D-Day Memories and Heroism

07/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Leading up to the 65th anniversary of D-Day, The Huffington Post asked readers to send in their memories of that historic day when Allied forces stormed Normandy's shores, turning the tide of WWII.

Though the Allied forces suffered an estimated 10,000 casualties, by nightfall Americans, Britons, and the French resistance celebrated with a renewed hope for victory.

D Day Commemorations

Here the events of June 6, 1942 live on through the enduring memories of those who lived through that day.

We have received an outpouring of responses from survivors and their families eager to honor those who fought. This is a log of memories from D-day (you can submit your own at the bottom of this page):

Kevan Moran Aponte was in New York City on D-Day while his father fought in Normandy:

My father was in the 82nd Airborne, 325th Glider Infantry on D-Day. He landed in a glider behind enemy lines the night before the invasion. If you saw Saving Private Ryan those guys in the gliders that crashed, that was the type of glider he was in.

There was lots of flooding at that time. They landed in the dark into a flooded field. My father was a among a handful of soldiers who survived the landing. He was wounded for the first time two weeks later.

He was wounded more severely at The Battle of the Bulge and was a Disabled American Veteran. After he was wounded he spent a year at a Veteran's hospital in West Virginia where he met my mother who was an Army nurse.

Budd Lewis wrote in honor of his father, J. Bud Lewis:

This is for my dad. Not a well-known story. June 4th and June 5th the SeaBees went over the side of the troop transport with heavy equipment. They were the Construction Battalion, hence "SeaBees". They built landing strips on enemy occupied island and blew up German stockpiles. Their LST's [Large Slow Tanks] were pushing and pulling 20X10 hollow concrete blocks. The weather was like a woolen veil. No visibility. The seas were raging. The rain was smothering. The battalion of Navy SeaBees, who were Marine-trained and whose emblem was a helmeted soldier in bloused fatigue pants, boots and no shirt, standing with a wrench in one hand and a .30 caliber carbine in the other, rode those blocks into the beach and started sinking them by filling them with seawater.

The Germans saw them and sat up on the beach laughing at them shooting them for sport with their .22 rifles. They were no threat. Just great targets. By the time the SeaBees had finished creating their artificial landing lagoons, those lagoons were filled with the bodies of the men who'd made them. Countless lives were saved when the landing began. Those lagoons created a calm landing site for the LSTs. The few SeaBees who lived never talked about what they'd done for D-Day. Dad only told me this story once. J. Bud Lewis was a Warrant Officer. He never mentioned it again. He left his memories of it floating in those man-made lagoons. When I'm gone, no one will remember it at all.

The memory of the Seabees will live on through Rhode Island's Seabess Museum and Memorial Park. According to the museum's website, over 300,000 men served with the Seabees during World War II. They were former construction workers and professionals who knew over 60 skilled trades. In addition, nearly 8,000 officers from the Civil Engineer Corps served with the Seabees alongside J. Bud Lewis.

Henry N. Giguere, from New York:

On June 6th, 1944, I was a 9 year old child of a family that had fled the Holocaust, who understood that war was ugly and frightening. Listening to the war news on the radio was a daily ritual for us, as it was for many Americans. I remember so very clearly that on that historic day we listened to General Dwight Eisenhower speak to the nation about the 'allied troops' having landed in France. There was no joy in my house that day. But there seemed to be a very small sense of hope that the war would end.

But more indelibly, I recall going to school the next morning and hearing my fourth grade teacher talk about D-Day. She asked the class what we thought the 'D' stood for, and I will never forget the first two answers offered by my classmates. One said 'Death Day" and the other offered "Dooms Day," Mrs. Perkins then explained that the "D" was simply a code letter for the army, and not a symbol for any word. Still, even as children, we understood that so many young men had died to liberate Europe. And so they did.

Simon Agmann was in Nazi occupied France, hiding in the town of Lignieres:

We were refugees from Paris, hiding in this village to escape from the Gestapo. Although only 12 years old, I was carrying messages between different factions of the Resistance. I clearly remember two dates. The first is Pearl Harbor. When we heard about it, we didn't consider it as a disaster. Our first reaction was an immense hope: THE AMERICANS ARE COMING! The second date, of course, is June 6, 1944. Our feeling were so intense, it was like our hearts were burning, screaming: Hold on, now they are really coming.

I write this story to render homage to my brother Jacques, hero of the underground, who passed away last month at the age of 88.

Rhonda Crow's father was a medic at the Normandy invasion:

My father J. W. Spann was there. He was an 18-year-old medic. He carried wounded to the tent for medical care. He carried the dead to another tent where they were stacked. Yes, stacked. He walked in ankle-deep blood.

He was sent to care for wounded in the field and stepped on a land mine known as a "Bouncing Betty", one that sprang into the air and then exploded. He lost his right arm between the wrist and elbow and his thumb and first two fingers of his left hand. He received huge gashes in his thighs and side and thousands of pieces of shrapnel that worked their way out all his life.

He was eventually sent back to the states for rehabilitation and a few more surgeries. He met my mother at one of those hospitals. She was 16 and worked in the kitchen.

He relearned to do everything with a left hand with only three fingers and thumb with only the first joint and a mechanical hook on his right arm. He built our house, repaired our cars and tractors and lent a hand whenever anyone he knew needed one. The only thing he could not do himself was button the cuff of his left sleeve.

He was a great husband and dad and after nearly forty years we still miss him.

Margret Daham's father was in Normandy, but not with the Allied Forces:

My story is different from most that will write to this site. I was about 5 months old and my father was deployed as a German soldier in Normandy. He
was captured shortly after D-Day and brought to the US as a prisoner of war. He was imprisoned at different sites, but spent at least 1 1/2 years at Savannah, Georgia. I was 2 1/2 years old when my father returned.

He was lucky to have been captured by the Allies, because most of the soldiers that were captured by the Russians were not so lucky and most of them did not return.

Even though my father was a prisoner of war, he never mentioned that he was mistreated and he formed a relationship with one of the Seargants at camp, and they stayed in contact. When my parents came to visit me in the US, we located him and he came to visit my father, it was such a joy to see this. I stayed in contact with them for many years.

My story is, that even though someone is a prisoner or war, they should still be treated as human beings.

Terence Nickolette from Cotswolds, England:

I was not yet born but my father, an American GI, landed with the 467th Combat Engineers on D-Day +20. He was first stationed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and had married an Irish girl from Belfast. I was born later in Belfast during the Battle of the Bulge.

My mother traveled with him to England when his company was transferred to a base in England. She actually stayed in a cottage in the Cotswolds near his base. His job was to waterproof all the vehicles that would land with the troops. She told me he arrived on D-Day and kissed her goodbye. It had started. She said the streets of all the villages were filled will all manner of war vehicles heading to the sea. She didn't know if she would ever see him again. She traveled back to Belfast through towns bombed by Nazi buzz bombs, windows broken, curtains blowing out.

My dad told me about riding in the LST towards the beach and how some guys threw up all the way in, and seeing the dead in the water and on the beach. Sleeping in a foxhole, listening to the buzz bombs. When the sound stopped you knew it was coming down. Once, while he was eating a meal, he wandered off, and looked in a big pit that was being dug. It was filled with amputated limbs of GIs.

Growing up we would go to the 467th reunions and I would listen to their stories, which were pretty funny. I miss those guys and my mom and dad. D-Day was always a special day of remembrance for them both, as it now is for me.

James J. O'Connor was at his home in Denison, Iowa:

I was eight years old. I heard the sirens go off and went to the front window. All the churches were open and people were heading to their respective places of worship to pray. Fr. Casey, my pastor had given a sermon sometime before about how the church would be open for prayers and he encouraged the parishioners to attend. My mother came home from work and took me to church. It was jammed. That little vignette of history always stayed with me.

Jeff Collins was not alive yet. His Grandfather was:

My grandfather, Bruce Bowman, was on the beach that day. He never talked about it until my mother took him to see the film SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, he was an old man by then and in poor health. My mother remembers that he cried and cried and told her the most vivid stories that she'd ever heard him tell in her entire life. Granpa was not much of a talker, certainly not a storyteller, but he gave her explicit details as if he were a professional journalist. She'd never heard him talk this way -- being so expressive in her entire life. The memories of that day were seared into his brain and the movie reignited them for him. He also revealed that he was barely 17 years old at the time and had lied about his age to get into the military. His parents were dead and his older brother was fighting in the war. Granpa walked all over Europe until he reunited with his older brother. They were close until the day he died.

Trisha Brandt Fox's father was there and wrote about the event before he died in 1975:

My dad Bert Brandt was a combat photographer for United Press International. On that fateful day in 1944, he was a young determined photographer who was able to get the first shots of D-Day back to London and then on to the United States for all the world to see. This was his first hand account of getting off that boat in Normandy so many years ago:

"Some of the first assault troops which stormed the beaches went down under a withering German cross-fire, but more and more men climbed ashore over their bodies until a foothold was established....

American assault boats went in at high tide over huge iron obstacles, some of which were mined. When the tide receded, many boats were stuck on top of the obstacles. A fair number of mines went off in the water and on the beaches. The whole thing was an unbelievable sight. Planes crisscrossed overhead constantly. You never could look up without seeing formation planes somewhere. Lightnings and Thunderbolts [fighter planes] zoomed right over our heads all the time, blasting German defenses. What a great group these soldiers were. All of our troops showing sheer courage and true bravery in this momentous fight."

Diane Lake was in Northeastern France:

My mother was a girl of 9 when the Nazi's invaded France. My family went south for awhile but, after 18 months came back to their town. My grandfather was a police captain and part of the resistance. He did not do daring things but his position helped with information. He had a code that he used when the family would listen to french messages on the BBC -- sound turned very low as it was outlawed. Because of this they knew when the invasion began and knew they would be liberated soon. The stories my mother has told me that I have passed down to my children to keep them alive.

Anthony Perone, in Meriden, Connecticut at the time:

The evening newspaper was spread out on the kitchen table and we all stared at the huge map of Normandy on the front page with big black arrows and starbursts to show the invasion action. We knew this was big and exciting, and was happening right now! Someone said..."Its not over yet..." There was some praying. We knew that in some tiny way we had all helped with our scrap metal collections, kitchen fat depots, old rubber tires, and blood banks. The good times were coming back, we could see it on the map.

Wendie Dox's father and uncle both fought at Omaha Beach:

My father, Charles Goode, spent June 5, 1944, his 18th birthday, with his brother on a landing craft waiting to land on Omaha Beach. He had lied about his age and enlisted to be with his brother, who he was afraid couldn't survive on his own. He was D-Day minus-20, which means he was in the second wave, 20 minutes after the first foot touched the beach. He survived D day, he survived the Battle of the Bulge, and he survived liberating Buchenwald, and my uncle survived also. My dad, who was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was forever haunted by what he saw. He spent several months after the war in a psych hospital, having lived through what no 18-year-old should live through, and we always knew that my dad could survive anything. He was always determined that no other kid should ever have to live through what he had, and he proudly took my brother and I to Vietnam war protests when we were kids, and was an avid supporter of Jewish causes, because of what he had seen. I am so proud to be his daughter. I lost him two years ago, but every day I look at his Purple Heart and am reminded of his courage, and what he did for his country, his family and his people.

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