• July 25, 2014

Stories about D-Day must continue to be heard, shared

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Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 4:30 am

The 70th anniversary of D-Day was last Friday, and it was refreshing to see countless stories, newscasts, tributes and other observances for what was probably the single most important battle of the last century.

I saw or heard tales of D-Day pretty much everywhere I went last week: In special magazines for sale at H-E-B; on numerous TV channels at home; on the radio while driving to work.

The Fort Hood’s parent newspaper, the Killeen Daily Herald, had D-Day stories on Friday and all weekend long.

I’m willing to bet that hundreds of newspapers coast to coast had their own stories, too, interviewing D-Day veterans and others about what they remember of that fateful day: June 6, 1944.

On one radio program I heard, they were playing old radio broadcasts of the first reports that the Allies had invaded France, which had been under Axis control since 1940.

It was huge news, of course, and no one knew it was coming. In addition to many brave soldiers, the success of D-Day relied on secrecy.

While old Army film footage and photos give us a glimpse of what D-Day was like, it’s hard to grasp the magnitude of the operation that day.

Nine Allied infantry divisions — three airborne and six infantry — assaulted a 50-mile stretch of coastline that was heavily guarded by a well-trained and experienced German army.

Many young American soldiers died within seconds of their landing crafts hitting the beach, gunned down by machine-gun fire or mortar blasts.

As I read, watched or listened to D-Day stories last week, I couldn’t help but think about how few D-Day veterans are left.

Sadly, most of the soldiers who stormed the beaches that day are no longer alive. Many of those still alive are now in their 90s or close to it. Every day, hundreds of World War II vets die. In some cases, their personal war stories are never told.

My grandfather was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. He died in 1975, the same year I was born.From what I’ve been told, he never really talked about the war. That was his decision and I understand it.

Still, I wish I knew his story.

It’s important that the media or others try to record those stories for future generations to hear.

Soon, the opportunity to listen to those stories from the soldiers who lived through it will be gone.

Jacob Brooks is a former tanker and the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at jbrooks@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7468.

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