Fading Glory: Part 4

By KBJR News 1

May 22, 2014 Updated May 22, 2014 at 10:17 PM CST

Normandy, France (NNCNOW.com) - On June 6th, 1944 the largest seaborne invasion in the world's history was staged on the beaches of Normandy, France.

D–Day's "Operation Overlord" would result in more than 44–hundred deaths, including 25–hundred Americans, and eventually victory!

70 years ago this June almost 327–thousand allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy to fight the Germans on French soil.

With the passage of seven decades, this D–Day anniversary may be the last time many of the brave men who participated in that assault may get a chance to visit the beaches in Normandy where they fought so hard and lost so many.

Bill Becker was an airman in the Second World War and has seen many of his 856th Bombardment Squadron die.

"We're losing guys left and right. At one time I had about, almost 2–thousand members, now we're down to about 1–hundred."

This D–Day anniversary is expected to draw thousands to Normandy to commemorate the day that marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War. The visits have already begun.

As he walked through the thousands of crosses in the American Cemetery on Omaha Beach in Normandy, Dudley Walch of Massachusetts said "We just wanted to take in the memorial here and appreciate the event that happened 70 years ago."

John Velluto, visiting with Walch from Massachusetts said "It's a real sacrifice that they made for us, and it makes me a little sad; very sad. I was in Vietnam, and this is a reminder of when I was there."

Omaha Beach was one of the beaches stormed by American soldiers on D–Day and saw the greatest number of casualties.

The cemetery draws people from across America, many of them veterans. Richard Slota, visiting Normandy from California said "I am a veteran. I am a U.S. army veteran from the Vietnam era. My father was a marine in the Pacific in World War two.

The amphibious landings covered a 50–mile stretch of the Normandy coast. The Germans had planned for a beach assault with bunkers on the beach and concrete blockades in the ocean, the remains of which still stand today. Bob Bigelow of California said visiting Normandy is a very moving experience. "I do have friends whose fathers fought here and I am very respectful of what they did for us and how dangerous and how difficult it must have been and how heroic they all were."

Richard Sherman of New Jersey agrees "You think about all the young boys that died here that never really had a chance to experience life and died for the sake of their country to keep their country free from oppression."

There are more than 9000 buried at the Omaha Beach Cemetery. And still the crosses represents less than 40–percent of the Americans who died in the D–day invasion.

John Marinovich from Chicago, Illinois said visiting the cemetery makes the loss more real to him.

"We feel so emotional about what they sacrificed for and what they've done. It gives you the chills, it gives me the chills."

Visitors we talked with said you can't leave the beaches of Normandy without being impacted and they hope that even though so many World War Two Veterans have died that the sacrifices they made will never be forgotten. "They can walk around free and do what they want because of these people right here." says Marinovich.

Barbara Reyelts
breyelts@kbjr.com