The World War II veterans are beginning to disappear. D-Day is now 67 years ago, and veterans like James W. Eikner would be in their late 90s, if they’re alive. Luckily, we have many of their memories recorded… like this one:
So I started up that cliff-there were two or three guys ahead of me-and the enemy was leaning over and shooting at us and throwing down hand grenades by the bushel basketful. Before we got to the top, about two-thirds of the way up, a tremendous explosion occurred just above us. It brought down tons of rock and dirt, and of course we all went back down the cliff. I caught on a little ledge; I was covered up to my knees.
The enemy was still up there shooting and throwing down grenades. I got my tommy gun out, took aim at one of the characters up there, and-my gun wouldn’t fire. So there I was in the grandest invasion in history with no weapon.
– James W. Eikner, Time Magazine
When I was a kid, my favorite historical sites were inactive World War II aircraft carriers. Want to entertain a kid for an entire day, no problem? Go to an aircraft carrier. (My favorite: the USS Lexington. There are six – you can find a list of them here under “Inactive” carriers.) In fact, I would still do that. You can almost hear the planes whistling off the deck, and see the tiny quarters the sailors lived in.
My coworker Melissa Stanton took her preteen to Normandy last year. “Unlike many historical destinations, Normandy wears its battle scars without the excessive intrusion of souvenir shops, fast-food joints and attractions better suited to theme parks,” she says. I hear you, Melissa – I’m a history nerd, but places like the Alamo are difficult for me – too many gift shops, too much noise.
Where do you go to remember World War II? Where would you go, if you could? Tell us in the comments.