(HorizonPost.com) – Historians say there is no way of knowing how many D-Day troops are still alive. More than 150,000 Allied soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day – June 6th, 1944 – to fight one of the most significant battles of the Second World War. Codenamed Operation Overlord, it was the largest seaborne military operation in history and led to the liberation of France from Nazi occupation. Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command.
It is unknown how many soldiers survive today, but a British survey in 2014 found less than 500. In 2019, as leaders marked the 75th anniversary of the invasion, the US Department of Veterans Affairs estimated 3% of the 16 million Americans who fought in World War Two remained alive, and only three of the 472 Medal of Honor recipients.
D-Day was one of the bloodiest events of the war. Of the 150,000 troops to land, around 73,000 were American. They faced approximately 50,000 German soldiers. The landings started in the early morning, having been delayed for a day longer than planned due to bad weather. The 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors, and troops approached on 5,000 sea vessels backed up by 11,000 aircraft. Thousands of soldiers died on the day and thousands more in the ensuing battles that pushed the Nazis back out of France.
Arnold Raymond “Ray” Lambert, an American soldier who lived to see the 75th anniversary at the age of 98, wrote in his memoirs, “Where tourists and vacationers see pleasant waves, I see the faces of drowning men. Amid the sounds of children playing, I hear the cries of men pierced by Nazi bullets.”
In his book, “Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach and a World at War,” Lambert described the moment he landed on the French beaches. “It’s worse than shock, more physical than something thumping against your chest. It pounds your bones,” he wrote.
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