a passenger ferry bound for Normandy, 98-year-old Tony Pyatt is making the same journey he took 70 years ago across the English Channel.

Then, he was lieutenant in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment and part of the biggest seaborne invasion ever launched. Seven thousand vessels set sail from Britain on June 6, 1944 to take back Nazi-occupied France.

“I sat on the deck of this Liberty ship, reading a book without a care in the world - except that a few bombers were coming over from German planes, which did not hit us," Pyatt said.

It is difficult to recall. I was not frightened. But, on the other hand I was not doing any heroics either. We just had to accept it,” he said.

In the eyes of many, Europe owes its freedom to veterans like Pyatt. Archive news reports from that day capture the hope and expectation for the D-Day invasion.

“In the high spirits of free men launched on the grandest of all crusades, the trained soldiers of democracy left the shores of England. For all who had so long awaited the event, this was indeed an hour of triumph,” reads one.

Within 12 months of the 160,000 Allied troops wading ashore in Normandy, Nazi Germany was on its knees.

“We used to sleep in holes in the ground or we used to sleep inside the tanks sometimes. As signals officer, I had a jeep and I used that jeep all the way from Arromanches to Berlin,” Pyatt said.

Further west, U.S. forces took command of the Utah and Omaha beaches.  Thousands of young men waded onshore from landing craft amid a storm of German artillery and gunfire.

For the generations that followed, those images are seared in the mind through history books and movies. For the veterans, a return to Normandy brings back vivid personal memories.

George Shenkle, 92, was a Communications Corporal in the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. On D-Day he jumped into Normandy with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He has returned to visit the U.S. Cemetery above Omaha beach.

“I will never forget the words of [then U.S. President] Dwight Eisenhower, ‘The eyes of the world are on you’. Now even today this makes shivers run up and down my spine.”

Bill Byers, from Oklahoma, is making his first trip back to Normandy since coming ashore in 1944 with the 300th Combat Engineers. He has come to the cemetery to pay his respects to a friend, Clifford Alexander, who did not survive the assault.

Alexander was aboard a ship sunk by enemy fire off Omaha Beach. His body was never recovered.

“To me it is just something that happened, you know. And we have never talked about it. I did see his wife, and told her what had happened. And she said ‘Well he is still alive somewhere.’ She would not take the hint that he was gone,” said Byers.

Six-thousand Americans lost their lives that day, alongside 4,300 British and Canadian soldiers. German losses are estimated at up to 9,000.

Most of the veterans are now in their ninth decade or older. Many say this will be their final visit to the beaches that still bear the scars of war; to the battlefields where so many of their comrades fell.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Barbara Plunkett Turner from: Chesterfield, VA
June 06, 2014 9:45 PM
Our family - the Plunketts and all relations by marriage, etc. had a total of 56 who served during WWII - some were Heroes with many medals, some were POW's, 2 actually met the Russian soldiers, 14 were in Europe including my father's brother who lost over 1/2 his battalion and his best friend there and was also at Omaha and Italy.My Uncle Adair was in the U.S. Navy during that time. RIP to ALL of my father's family who served and fought Normandy, they fought in: Italy, Battle of the Bulge, one was a Co-Pilot and shot down over Hamburg, Germany and POW at Stalag Luft III (the prison that was portrayed in the great movie "THE GREAT ESCAPE") until they were liberated by Russian Forces in April 1945 & several liberated the Jewish camps, many family members were actual decorated heroes. Several served under General Patton and General MacArthur in Europe. We had quite a few WACs and others who served in all branches of WWII to help gain our freedoms from Hitler's Nazi-ism oppression. My great-cousin Gloria on my Mother's side was a Rosie the Riveter Supervisor. I also want to pay tribute especially to 5 who were at Pearl Harbor and all the many others during WWII in ALL the countries where they served. 2 perished on the USS Arizona - the Murdocks. MAY THEY ALL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. RIP Daddy, Semper Fi, Korea, Okinawa and Philippines. WITHOUT THESE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN - OUR WORLD WOULD NOT BE WHAT IT IS TODAY! We must teach our children to be grateful and NEVER ever forget!


by: Barbara Plunkett Turner from: Chesterfield, VA
June 06, 2014 10:08 AM
Our family - the Plunketts and all relations by marriage, etc. had a total of 56 who served during WWII - some were Heroes with many medals, some were POW's, 2 actually met the Russian soldiers, 14 were in Europe including my father's brother who lost over 1/2 his battalion and his best friend there and was also at Omaha and Italy.My Uncle Adair was in the U.S. Navy during that time. RIP to ALL of my father's family who served and fought Normandy, they fought in: Italy, Battle of the Bulge, one was a Co-Pilot and shot down over Hamburg, Germany and POW at Stalag Luft III (the prison that was portrayed in the great movie "THE GREAT ESCAPE") until they were liberated by Russian Forces in April 1945 & several liberated the Jewish camps, many family members were actual decorated heroes.

Several served under General Patton and General MacArthur in Europe. We had quite a few WACs and others who served in all branches of WWII to help gain our freedoms from Hitler's Nazi-ism oppression. My great-cousin Gloria on my Mother's side was a Rosie the Riveter Supervisor. I also want to pay tribute especially to 5 who were at Pearl Harbor and all the many others during WWII in ALL the countries where they served. 2 perished on the USS Arizona - the Murdocks. MAY THEY ALL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. RIP Daddy, Semper Fi, Korea, Okinawa and Philippines. WITHOUT THESE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN - OUR WORLD WOULD NOT BE WHAT IT IS TODAY! We must teach our children to be grateful and NEVER ever forget!


by: Joanne Maio from: Cocoa Beach, Florida
June 06, 2014 8:08 AM
Naval Capt. John Philip Cummer, who is also my 89-year-old father, is attending the ceremony in Normandy today. He was a teenage gunner's mate on a ship that landed at Gold Beach. The night before the invasion, my dad sat up all night reading the Bible. The next day, he felt no fear...even after he saw a sailor blown up before his eyes. I love you, Daddy, and I'm so, so proud of you and thankful!


by: Mark from: Virginia
June 05, 2014 8:22 PM
I salute you, Old Soldiers, I stand and salute you.

Today, most people know only of your deeds from history books and the creative license bestowed upon those events in movies, filled with special effects. You lived it, braved it, faced it and endured while so many of your friends and comrades did not.
Thank you, Brothers, from one (much younger) Veteran to another.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid