It’s been 75 years since Canadian, American and British forces landed on the Normandy Coast on June 6, 1944, in the largest seaborne invasion in history.
The Normandy landings, part of Operation Overlord, began the liberation of Western Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Thousands of Allied soldiers died during battle. Allied casualties on the first day reached at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.
“The importance of D-Day for Canada is the fact that we’ve lost so many people,” said Parksville veteran Don Levesque who served in the army from 1958 to 1973.
“The thing with D-Day, when [Allied forces] landed, the Germans were waiting of course… [Allies] were just gunned down like crazy. They had to go through barbed wire and land mines, they had it bad there’s no question about it.”
He added that the weather was terrible when Allied forces crossed “the channel” which also led to many casualties.
Levesque, former Parksville Legion president, was in communications with the airborne forces in the Royal Canadian Regime.
“I was in peacekeeping. I missed Korea by two years,” he said. “I served in Germany for four years.”
Levesque said most veterans who were at D-Day have passed away now, including Jim Kingsley, who served as Parksville Legion president from 1998 to 1999.
“Jim is a well-known name in Parksville, he passed away maybe six years ago,” Levesque said.
One Parksville veteran who is still an active member of the Legion and who was on mop-up duty after the D-Day battle is 94-year-old Clarence Georgeson.
“He went through hell, he was shot in the arm,” Levesque said.
“He’s got the Military Medal of honour.”
Levesque was only five when D-Day was happening and living in Ottawa.
“I remember blackouts…big search lights in the sky, I think they were just practising, I didn’t know at that time,” he said.
The Parksville Legion will fly its flag at half-mast on June 6.