D-Day Remembered by Chattanoogans Who Were There

Reported by: Bill Mitchell

Edited by: Harrison Pirtle
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Updated: 6/06/2013 7:17 pm
CHATTANOOGA, TN. (WDEF) -- It was the beginning of the end for Adolph Hitler and the once-mighty German War machine.
June 6th, 1944 was D-Day for a war weary world, but 69 years later, the event is ancient history for many Americans.
However, those memories are still fresh for some who were there.

One hundred and 60 thousand soldiers---73-thousand of them Americans went ashore the morning June 6, 1944.
It was the largest land invasion in history.
There were 5 beaches...stretching for 50 miles along the French coast...and at times there were doubts the landing would succeed. Germans put up a fierce resistance, as witnessed by people like Ensign Shields Wilson who commanded a landing craft.

SHIELDS WILSON, COMMANDED LANDING CRAFT "I thought thought we were going to be pushed off..and have to abandon it."

There were 5-thousand ships involved in the landings, so it was not possible for most of the participants to know what was going on until days later.

SHIELDS WILSON "It was such a melee, I really couldn't begin to tell you why I'm sitting here alive."

Back in the states, Frances Wilson worried about the young man who would later become her husband. She also became a Naval officer.

FRANCES SHIELDS, NAVY WAVE "I felt, this country's at war and here I am I need to do something..I ought to be a part of it."

Other young Tennessee Valley men became part of the great War.
Retired Master Sergeant Claude Holmes, like Shields Wilson, is 92 years old.
He hit Omaha Beach on D-Day.

CLAUDE HOLMES, WW2 SOLDIER "There'd be people over here shooting at you ..All around ..All around..shooting at you."

Mr. Holmes told his story to our Nordia Epps for a story last year.

CLAUDE HOLMES "We had several men to get killed, it's a wonder I didn't get killed. But the good Lord probably saved me."

Its not a formal observance, but D-Day and its importance, will be a part of U.S. History from now on.

The D-Day landing took a heavy toll on the allies.
The actual number is still being debated, but new figures show 2500 Americans died on the beaches that day...along with 1900 soldiers from Britain and Canada.
Many are buried a mile away in a French Cemetery.

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