Veterans groups across Texoma took a moment Thursday morning to remember the sacrifices and efforts of Allied soldiers during the D-Day Invasions of Normandy, France during World War II. The ceremonies, which included two in Sherman and Gainesville, commemorated the 75th anniversary of the early morning invasions that led to Allied victory in Europe less than a year later.
A Sherman ceremony at Traditions Senior Living and Memory Care, brought together about a dozen military veterans, including a WWII veteran, and their families in solemn remembrance of the anniversary.
“This is our history, our legacy,” said Billy Teague who led the Sherman ceremony. “It is part of who we are and if we forget what these men did, we have a sad future.”
D-Day, also known as Operation Neptune, occurred on June 6, 1944 when more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian, French and other Allied soldiers stormed nearly 50 miles of beaches of Normandy, France. The invasion represents the start of the push into German-occupied France and a turning point in the European theater of the war.
In addition to the naval landings, the operation was supported by nearly 200,000 naval personnel, thousands of ships and air support through bombings and paratrooper infiltration behind enemy lines. The operation was led by Denison-born Dwight D. Eisenhower who served as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe.
Teague said the name D-Day likely came from the military term “undefined day,” which represents the first day of any operation. The invasion was originally scheduled to take place on June 5, but poor weather postponed the invasion. The landings themselves occurred shortly before 6 a.m. the next day, with bombing runs starting just after midnight.
While none in attendance in Sherman were present during the invasion, Teague said an event in Gainesville would include one veteran who participated in the invasion. Teague said he recently spoke to the 96-year-old veteran, who told him about his experiences during the conflict.
“He said he kicked German butt — I will be nice — for about five hours before he got injured several times and they had to drag him off the beach and render aid to him,” Teague said.
In Sherman, Teague took the opportunity to recognize a WWII veteran during the presentation. Teague presented J. W. Ashmore with a badge that was given to WWII veterans at the 50th anniversary commemoration in 1994. Following the anniversary, Teague said he received 175 of the badges and has been distributing them in recent years.
Ashmore, who was serving in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific front when the invasion started, said he was flying along the eastern side of modern-day Taiwan when a radio operator brought news that the war was over in Europe and that a ceasefire had been signed.
“We were so far removed in distance that it was hard to get messages across,” he said.
With the 75th anniversary, many of the remaining WWII veterans are in the mid to late 90s. Teague said that estimates on the number of surviving veterans from WWII were at about 498,000, but more than 300 were dying each day on average. He estimated that about 375,000 are believed to be alive today. Of those, less than 5,000 participated in the D-Day invasion.
Traditions Outreach Director Kathy Thomison encouraged everyone in attendance to talk to veterans as a way of keeping this history alive even after this generation passes on.
“Everybody should be talking to these guys — talk to them, talk to their spouses,” she said. “If your children don’t know these stories, they need to know them.”
Michael Hutchins is a reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at MHutchins@HeraldDemocrat.com.