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Posted by on Jun 5, 2019 in France, History, International, Military, War | 0 comments

On the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Some of the Last Survivors Share their Stories

Soldiers wade ashore a Normandy beach during the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of that fateful day when…

…nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed along a heavily fortified, 50-mile stretch of French coastline in the historic operation known as D-Day. Allied casualties were heavy — an estimated 10,000 killed, wounded and missing in action — but by day’s end, the Allies had gained a foothold to begin liberating Europe.

Trying to come up with some original words to honor and express my gratitude to those brave troops, I scanned my articles over the past years and noticed that the most recent writing on D-Day was three years ago.

It described some of events and battles of The Longest Day and highlighting how our allies, especially the people of France, expressed — and continue to express — their appreciation to the liberators, but they were just the words of “an observer.”

Hundreds of great, touching articles have been and will be written for this special anniversary, but few of them will match the words spoken or written by the brave survivors of D-Day themselves

And we should pay careful attention to what these “witness-bearers” have to say as there aren’t many of them left. While there is no accurate count of how many D-Day veterans are still alive today (In 2014, several veterans’ groups estimated that number to be between 5,000 and 10,000), an indication might be the sad reality that only a handful of these brave survivors are able to attend this year’s anniversary on the Normandy coast.

Here are the powerful spoken words and stories of some of these D-Day survivors:

One of those D-Day heroes was Navy gunner’s mate Vernon Lingle, who, at 94, still remembers it all clearly:

And the words of some more heroes:

The following video uniquely combines the memories of Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel, USAF, retired, now a legendary Air Force band conductor who began his military career as a young Army soldier storming the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day, with Gabriel conducting The United States Air Force Band as they perform John Williams’ “Hymn to the Fallen,” a song that was featured in the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.

Finally, back to the written word with the words of Army medic Ray Lambert, now 98, who landed with the first assault wave on Omaha Beach and who shares his story here, at The Smithsonian.

Videos and captions courtesy of DVIDS – Defense Visual Information Distribution Service