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Friday
Jun062014

70th Anniversary of D-Day

Seventy years ago on the 6th June 1944 the Allied Forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, France, otherwise known as D-Day. It was the turning point of WWII.

At the time I lived in rural Hampshire, in the middle-south of England. We were not far from Portsmouth where most of the invasion fleet set out. I was eight years old, not old enough to fully understand what was going on, but old enough to have clear memories of the events of that time.

I remember the American soldiers coming over to England in the months prior to D-Day. Suddenly appearing one afternoon as I walked home from school, arriving in what seemed to be an endless convoy of army trucks, each full of young men, smiling, waving to us as we waved back.

In the weeks and months that followed that is how I remember the Americans, always smiling, laughing, goofing off, a lot of horse-play and kidding around with each other. At the time they seemed like adults to me, but I now know that most were only 10 or 15 years older than I was.

They were teens or early twenties, goofing around as teens will do. To get it in perspective; if this were today an eight year old would have been born in 2006, many of these young soldiers would have been born in the mid to late 1990s. No age at all, really.

Prior to the arrival of the American Army, roads were pretty much devoid of all motor traffic because of petrol rationing. When the Americans came, there was a constant flow of army trucks, Jeeps, and even Sherman Tanks going up and down the roads.

Soldiers were training, playing war games, in the local fields and woodlands. I saw paratroopers jump from airplanes, and I can still visualize the sky filled with hundreds of descending parachutesThey fired blank rounds during these exercises, and after we would go out colleting brass shell casings. 

There was a large US Army camp close by and we would go hang out there at the weekends. The soldiers would give us chewing gum and candy. This was a big deal because sugar was rationed during the war, and we had to make do with 2 oz. of candy a month. I had never seen chewing gum until the Americans came.

Just as suddenly as the Americans appeared, they all disappeared. I came home from school one day around the first week in June 1944 and they were all gone. I went to the army camp that weekend and it was completely empty. It was a surreal experience that I didn’t understand, any more than I understood anything else that went on during that period of my life.

It wasn’t until ten or so years later when I became a young adult myself did I realize what had happened. To an eight year old it was all a game, an experience, and those young men with their happy, smiling faces never led me to believe it was anything else. But after they left and things got serious, they died in their thousands on the Beaches of Normandy, and others in the months that followed.

It had a profound effect on me. Because today I still see the happy faces of those young American soldiers. I will never forget the sacrifice they made; a sacrifice not of their choosing. But one they made none the less so I would never have to do the same.


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Reader Comments (7)

Your story was very touching. The sacrifice of those young guys is hard to comprehend.

June 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul S

Chapeau, Dave, Chapeau.

June 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Well said. I'd like to think you bumped into my great uncle Luke, a member of the 101st Airborne during the Normandy invasion. The most modest and unassuming of men, he's still going strong to this day.

June 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Hi Dave,

Other aspects to the D.Day landings were the French People.

The house that we often see in the films of that time was on Juno beach where the Canadian landed. Pictures of the house a bit down the page.

http://www.battleofnormandytours.com/juno-beach.html.

The house is still in the same family and the present owners have an open door policy for anyone from Canada in the area.

I have English relatives in Brittany that are highly respected in the community in which they live as my uncle was in the British army medical corps.

The present French generation still show all the respect and reverence due to these brave souls. The greatest generation indeed.

Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

Greetings from New Zealand

Many thanks for sharing your years with us, you have pulled me into another time again

I read your write up and was visualising your memories via a Commando comic scenario

Cant say I understand what is happening in the current world of conflict and the reasons for it but I will make sure that at every chance I have I think how easy I have had it compared to these Heroes.

Thanks again and keep it up

Glenn

June 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Thanks for sharing your experience. Recently, two weeks ago, I happened to find my dad’s discharge papers my sister had. I had never seen them and was surprised to find that he was in one campaign, Arenndens, where he received a purple heart. My mom has it with a piece of the shrapnel they took out of his back next to his spine just below the rib cage. I remember seeing that scare at a young age. At the time I thought it was the size of a golf divot!

He never talked about his expereince. He didn't like fire works either but still took his young son nearly every 4th of July to watch them. Usually at a distance. He retired from "Gubment" service after 41 years.

I miss him.

June 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

Yes, what a memory that must have been, at that age. And then one day, they are gone...
Good article here. Sad that most of his negs were 'cooked' due to rushing them through, back in London.
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/06/photographer-robert-capa-d-day

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul (Australia)

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