|Posted by George Freund on June 6, 2011 at 10:20 AM|
I'm sorry so many have forgotten or are so obsessed with trivial bullshit that they are doomed to repeat and embrace with fascism. I remember and I thank you.
'I'm laying with six dead guys around me': D-Day veteran recalls the day he stormed Normandy beach in World War II turning point
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 2:53 PM on 6th June 2011
Of the 16m U.S. men who served in World War Two, only 1.7m are still alive.
Ehlers was one of only 3,454 to receive the highest U.S. military decoration.
Sixty-seven years ago, American soldier Walter Ehlers landed on a Normandy beach in France, leading a squad of 12 men on D-Day who had no battle experience and had spent their Army tours entertaining the troops.
Ehlers's squad scrambled up the beach under heavy fire, and all his men survived that historic turning point of June 6, 1944.
Over 9,000 Allied soldiers died or were wounded. Ehlers's own brother, Roland, was among those killed on another part of the French coastline.
Scroll down to see a clip of Saving Private Ryan, showing the D-Day landing.
D-Day veteran Walter Ehlers is shown sitting in a cannon bunker overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France in 1994 - 50 years after the D-Day landings
Ehlers's medal of honour, awarded for his actions during World War II, is shown in his home in Buena Park, California (left). And a portrait of his mother (right) was damaged in his pack when he was shot
'We had a lot of troops that landed and a lot of them paid the supreme sacrifice,' Ehlers, 90, said, as he sat in his home in Buena Park, California.
Today marks the anniversary of the pivotal World War Two invasion when 160,000 Allied soldiers, mostly from the Britain, United States and Canada, landed in Normandy to begin the drive to break the German occupation of Europe.
Of the 16 million U.S. soldiers who served in World War Two, only 1.7 million are still alive, leaving an ageing population to tell their stories from D-Day and other campaigns.
The World War II veteran recalls his time on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day
Ehlers said: 'A lot of kids have not the least idea of what America went through, in other words the tremendous effort that America put into this war'
'We got on the beach and they have all these people laying down on the beach that were killed, it was chaos,' said Ehlers, who at the time had already fought in North Africa and Italy.
The Germans were firing down on American soldiers from trenches veiled by tall grass, and from several 'pillbox' bunkers made of concrete. Mines littered the ground.
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The 23-year-old Ehlers, a Kansas native who did not touch alcohol or cigarettes, was the sergeant for a free-spirited squad with plenty of experience playing music, but none shooting at the enemy.
One was a banjo player, another was a violist and another played the ukulele, Ehlers said, and they all wanted to dig in at the shore instead of advancing up the beach.
But Ehlers said that was a sure-fire way to die, so they followed him up a path where, on either side, were the bodies of soldiers blown apart by mines.
Ehlers and his men eventually got into the trenches with the Germans, where they captured four enemy soldiers and killed or scared off several others.
Then, Ehlers and his squad attacked a pillbox and captured it from behind using only rifles.
'You didn't dare run up in front of them because they'd mow you down,' he said.
Ehlers had more battles ahead. He received the Medal of Honour for attacks he led on German positions a few days after the landing, making him one of only 3,454 recipients of the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government.
A view of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France in 1994 is shown in this copied scrapbook photo of D-Day veteran Walter Ehlers
For Harold Baumgarten, a 19 year-old Army private from New York, the invasion started badly and quickly got worse.
Baumgarten had avoided seasickness on the boat trip across the English Channel at the start of the battle because he only had some Cadbury chocolate instead of the big breakfasts other soldiers devoured, he recalled in a telephone interview from his home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
But soon seasickness was the least of his worries. A German machine gunner shot down most of the men exiting Baumgarten's boat. There were 30 soldiers in the craft, and only two of them -- including Baumgarten -- survived.
American soldiers disembark from Coast Guard landing craft at the shores of Normandy. Their arrival comes after the main allied invasion and the subsequent Nazi retreat
American soldiers land on the French coast in Normandy during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944
Once on the sand, a shell exploded nearby and ripped off Baumgarten's cheek and left a hole in the roof of his mouth.
After being bandaged, he was rescuing another soldier when more shrapnel hit him in the head.
That night, Baumgarten was advancing along a road with some other soldiers when they came under fire from a German machine gunner, and he was hit in the jaw. At that point, he gave himself a pain-numbing shot of morphine.
'I took a morphine sleep,' Baumgarten said. 'I thought we lost the war, because after all I'm laying with six dead guys around me.'
A veteran visits the grave of a fallen comrade on in Bayeux, France. Across Normandy several hundred of the surviving veterans of the Normandy campaign are commemorating the 67th anniversary of the D-Day landings
D-DAY LANDINGS FACTFILE
The Normandy landings, also known as Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944, beginning at 6.30am.
The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6.30am.
The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944 - and 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved.
The invasion required the transport of soldiers and material from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support.
The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Approximately 10,000 allies were injured or killed - 6,603 American, of which 2,499 were fatal, 2,700 UK soldiers and 1,074 Canadians, of which 359 fatal.
Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed - and it proved the pivotal moment of the war, in the allied forces' favour
Baumgarten believes that during that night, some German soldiers searched for cigarettes on the bodies of his dead comrades. Baumgarten, who is Jewish, had drawn a Star of David on the back of his field jacket, as an act of defiance against Nazi Germany's brutality against European Jews.
He said he believes the Germans would have killed him, but they did not see his blood-stained Star of David.
'I thought I heard somebody say, 'Don't worry Yankee boy, you're going to be OK,'' Baumgarten said.
As it turns out, an Allied ambulance did come by and pick up Baumgarten. But the next day, as he lay on a stretcher on the beach, a German sniper's bullet hit him in the knee before he was transported back to England.
Over the years, Baumgarten underwent 23 operations to heal the wounds he suffered in Normandy. Baumgarten himself became a doctor, and practised for 40 years.
He also shared his story with historian Stephen Ambrose, whose work helped inspire Steven Spielberg's 1998 film 'Saving Private Ryan' about D-Day and the Normandy campaign. Baumgarten has since met the director.
The 86-year-old Baumgarten had another anniversary to mark aside from D-Day. On Saturday, he and his wife, Rita, celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.
Baumgarten and Ehlers, who also was wounded several times during World War II, have given countless talks to schools to describe their experiences.
'A lot of kids have not the least idea of what America went through, in other words the tremendous effort that America put into this war,' Ehlers said.
'Even I was amazed at what our country did during that time,' he said
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394802/D-Day-veteran-recalls-day-stormed-Normandy-beach-World-War-II-turning-point.html#ixzz1OVRxfXlv
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