On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”
More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foothold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops,” is how that fateful day in history is described on the army.mil website.
More than 750 Lamar County Veterans served in World War II, and today marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day; the day when allied forces stormed the Normandy beaches of France against a Nazi regime.
Paris veteran Tom D. Mallison, a WWII Veteran who turns 100-years-old this month, said that 75-years-ago he was ready to do his job no matter what the assignment was.
“I was born in Paris, and it feels like I have done a full circle,” he said before sharing a few stories of back in the day.
Mallison recounted many memories from back when he served in the US Air Corps., but also said there were a lot of memories that had faded away with time.
However, many of those moments were captured on camera including one of the pilots receiving their assignments on June 5th, 1944. (That photo is one of many throughout his career as a photographer, which began around 80-years ago, that has graced many a newspaper and magazine.)
As he waited patiently in England, not knowing if he would at the last minute be assigned to fly to France on June 6, Mallison photographed pilots getting their assignments on where to fly to as the air and ground combined attacks were nearing the ready.
Come the day for soldiers to make their way to the Normandy beaches, Mallison stood next to the first airplane that was loading parachuters and snapped the first parachuter to load in and the pilot alongside.
“He (the pilot) was a really great guy. I think he eventually made it to one-star general rank,” Mallison recalled, “I also remember that a few weeks after D-Day, his plane went down in a part of France where the enemy was occupying heavily. We thought he had died.”
Mallison continued with the story saying that the pilot had somehow walked his way out of the enemy territory and made it back safely. It took that pilot nearly three months to walk out, a story so important yet so small that is worth its weight in ink to be remembered for future generations to come.
“Some days were certainly harder than others, some other days, well they weren’t so bad,” Mallison said.
Of all the time spent serving his country, he said that he has seen some wonderful places in the world, even under wartime conditions.
Places such as the great pyramids of Egypt, where he visited after he was assigned to North Africa.
And with many mates lost across the years, Mallison said there are still some wives of buddies he served with that he is still in contact with today, though most of his generation has passed the connections never faded.
To the men that took on the Normandy beaches, we thank you for the sacrifice you made June 6, 1944. We will be forever grateful to the men and women who served during that time of our history.
So join us in honoring the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” as today we mark the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings, today was D-Day.