NORMANDY INVASION STILL LEAVES AN IMPACT 75 YEARS LATER
Reporting by WVUA 23 Reporter Haley Whigham
Three planes showcased the vibrant colors red, white and blue as they flew over Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day today. The effects of the infamous beach invasion that helped pivot the outcome of World War II continue to permeate the lives of international leaders, communities and the veterans who participated.
On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 allied troops invaded the northern French coast, marking the start of France’s liberation from Nazi occupiers. It is remembered today as a defining moment of World War II.
On a political level, U.S. President Donald Trump joined British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron in Normandy this week to commemorate the anniversary. Many other world leaders and 35 D-Day veterans, now well into their 90s, were present as the leaders praised the soldiers who stormed the beaches and expressed, as Trump said, “undying gratitude.”
Back at home, our most well-known D-Day veteran is longtime Tuscaloosa mayor Al Dupont. His descriptions of the invasion bring it all to life.
“The planes were so heavy flying over us that you couldn’t even see the sun shining through the sky,” he said.
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, American soldiers landed on Normandy Beach in France as part of the allied invasion. Among them, Dupont helped mold the course of history to be favorable to the United States and its allies.
WVUA 23 spoke with him a few years ago as he shared vivid memories of the historic day.
“All of them started to go to shore like this and the Germans started firing and the heavy guns that day, their 88 millimeter guns were much better than ours and by some chance they would drop a shell in the boat and 40 people just disappeared.”
Code named “Operation Overlord,” the invasion was one of the largest military assaults in history. Dupont was a medic and he can still envision fellow soldiers wearing close to 100 pounds of gear per person, panicking and jumping over the sides of the boat to get to shore.
“You can’t make friends in the Army,” Dupont said. “I’ve learned that the hard way because we’re friends and then you get killed and it affects you.”
Each year, thousands of people descend on Normandy to pay homage to the soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part in D-Day. President Trump could be found alongside other world leaders today on the site of the invasion to give his own respects.
“The GI’s who boarded the landing craft that morning knew that they carried on their shoulders not just the pack of a soldier, but the fate of the world,” Trump said in a speech today.
Around 2,500 Americans died on June 6, 1944. Yet no matter how many anniversaries come and go, for some, the impact of D-Day still stings like a fresh wound.