Local World War II veterans remember D-Day, 72 years later

June 6, 1944. Shrouded in darkness, 160,000 Allied troops invaded the 50 miles of beach in Normandy, France.

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – June 6, 1944. Shrouded in darkness, 160,000 Allied troops invaded the 50 miles of beach in Normandy, France. It’s a day that will forever be remembered as D-Day.

“My brother Walter Deck was in the initial landing on D-Day,” recalled Stanley “Stoney” Deck, who lives at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. His brother survived D-Day, but was killed six months later. He was just 21 years old. “He’s buried at Flanders Field in Normandy along with many, many of his buddies. Each with a white cross over their heads. May they all rest in peace,” said Deck.

It was a mission of bravery and sacrifice: Soldiers invaded the German-occupied beaches of France by air and sea. They were soon met with German artillery. The Allied forces’ heroic efforts are considered the beginning of the end of World War Two.

“They served, we all served, we gave our best and some of us were lucky to come home. Some weren’t. That’s the way life goes,” said Ed Lewicki, a World War Two veteran who served in the Pacific theater. He said every time he hears the national anthem, he remembers his friends who were killed in the war.

More than 9,000 Allied forces were killed in the invasion of Normandy, but their sacrifice allowed for more than 100,000 soldiers to slowly advance in the fight against the Germans.

John Zarkowski served in the Air Force in the Pacific theater. He said he vividly remembers D-Day. He was training in Nevada when the chaplain notified the men of the mass casualties in France, asking for a moment of prayer and silence. “Everything shut down completely. We wanted to at least bow our heads to those that they knew the front line that they were going to get killed,” Zarkowski told 22News.

That’s why each year on this day, veterans and world leaders gather on those very beaches of Normandy to remember, and thank, those who died so that we could be free, and those in Europe would be free from Nazi rule.

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