Watch CBS News

WWII vet from Northern California flies to France to commemorate 80th anniversary of D-Day

WWII vet from Fairfield heads to France to commemorate D-Day
WWII vet from Fairfield heads to France to commemorate D-Day 02:17

SACRAMENTO – A Northern California World War II veteran is headed back to France to visit Normandy for the first time since the war.

June 6, 2024 will mark 80 years since the D-Day landings.

To honor that anniversary, a number of World War II vets are being flown out to France next week. President Biden is also set to visit and attend commemorations. 

Dan Dougherty, a longtime Marin County resident who now lives in Fairfield, is one of those vets being flown out as part of American Airlines' Old Glory Honor Flight program. 

"Well, I've been back to Europe several times, but this will be the first time since the war that I've been to Normandy," Dougherty said as he flew out from Sacramento International Airport on Thursday.

Dan Dougherty in 1945 and today.

Dougherty arrived in France several months after D-Day, but he was later part of the unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp.

"We came up on the long train of box cars full of corpses … we were infantry used to death and destruction, but you can't get used to walking up to a train and finding it full of over 2,000 bodies," Dougherty said.

Thursday was also Dougherty's 99th birthday. He is making the trip back to France with his son.

The number of living WWII combat veterans continues to dwindle. Dougherty will be among the just 70 being flown out by American Airlines for commemorations.

Earlier in 2024, the sole living survivor from the sinking of the USS Arizona died at age 102.

Only about 119,000 of the 16.1 million Americans who served in WWII are alive today, according to the National World War II Museum

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.