Iowa WWII Veterans Look Back on D-Day 73 Years Later

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Tuesday is a quiet day at Wesley Acres, a Des Moines home for the elderly.

For some of those living there, however, this particular Tuesday brings back memories of their youth. The date is June 6th, 2017--73 years from the day the Allies invaded Normandy.

“June 3rd I left for boot camp, it was my birthday”, said Clifford Scholten.

Three days later, Operation Overlord commenced, Allied forces coming under fire at beaches with names like Utah, Omaha, and Sword. Scholten heard of the invasion over the radio and in the papers.

“I remember reading about it, and how many men, they didn’t land at the place they intended to land, and that’s why there was so many casualties,” said Scholten.

The young supply ship gunner felt lucky to be in boot camp.

“I thought I was glad I was younger, there were so many lives lost there,” he said.

While Clifford was just entering the Navy, Gilbert Bell was already at war as a radio operator on a destroyer, sailing since 1942.

“Hitler had ten times more stubs than we did, oh my we were losing the war,” Bell said, remembering how the war was going before D-Day.

Bell got news of the invasion while sailing in the Atlantic; the mood on the destroyer was stoic.

“You don’t talk much, you just wonder if you’re going to get into it and how it’s all going to come out, so you’re all very tense,” said Bell.

Although these veterans didn’t land on the beaches of Normandy, they say it's important to look back and remember those who did.

“Losing all those men unnecessarily, drowning and all that, you know, they’re part of you,” said Bell.

“Because of numbers, they got the job done, and had they not done that who knows what the situation would have been?” said Scholten.

“Hitler would have had us by the neck. He had things going for him, don’t think he didn’t,” said Bell.

“I think they should remember all the sacrifices that were made by the individuals and the actual number of people who gave up their lives to stop Hitler,” said Scholten.

According to the D-Day Museum, just under 4,500 Allied forces were killed on D-Day.