World War II veterans are making an emotional return to the Normandy shores to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a pivotal operation in the war. Three of those veterans joined “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason Wednesday to reflect on their experiences fighting on behalf of the United States.
George Mills, a 98-year-old who arrived at Normandy more than 20 days after D-Day, said that none of his training could have prepared him for what he saw.
“All your training, your time on the rifle range, all your obstacle courses and your amphibious training and jungle-fighting training, cliff-scaling training — you think you’re Superman,” he said. “Until you’re fronted and then you realize you’re the hunter just like you’re the hunted.”
Mills later became a prisoner of war until he was liberated in 1945.
“I prayed every time I ever heard the bullets or bombs flashing,” said Sherwin Callander, a 99-year-old from Alabama who was one of the first men to arrive at Utah Beach. “I’d say, dear lord, I know you have to kill some of us. Kill me if you have to, but please do not send me home a cripple. And my prayers were answered.”
“They say we’re heroes, but we’re not heroes,” Callander added. “We had a job to do and we did it. We simply did the best of our abilities. We weren’t brave. We were scared. When you’re scared, you do almost anything.”
Stanley Friday, 96, landed on Utah Beach in August. He described the first day as “exciting, dreadful, scary,” and said that he at first struggled with the memories of his time fighting throughout Europe as an army scout.
“I relived it very, very vividly at times,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep. Stayed awake sometimes sweating, start[ed] drinking, start[ed] being a bad person. Until I learned how to take control of myself.”
When asked what people should be remembering on the 75th anniversary, Callander emphasized that “we are the best country in the world. We’re the freest country in the world. And the only way we can keep it free is fighting for it.”
“I think all the young people need to really know what happened 75 years ago and prepare themselves for what’s going to happen ahead of them,” Mills added. “Because if we don’t know what has happened to us, we don’t know what’s ahead of us.”
“I think they should listen to history, look at history and take a hold of it, and remember what it is so they don’t have to go back again,” Friday said.
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