Sixty years ago Sunday, Allied forces launched one of their boldest offensives in World War II. Early that morning, they attacked five targets in France and changed the course of the war. WTOC spent time talking with some of the remaining local veterans of that day.
More than 150,000 men went into that historic day. Those who lived carry the memory of the carnage.
Captain James Naismith remembers D-Day like it was yesterday. He had a unique view aboard the USS Texas. "Before the sun came up, you looked back and all you saw were these black shadows," he told us. "As the light got brighter, you look back and my God all you saw were ships."
He helped launch suppression fire that covered the Allied infantry while they stormed the beach. What he remembers most is the job he had between rounds. "We had these hooks to try and pull out the bodies to keep them from getting out into the channel," he told us.
Death is one of the common themes among those who survived that massive assault. Bill Brannen was among the first to land on Omaha Beach. "Out of my division, we lost 2,000 to 3,000 men right there on the beach," he said. "I looked down the beach to my right and there were GIs, dead GIs, stacked up, looked to be three feet deep and that was an awful sight."
With superior numbers, firepower and sheer will, they took the beaches of France that day and eventually beat back the enemy all the way to Berlin.
Looking back, few of them see what they did as heroic. "We had a job to do and we did it," said Normandy veteran Bill Baker. "Took a lot of pride in it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
With losses of life in the tens of thousands that one day, they hope such an effort is never needed again.
Monday at 8:30pm, join WTOC's Doug Weathers in a special half hour, originally produced for the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Savannah Remembers D-Day is the Allied invasion of Europe as seen through the eyes of people from right here who were part of that defining moment in American history.