On the eve of the 65th anniversary of the allied D-Day invasion of German-occupied France, U.S. Army veterans of the invasion gathered at the American Airpower Museum to
remember the day and honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives to defeat the Nazis.
Sitting in front of a 65 year old artillery gun and armored car and surrounded by World War II warplanes in the American Airpower Museum, veterans of D-Day watched as first one and then the second engine of a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter roared to life.
65 years after the fateful day that took the sacrifice of thousands of young lives to change the tide of the second world war, survivors gathered to honor the memory of friends lost in the battle. They also used the occasion to meet others who had shared the experience.
Joseph Cosenzo and Edy Collins had been part of the first wave to land on the beaches of Normandy. Since the end of the war, they had both been searching for survivors of that first day. This was their lucky day.
"For the first time I've met someone who came in on that day. And I hope to keep on knowing him for the rest of my life." Cosenzo said.
Cozenso recalled how cold and wet he was that day when he was dropped off in the rough seas. "The landing barges did not go up far enough so they landed where the water was deep enough where we would sink in and had to kick up to get some air, and then walk in the rest of the way," he said.
Fifty percent of the men who landed on that Normandy beach died there. Cozenso describes the way he felt at the time:
"You don't think that at the moment. You know that death was coming to a lot of us. You just hope that you could make it through the day. Its only one day at a time that you pray for," he said.
His newfound friend Edy Collins had been part of the armored division, or as he called it, 'the iron coffins.' Collin's Company C lost most of its men that day, including close friends. He refuses to talk about the death and destruction. He does however, talk about what it was like as a young soldier. "Many a night, we sat in a damn, cold tank, freezing the buns off. . . and I wished I had a hot cup of coffee," he said.
He also talks about how the French civilians reacted at the first sign of them. "A bottle of wine. Thank god, the Americans, thank god, waving the American flag. A bottle of wine."
He is proud that he was part of the liberation of Europe from the Nazis. "I'm proud that you're standing here talking to me free. Other countries you can't," he said.
Less than a year after the successful D-Day invasion, Nazi Germany surrendered.