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Memories of D-Day

William Klym of Dickinson holds up a picture Friday of him in uniform while in the Navy during WWII. Press photo by Beth Wischmeyer

It was June 6, 1944, dubbed D-Day -- the day about 160,000 allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy during World War II. And though it was 65 years ago today, residents haven't forgotten.

More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day's end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high, with more than 9,000 allied soldiers killed or wounded but more than 100,000 soldiers began the march across Europe, according to the United States Army Web site.

Joe Schneider, a U.S. Navy Veteran who resides at Evergreen in Dickinson, said he heard about the invasion while aboard a ship in the Mediterranean through a loudspeaker.

"When I heard about it I was glad to hear it, but I was a little bit surprised," Schneider said. "I didn't want to go to the Pacific, it was pretty rough over there."

When U.S. soldiers were captured and had tattoos, the Japanese would often cut them off, Schneider added.

"It was something I never really expected or experienced," William Klym said of when he heard about D-Day. "We were all talking about it."

Also a resident of Evergreen, Klym grew up in Gorham and joined the Navy in 1942.

Klym was in the U.S. working as part of a medical company in various sites when the event happened. Soon after, Klym said he was sent to Pacific duty in Okinawa, Japan. When he arrived, it was Aug. 14, 1945, the day Japan surrendered.

"There wasn't any need for us then," Klym said. "When I heard about D-Day, I think I heard it on the radio first and then read about it in the newspaper.

"We got used to it, the possibility that something like that might happen, we were a little shocked, but not to the degree where we were scared."

Alice Johnson, a resident at St. Luke's Home in Dickinson, remembers hearing about the invasion while working at a restaurant in Seattle.

Johnson lost a brother, Elmer Kouba to the war in 1944.

"I heard about it because someone said something about it at work that day," Johnson said. "I thought it was awful, the whole thing was awful as far as that goes."