D-Day 65th Anniversary

June 5, 2009 8:20:19 PM PDT
June 6th, 2009 marks the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of France by hundreds of thousands of troops. It would be the turning point in World War Two and in the lives of the three world-war-two veterans living in the Central Valley.They agreed to meet with me at the Fresno VA to talk about their service and look back on the seminal time in their lives.

Our Action News video archive holds a host of the dark and grainy images of the massive armada of 5-thousand ships filled with more than 160 thousand allied soldiers. The images may seem distant for later generations of Americans but to those who were there that day is as clear as if it were today. Ask them about it and they are there. Earl Watson was one of them, "We jumped out in that cold freezing water up to our waist and then the war started." He hit the beach in Normandy, France at La Havre.

Watson of Fresno was 18 when he joined up the army in 1942. Today at eighty-four he is among a dwindling number of world war two vets who were part of the beginning of the end of that war. And it left scars you can't see but you can definitely hear. "In about five minutes I ran out of ammunition. I had to go around to the American soldiers, the ones who had died, and get their ammunition and keep on going through the beaches."

The news of the invasion traveled quickly. 86 year old Pasqual Reyes of Madera heard it while fighting his way through unrelenting battles in northern Italy, "Now, you know, we got 'em in between us. It'll be over before we know it. I know it's gonna be over."

Half a world away it was equally good news for Claude Gasio of Fresno. He was aboard the U.S.S. Kalinin where Japanese suicide bombers left him with a searing injury and more, "It was a bad day, we took 13 suicides (bombers) in the afternoon after the battle in the morning."

The war ended in Europe in May of 1945 and in the Pacific in September that same year. The impact of both good and bad memories remains with these veterans. Maybe that's why we create places to honor them like the Fresno VA's Wall of Honor where Claude Gasio told me, "Any body who served, even the veterans today can get on the wall. I'm right here on the bottom you can see it right there." Pasqual Reyes name and those of his two sons who served in Viet Nam will be placed there soon. As will Earl Watson.

So as another D-Day is marked they ask only that we remember the sacrifices they made for the generations of American sons and daughters who followed.

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