Crowds honor World War II veterans at Normandy D-Day celebrations

“We all got a little scared then. And then whenever the guy dropped us out, we were away from where the rest of the group was. That was scary,” Wallace told The Associated Press. 

Less than a month later, he was taken prisoner by the Germans. He was ultimately liberated after 10 months and returned to the U.S. Recommended

Still, Wallace thinks he was lucky. “I remember the good friends that I lost there. So it’s a little emotional,” he said, with sadness in his voice. “I guess you can say I’m proud of what I did but I didn’t do that much.”

He was asked about the secret to his longevity. “Calvados!” he joked, in reference to Normandy’s local alcohol. 

On D-Day, Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. On that single day, 4,414 Allied soldiers lost their lives, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded. 

Wallace, who is using a wheelchair, was among about 20 WWII veterans who opened Saturday’s parade of military vehicles in Sainte-Mere-Eglise to great applause from thousands of people, in a joyful atmosphere. 

He did not hide his pleasure, happily waving to the crowd as parents explained the achievements of World War II heroes to their children.

Many history buffs, wearing military and civilian clothes from the period, also came to stage a reenactment of the events.