Soldiers, Civilians Remember World War II’s ‘D-Day’

05:40 June 6, 2023

Soldiers, Civilians Remember World War II’s ‘D-Day’

The attack known as D-Day, by Allied soldiers on Nazi German forces who occupied France during World War II, took place on June 6, 1944.

The landing led to the liberation of France and Western Europe.

On Tuesday, military members and regular people visited the American cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach. That is where the soldiers landed 79 years ago. The cemetery has markers for over 9,000 American soldiers who died that day. The visitors gathered for a memorial service.

One person who supported the soldiers who fought that day is still alive. She was there.

Marie Scott is about to be 97 years old. During the war, she was a communications operator and worked in Portsmouth, England.

Her job was to move messages between the men fighting on the ground in Normandy, France and their leaders who oversaw the operation. One of those leaders was General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Scott was 17 years old at the time.

She was not in danger that day, but she feels like she was in the war.

“I could hear gunfire, machine guns, bombing aircraft, men screaming, shouting, men giving orders,” she said.

“After a few moments of horror, I realized what was happening…and I thought, well, you know, there’s no time for horror. You’ve got a job to do. So, get on with it. Which is what I did.”

Scott called the experience a “pivotal point” in her life.

Mervyn Kersh of Great Britain was also at Tuesday’s service. He landed at nearby Gold Beach on D-Day. He is now 98.

Both Kersh and Scott say they are sad to see another war going on in Europe. Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Scott said she is “disgusted” to see the fighting, and a war should start only if there is no other way to solve a problem between nations. She called the war “an atrocity.”

Kersh said Western countries should continue to support Ukraine with military aid. “The only way to stay free is to be strong,” he said.

Two top American military officials were also in Normandy on Tuesday.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared with World War II veterans.

During his military career, Milley was a top leader in the U.S. military departments that fought in France on D-Day -- the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. He is finishing his service and is to retire in September.

It was Milley’s last visit to Normandy as a top official. He stopped to talk with current American soldiers and gave a special coin to each soldier he met.

Ceremonies took place later Tuesday honoring the military members from the allied nations.

Civilians came to see the ceremonies, too, and to honor the soldiers who died.

German professor Andreas Fuchs teaches French in Berlin. He brought 10- through 12-year-old students to Normandy.

He said, “It’s very important for children to have a moment in their lives to understand the liberation of Europe. And to know what peace has been for 80 years.”

Jean-Philippe Bertrand came from Marseille, in southern France. He called the sacrifice “unimaginable.” He said being there in person is different from seeing pictures.

“…Once you’re here and you see the reality and the sacrifice that has been made for our beautiful country — I wanted to make the trip once in my life to thank all these people to whom we owe so much,” he added.

I’m Faith Pirlo.

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