KUSA – Seventy-four years ago Wednesday was the largest seaborne invasion in history – and D-Day was the beginning of the chain of events that led to the Allied liberation of Western Europe and, later, a victory in World War II.
On June 6, 1944, about 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed in Normandy. The National D-Day Memorial has confirmed 4,414 deaths during the invasion, and 2,499 of those men and women were American soldiers.
It’s a day that changed history, and one that was commemorated across the country on its anniversary. One of those remembrances was at the American Legion Leyden-Chiles-Wickersham Post 1 in southeast Denver.
Multiple World War II veterans gathered to remember D-Day, and 9NEWS asked a few of them to tell us their stories … and why none of us should forget what happened during World War II.
Lou Zoghby, who is going to be 94 in six weeks, enlisted when he was 17. He said everyone else he knew had already gone to war.
“I said to my parents, ‘I’m all by myself, let me sign up,'” Zoghby said. “I said ‘I can’t sit around here, I gotta do something.'”
He was still in the United States on D-Day and didn’t get to England until August of that year. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge a few months later.
“They put us on a plane and few us into France,” he said. “On Christmas Day, it was sea rations. Sea rations is a 10-ounce can of dog food.
“We went up on Jan. 1, into the front lines.”
He said he remembers taking part in the victory day parade, where he marched 7 miles up Fifth Avenue in New York City. Zoghby said he returned to New York on the Queen Mary just before it was dry docked.
“At the end of that day, we were the heroes of the war,” Zoghby said. “In my opinion, World War II was absolutely necessary, however, schools don’t teach it anymore.
“They’re cutting it out of their history curriculum because nowadays, they don’t want us to speak to the classes because ‘you’ve traumatized a little kid.’ We want to keep our stories alive as best as we can.”
Linda Scialla was 17 when he first enlisted in the Marines, and spent his 18th birthday going over to Okinawa. He’s 91 years old.
“I hope to be 92 before too long, so I can harass all these people that think war is great,” he said.
Scialla served in the Pacific Theater, and landed on Okinawa on April 1, 1945.
“Easter Sunday,” Scialla said. “But at that particular time, the Marine Corps was coming on a lot of hell. There were too many 17 and 18-year-old kids on the casualty list from Iwo Jima.”
Later on, Scialla said it really hit home how young those soldiers really were.
“You know … I used to go to Italy all the time, I went up to one of the soldiers, I asked him ‘how old are you?’ He said 18 and I looked at my wife and said ‘Jesus, did we look that young when we were 18?’” Scialla said. “I look at my grandkids and I hate to see them marching off to war like we had to.”
Scialla said he thinks World War II was necessary, but others since were not.
“If a lot of these guys, the people that start the wars, had to fight the wars … we wouldn’t have any war,” Scialla said.
Tom Puckett didn’t serve in World War II, but he lives with dozens of people who did in the Windcrest Retirement Home.
The community lost one World War II veteran this week. At 72 years old, he was the youngest man at his table at the American Legion on Wednesday afternoon.
“These guys are awesome,” Puckett said. “We’ve got guys who spent their time on the water, and in very nice places like Monterrey, California.”
Puckett said the retirement home hosted a Veteran’s Day program last year and invited everyone who served in World War II as well as those who wanted to honor them.
He said 479 people showed up to what they envisioned as a smaller celebration.
“So we think we’re overachievers,” he joked.
He said it’s important that everyone meet the veterans who shaped history.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity for young people,” he said. “You meet the most extraordinary people who have done the most extraordinary thing you can think of in their lives.”
Puckett said it’s important to realize they won’t be around forever.
“We’re concerned about how old some of the people are getting, and we want to make sure they get the opportunity they deserve,” he said.