Seventy-five years ago, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy and changed the course of human history.
“It was the decisive turning point in the war,” said veteran Don Henke. “We were now aggressing against the Germans, rather than defending."
Henke was a junior in high school on June 6, 1944. He would later enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corp (which became the U.S. Air Force) and served before the war ended.
Denver7 spoke with Henke and three other World War II veterans at a Westminster retirement home. The men are between 92 and 94 years old, and were teenagers when they fought in some of the famous battles that came after D-Day.
Loren Anderson still remembers the severe cold in France during the Battle of the Bulge. He also remembers seeing the concentration camps after the Allies defeated the Nazis.
“Never have I been so nauseated over the smell of human beings,” he said. “We saw the devastation, the wickedness of man in killing others.”
Don Whipple enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corp and was sent to the Pacific, where the war against Japan continued until September 1945. He was wounded in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“I always say I was a boy when I landed at Iwo Jima, but when I came off, I was a man,” he said.
Frank Turner, the oldest of the group, was in Navy training when the announcement came that the Allies had invaded Normandy.
The men were not on the beach that day, but they still imagine the horrors their fellow soldiers faced.
“That had to have been the most hellish experience you could imagine,” Henke said.
Whipple said he knew that there were traps in the water, so a lot of men died before even getting to the shore.
More than 4,400 Allied forces were killed in the Invasion of Normandy, including about 2,500 American deaths.
“I was very thankful in my soul that I wasn’t part of that assault,” Henke said.
He said he has often felt some guilt that he survived the war without facing combat, but he’s also grateful he was able to return home and help his family.
Anderson and Whipple both went back overseas after the war as missionaries.
On this anniversary, Denver7 would like to thank Don Henke, Loren Anderson, Frank Turner, Don Whipple and all those who served and fought to preserve our freedom.