By John Maino. CREATED Jun 6, 2013
June 6, 2013 marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the U.S. invasion of France in World War II. For those who were there, the memories of that horrific, yet victorious day remain vivid. John Maino spoke with two veterans from Northeast Wisconsin.
"I always say it's the worst day of my life, worst day of my life," says Dale Rammel.
Bob Reeners adds, "I hate this time of the year. It never goes away."
It started with the largest sea armada in history carrying troops across the English Channel.
Dale says, "They were talking among themselves, joking you know and everything. Just to have something to say I think. I was pretty, uh, pretty nervous I'd say."
Many were teenagers pulled out of high school.
Bob remembers, "I was graduated from boot camp when my senior class graduated from high school."
For Dale Rammel, his thoughts focus on his tank crew.
"I had twin brothers, Johnson boys, driving and gunner, and I says, 'let's go.'"
Through rough seas, they made it to Omaha Beach."
"Machine gun bullets hitting the outside and artillery going off. Bombs going off," says Rammel.
Then Dale remembers disaster.
"That's when the bazooka hit us. I looked down. Their head was shot completely off. The driver, blood out of his neck. And the gunner, his head was on the side. Two brothers. I was all alone in the tank."
For 89-year-old Bob Reener, the day was spent piloting a landing craft filled with troops to Utah Beach, hoping his didn't meet the same fate as a ship alongside of him.
"It hit a mine and in seconds it was gone, and we couldn't stop, you know. We've got a load of troops."
By nightfall, the allies had gained a foothold but at a cost of over 3,000 casualties.
Dale says, "To lose them on the first day, it kind of shook me up a little bit. But you gotta think about there's other people you have to take care of."
Bob adds, "You know, people over the years have asked me time and time again, 'What was it like?' And I've always responded, 'If you were there, I don't have to tell you. If you weren't there, there's no way I can describe it to you.'"
And that says it all.