Around 160,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, not knowing that what they were doing would be hailed 75 years later as the turning point of World War II.
Their actions and sacrifices were celebrated through countless ceremonies and events this week in France and the United States.
At the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Thursday, the service of D-Day vets was celebrated and the 4,400 allied troops who died on that day were memorialized.
“We need to gain an appreciation, perspective and gratitude because through the chance of history, they were young people…thrust into very difficult jobs,” said museum curator Jeff Duford. “They left their homes, they left their families and some of them never came back. Truly we have our freedoms today directly as a result of what they did in 1944.”
Pete Kempe, a veteran from Springboro, said he came to the museum for the ceremony and flyover but added he thought everyone should come and pay tribute to the troops who helped the allies win World War II.
“This is probably going to be the last 25-year reunion,” Kempe said. “I think its important that people come here and show their respects to the men that died on the beach.”
Aircraft that helped liberate Normandy, France on D-Day flew over a crowd of around 700 Thursday as re-enactors laid a wreath on a memorial in the museum’s park at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Spectators looked to the sky as two C-47s flew overhead.
One was a C-47 “Sky King” that dropped 18 Paratroopers during D-Day and the second was a C-47A that transported cargo and paratroopers during the invasion. The “Sky King” was from the Mid America Flight Museum in Mt. Pleasant, Texas and the C-47A was from Vintage Wings in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“Air power was instrumental to the operation’s success,” said Maj. Gen. Carl E. Schaefer, deputy commander of the Air Force Materiel Command. “Relentless determination and fierce combat over the skies of Europe, heavy bombers, transport, reconnaissance, fighter aircraft and the Army Air Corps broke the back of the German Luftwaffe.”
The flyover was part of a day of events at the Air Force Museum to honor the troops of D-Day.
Visitors to the museum were able to take an up-close look at a D-Day C-47 and a CG-4 glider like the one towed behind the aircraft in the facility’s World War II exhibit. They were also able to interact with the 101st Airborne Division re-enactors, check-out rarely seen D-Day artifacts and archival materials from the museum’s Collections and Research Divisions, and test their knowledge of D-Day trivia.
A variety of WWII-era military vehicles were on display including four Willys Jeeps, two Dodge Command Cars, an M2 Halftrack, and a GMC 6x6 truck. Visitors could also catch a screening of the film “Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day” which chronicled veterans returning to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the invasion five years ago.
An interactive exhibit featuring touch screen tablets will continue to be available after the anniversary.
“D-Day: Freedom From Above” opened in May and focuses on the missions of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France. The exhibit costs $5 and is open through the end of the year at the museum.
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