WWII veterans recall D-Day 67 years later
Though D-Day was 67 years ago today, World War II veterans Tracy Sugarman and Walter Blum remember the historic events of that day like it was yesterday.
Sugarman was an ensign in U.S. Naval Reserve. His unit's mission on the day allied forces invaded Normandy, France was to transport men, supplies and vehicles to the invasion beaches.
He remembers that everyone was seasick as they circled to land on the beach.
He told CBS News, "We started to get closer and see what was happening, and there were boats, they were blown up, and there were bodies in the water and it was very noisy and you could smell cordite and it was chaos - it was just chaos."
Blum was just 18 years old on D-Day. He was an Army private in the 1st Engineering Brigade. His unit invaded Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. His role was to deactivate mines and pave the way for American forces to move in.
Blum said it took him 15 minutes to make it to the beach. When he finally arrived, he was greeted by a German assault.
He said, "The explosions on the beach and in the water were almost deafening."
Some boats, Sugarman said, couldn't make it to the beach and the soldiers ran off into eight feet of water and drowned.
"Many of the personnel were unable to swim or those who could swim couldn't swim with 60 pounds of equipment on your back," he said. "You were top heavy. And the fellows who were shorter than us just disappeared. It just took them down."
He added, "Everybody had to confront the reality that yeah you're going to have to fight your way ashore and then you're going to have fight your way inland."
Blum said, "A lot of fellows got on the beach with nothing. They lost everything.
Once on the beach, Sugarman said "everything was going to hell."
"There was firing going on there were planes roaring in, there was bombs being dropped behind the beaches," he said. "... As far as sound, everything was going off at once and you were on your own mission making your way through all of this."
Germans were bombarding the beach with mortar shells, Blum said.
"It was difficult to tell who was shooting at whom," he said.
Sugarman said the most vivid sight were "these army guys."
"These were kids that were walking into a German army that'd been waiting for them," he said. "You know that was staggering for me."
Blum said, "If anyone asked me how I felt I said, 'I'm scared.' Everyone was scared. I see the beaches not in black and white like a documentary, but as a nightmare in a way."
"You saw people that were very alive one minute and very dead the next minute," Sugarman said. "And then when I went to the cemetery atop of the Omaha Beach years later and saw the rows upon rows upon rows of dead kids who had never started their lives and it made an enormous impression on me."
Blum said the war was monumental. He said, "When I look back at it, it was amazing the amount of effort, too to put this war together."
Sugarman calls World War II "necessary."
"It was absolutely essential that we win it," he said. "And we did."
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