U.S.World War II D-Day: Five things to know on the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landingsShelby Fleig•World War II D-Day: Five things to know on the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landingsThe 75th anniversary of World War II’s D-Day is June 6, commemorating the largest invasion by air, land and sea in history.More than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and 150,000 soldiers from the United States, Britain and Canada stormed the Nazi-occupied French beaches of Normandy in a surprise attack.Major events are planned to commemorate the anniversary of the invasion, including at the Normandy beaches and cliffs where the battles took place.Here are five things you should know:Who led the mission? Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the Allied Expeditionary Forces during D-Day, known then as Operation Overlord. The highly coordinated and secretive mission included a last-minute weather delay and attempts to throw Germans off course. Eisenhower would go on to become the 34th president of the United States.(FILES) This picture taken on June 6, 1944, shows U.S. Army troops wading ashore at Omaha Beach in north-western France, during the D-Day invasion. The 75th anniversary of the D-day landings will fall on June 6, 2019. (Photo by National Archives / AFP)“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months,” Eisenhower wrote in an encouraging message to his troops. “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”75th D-Day anniversary a special one: The Pieper twins are finally together in Normandy How long did it last? Following the mass casualties of D-Day, the battles of Normandy continued for roughly three more months, until Allied troops had pushed all the way to the Seine River and liberated Paris from Nazi control. Less than a year after D-Day, Adolf Hitler committed suicide and Nazi Germany surrendered.How many people were killed? More than 4,000 Allied soldiers, most of them younger than 20 years old, died in the June 6, 1944 invasion. Up to 20,000 French civilians were reportedly killed in the bombings. More than 4,000 German troops died, and ultimately, the invasion is credited with changing the course of the war and ultimately pushing Nazi troops back to Germany.How many WWII veterans are left? About 496,777 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still living as of September 2018, according to projections by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. An estimated 348 WWII veterans die every day in the U.S. A decade from now, it’s estimated that fewer than 20,000 WWII veterans will remain.More: Restored WWII aircraft from the U.S. to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy What does the ‘D’ stand for? The ‘D’ in D-Day simply stands for ‘day.’ The term D-Day is used to identify the start date of a military invasion, according to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation. H-Hour represents the hour an operation is set to begin.According to a reconstructed timeline of veteran accounts, thousands of paratroopers dropped in just after midnight. As aircraft continued bombing targets, Navy ships started firing just before 6 a.m., and troops invaded on foot soon after.Donovan Slack contributing. This is an updated version of a story originally published in June 2018. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: World War II D-Day: Five things to know on the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — It was the most massive amphibious invasion the world has ever seen, with tens of thousands of Allied troops spread out across the air and sea aiming to get a toehold in Normandy for the final assault on Nazi Germany. And while portrayals of D-Day often depict an all-white host of invaders, in fact it also included many African Americans.
Roughly 2,000 African American troops are believed to have hit the shores of Normandy in various capacities on June 6, 1944. Serving in a U.S. military still-segregated by race, they encountered discrimination both in the service and when they came home.
But on Normandy, they faced the same danger as everyone else.
The only African American combat unit that day was the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, whose job was to set up explosive-rigged balloons to deter German planes. Waverly Woodson Jr. was a corporal and a medic with the battalion. Although Woodson did not live to see this week’s 75th anniversary — he died in 2005 — he told The Associated Press in 1994 about how his landing craft hit a mine on the way to Omaha Beach.
„The tide brought us in, and that’s when the 88s hit us,” he said of the German 88mm guns. „They were murder. Of our 26 Navy personnel there was only one left. They raked the whole top of the ship and killed all the crew. Then they started with the mortar shells.”
Woodson was wounded in the back and groin while on the landing craft but went on to spend 30 hours on the beach tending to other wounded men before eventually collapsing, according to a letter from then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Van Hollen, now a U.S. senator, is heading an effort to have Woodson posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day. But a lack of documentation — in part because of a 1973 fire that destroyed millions of military personnel files — has stymied the effort.
Another member of the unit, William Dabney described what they encountered on D-Day in a 2009 Associated Press interview during the invasion’s 65th anniversary.
„The firing was furious on the beach. I was picking up dead bodies and I was looking at the mines blowing up soldiers. … I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not,” said Dabney, then 84, who passed away last year.
Linda Hervieux detailed the exploits of the 320th in her book „Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.” She said the military resisted efforts to desegregate as it ramped up for World War II. Instead they kept separate units and separate facilities for black and white troops.
„This was a very expensive and inefficient way to run an army. The Army … could have ordered its men to integrate and to treat black soldiers as fully equal partners in this war. The Army declined to do so,” she said. The Army wanted to focus on the war and didn’t want to become a social experiment, Hervieux said, but she notes that when African American soldiers were called on to fight side by side with whites, they did so without problems.
By the end of World War II, more than a million African Americans were in uniform including the famed Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion. The Double V campaign launched by the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent African American newspaper, called for a victory in the war as well as a victory at home over segregation, including in the military.
During World War II, it was unheard of for African American officers to lead white soldiers and they faced discrimination even while in the service. Black troops were often put in support units responsible for transporting supplies. But during the Normandy invasion that didn’t mean they were immune from danger.
Ninety-nine-year-old Johnnie Jones Sr., who joined the military in 1943 out of Southern University in Baton Rouge, was a warrant officer in a unit responsible for unloading equipment and supplies onto Normandy. He remembers wading ashore and coming under fire from a German sniper. He grabbed his weapon and returned fire along with the other soldiers. It’s something that still haunts his memories.
„I still see him, I see him every night,” he told the AP recently. In another incident, he remembers a soldier charging a pillbox, a selfless act that likely ended the soldier’s life. „I know he didn’t come back home. He didn’t come back home but he saved me and he saved many others.”
After defending their country in Europe, many African American troops were met with discrimination yet again at home. Jones remembers coming back the U.S. after the war’s end and having to move to the back of a bus as it crossed the Mason-Dixon line separating North from South. He recalls being harassed by police officers after returning to Louisiana.
„I couldn’t sit with the soldiers I had been on the battlefield with. I had to go to the back of the bus,” said Jones, who went on to become a lawyer and civil rights activist in Baton Rouge. „Those are the things that come back and haunt you.”_Follow Santana on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ruskygal_Follow all the AP’s coverage of D-Day at https://apnews.com/WorldWarII
D-Day switchboard operator sends her last message
„I grew up on that day.”
– ‘Shattered and horrified’ –
Scott reminisced on how her life took a dramatic turn.
Raised in south London, she started work as a manual telephone switchboard operator at 16, passing rigorous training.
In March 1944, aged 17, she volunteered for the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
After two weeks’ re-training, she was posted to Fort Southwick in Portsmouth on the southern English coast.
Dug into the hillside, its labyrinth of tunnels was the communications nerve centre for Operation Overlord: the Allied invasion of Normandy.
A month before the assault, Scott began special training on the VHF radio she used on June 6.
On D-Day, three operators each from the army, navy and air force sat in a row, working the switchboard linking comms HQ and the front line across the sea.
„There was excitement at the fort, but also apprehension. Will they succeed? What will be the cost in lives?” she recalled.
„There was a sense of anticipation; once we heard the battles, a sense of dread.”
Scott relayed spoken coded messages.
„The gunfire continued all the time we were passing messages and your hearts went out to the men,” she said.
„They were laying their lives on the line. It was quite frightening. We were all very young — as were they.
„I was shattered and horrified, but we had to get the messages through.
„The whole thing was fluid, changing all the time.
„It was a very momentous day. I’m just so honoured that I was part of it.”
– ‘Immensely lucky’ –
After the war, Scott married and had two daughters, one of whom lives in France and took French citizenship in 2001. She has three grandchildren.
„I now have a direct link to France rather than a direct line,” she said.
Scott became a secretary, then a local government officer.
Her lifelong passion remains opera. She saw Maria Callas’s 1952 debut at the Royal Opera House in London and met Placido Domingo.
„I have seen the great voices of the 20th century,” she said.
Her ordered, suburban garden flat is filled with opera CDs and tapes, while family photos and framed opera posters adorn the walls.
Though in her nineties, she lives an independent life: up at 6:00 am, a walk in the park or to the shops, home for lunch, an afternoon nap and no television before the evening.
The switchboard veteran is unfazed by modern communications. Scott has a mobile phone for emergencies and is getting to grips with an iPad.
„However obscure my life has been, it’s been fulfilled. Mundane but immensely lucky. I’ve had a happy, good life,” she said, mindful of the lives cut short or blighted by World War II.
– A medal of honour –
Scott has now been awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest order of merit.
„I couldn’t believe it,” she said after receiving the medal in the post, adding that she felt „totally undeserving, being a non-combatant”.
Scott travelled to northern France on Monday and will be invested on Wednesday in a ceremony at Normandy’s Pegasus Bridge.
Her family will be with her for one of the greatest moments of her life.
„I feel I’m receiving it for all the people in Fort Southwick that day, working to facilitate Operation Overlord,” she said.
Scott has one last message to relay — this time to a younger generation she hopes will never face the sacrifices hers had to make in the name of liberty.
„Tolerance of other people whose lives are different; kindness and compassion for those who are not so fortunate,” she said.
„Wars are brought about because people forget their humanity. So a little more of that would not go amiss.”
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