After 75 Years, We Still Remember

French President Emanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump appeared at the 75th anniversary of D-Day ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on 6 June 2019. RD Keep Photo

An unknown veteran is presented a shell casing used in the 21-gun salute on Utah Beach at the end of the 6 June  2019 D-Day commemoration. RD Keep Photo

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a month-long series  about the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

NORMANDY, France – “Helmets on.” “Stay Down.” “Hit the beaches and give ’em hell.” Those were just a few phrases heard as the ramps on the landing craft splashed into the cold, deep waves on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944. The day the march to Berlin began.

For most of the spring of 1944 nearly a quarter million men from nations around the world trained in preparation for the largest amphibious operation in history. The fate of Europe and the world would hinge on what happened in the first 48 hours. Success or failure could determine the language to be spoken for all time.

D-Day. Operation Overlord, the code name given for an event that led to the liberation of France, began with a single step by some 160,000 soldiers, many from the United States, Britain and Canada, and ended with the liberation of Paris on 25 August, 11 weeks later.

This year marked the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. RD Keep, the editor of The Sun, travelled to France with a group of Oskaloosa and Eddyville Blakesburg Fremont students for the commemoration at the Normandy American Cemetery and a D-Day event on Utah Beach. This series will highlight the experiences of Keep and three of the travelers who had relatives take part in the liberation of Europe and attacking Japan.

“For me the moment that was one of the most poignant was when three Howitzers were used for a 21-gun salute at the cemetery,” said Keep. “Our group was standing a quarter mile away and the sound was loud and the ground shook. And that was from one shell at a time. Multiply that sound by 100, add in mortars, land mines, hand grenades and small arms fire, and our own ships sending in salvos on German positions one could begin to get a small sense on what the 9,300 Americans heard as they attempted to reach the beaches.”

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