OSHKOSH – At Oshkosh’s EAA museum Friday, veterans and their families gathered to hear speeches, and tour World War II-era plans.
Many veterans say they knew D-Day would always be remembered.
“We thank them for their service and their sacrifices, and especially for those who made the ultimate sacrifices who did not come home.”
Words spoken to a small group of WWII veterans who were the guests of honor at the EAA’s D-Day tribute Friday. And although 70 years have passed some veterans still remember their combat experience like it was yesterday.
“I had a backpack on my back and two cartons of 30 caliber ammunition. I got to the top of a hill and the Germans started shelling and I threw that thing and ran for cover. I never got hurt but the next morning I went out and looked and that thing was all blown to heck,” said U.S. Army veteran Larry Eckstein.
Eckstein saw combat in the final two months of the war in Italy. His brother was part of the D-Day invasion.
But whether they were in the European or Pacific theater, the veterans say for them D-Day meant one thing. That they were one step closer to going home.
“We were just glad to make it out alive,” said U.S. Navy veteran Bob Luetdke of Oshkosh.
Seven thousand vessels, 13,000 aircraft, 160,000 men, and 30,000 vehicles took part in the invasion on the beaches of Normandy in France.
But before the forces hit the beach, men like George Hagene of Oshkosh got them combat ready.
“We were training B-17 and B-29 crews and D-Day seemed kind of foreign to us.”
But he says D-Day made the seriousness of their task hit home.
“We were hopeful that not too many men would lose their lives and that that was the beginning of the end of the conflict.”
But it would take the sacrifice by thousands of men and women to bring an end to the war that is still remembered today.