Memories still vivid for D-Day veterans on 75th anniversary

Veterans reflect on 75th anniversary of D-Day

London — This week marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion that liberated Europe and turned the tide of World War II. More than 160,000 troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944. 

Some veterans of that epic battle say their memories are still vivid after all these years. 

Think of this excerpt from a Jack Lieb film as an early video blog. "And soon we were down at the docks and there we found units of the 101st Airborne Division, who were carrying everything that we could carry by hand, boarding landing craft," said Lieb, a World War II newsreel cameraman.

When Lieb wasn't filming some of the war's most important moments to be shown to audiences back home, he was taking home movies with a personal camera to show family and friends, including showing soldiers imitating Hitler and playing football. 

Any D-Day anniversary is significant.  The one coming up this week — the 75th — may well be the last one which veterans of the landings can attend.

Returning veterans have always been part of these events.  Five years ago, Charlie Wilson came back to Utah Beach, where he landed in his tank. He said the point was not to stay on the beach.

"Get off this dang old beach and get outta here. And never look back," Wilson said. 

He said he'd like to come back for this anniversary too, but at 93, his family said the trip would be too hard, even with his spirit.

"I would still go back today 'cause, any kids listening? I could still kick butt if I had to," Wilson said. 

Leslie Cruise had parachuted into Normandy the night of the invasion.

He came back last time to try to finally come to terms with the death of a comrade-in-arms who, Cruise felt had taken the shell meant for him.
 
He said it helped him close a chapter on it. 

The D-Day landings were a major turning point in the war, but what these anniversaries prove is that at their heart, they are a collection of intensely personal stories.  

  • Mark Phillips
    Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.