DEARBORN (WWJ) — It was a sharp contrast Friday on the beaches of Normandy, France, where 70 years ago Allied troops stormed ashore as part of the invasion that led to the end of World War II.
World leaders — including President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin — marked the anniversary with a solemn commemoration in France on Friday.
The two leaders reportedly had a 15-minute conversation on the sidelines of a lunch for world leaders today in France, where they were marking the 70th anniversary of the “D-Day” invasion.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, a handful of local World War II veterans commemorated the anniversary in Dearborn at a screening of “D-Day” in 3D at the Henry Ford IMAX Theater.
Mario Montresor of Southgate, who served as a gunner and radio operater aboard a B-24 Liberator during the war, said the men aboard his plane who where used to flying bombing missions, were nervous leading into the battle.
“We never wanted to fly a mission because it was scary — dangerous,” Montresor recalled. “When they said, ‘This is D-Day’, that was the only time that we were really anxious to go. I hope the country appreciates what we did.”
Donald Rodee of Livonia called D-Day the “greatest experience” of his life and that people will only continue to appreciate the sacrifice of the thousands of soldiers that day, if they meet the people who lived it.
“I went in as a boy and came out a man,” Rodee explained. “My pilot, who was a lieutenant commander, said that it should have been traumatic. He said, ‘Don, you have the best attitude of any person I’ve ever met’ and that’s what carried me through college after going through World War II.”
It is estimated that more than 4,400 Allied soldiers died during the first 24 hours of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, which history recognizes as the “beginning of the end” of Nazi aggression in Europe.