The Veterans History Project was created by Congress in 2000 with the goal of collecting and preserving first-hand accounts of U.S. wars for the benefit of veterans, their families and future generations.
In honor of the anniversary of D-Day during World War II, here's a look at some of the memories of the D-Day invasion given by those who were there and preserved in the Veterans History Project collection, as well as links to the full stories of the veterans highlighted in this list.
Learn more about the project and explore its databases here
Related: Historic photos chronicle the D-Day invasion
Related: Associated Press reports from D-Day, 1944: Allies win footholds in France
"We knew (the invasion) was going to happen for several months, I guess … But we woke up one morning and the English Channel was completely full of ships. Now, what would you think if you woke up seeing the English Channel full of ships?"
- Billy Earl Edwards, 2nd Infantry Division; 45th Infantry Division
Read Edwards' full account of his service during World War II
>> U.S. troops prepare to embark a landing craft, which will take them out to a larger ship lying off the coast, June 5, 1944, at a port in England. These soldiers are due to take part in the D-Day landings.
"Everything was pretty noisy before they announced that we'd be pulling out, and just like that it got quiet, and nobody said a word. And I think there was a lot of praying going on. I know I was, and I know others were — you just couldn't help it. You know, this could be your last night on earth. And it was, for a lot of them. It was the last night for some of them."
Dean Milton Weissert, 33rd Infantry Division; 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One)
Read Weissert's full account of his service during World War II
>> American paratroopers, heavily armed, sit inside a military plane as they soar over the English Channel en route to the Normandy French coast for the Allied D-Day invasion of the German stronghold during World War II, June 6, 1944.
"At midnight, Captain Moore called us to general quarters and he read our instructions ... of what we were going to do — and we were going to do our best for America — and told us our orders and position we was going to be in and that sort of thing.
If I remember right, he played a song — 'God Bless America.'"
- Thomas Newton Wilmore, Company 196; Company 43; USS Herndon (DD 638); USS Denebola (AD 12)
Read Wilmore's full account of his service during World War II
>> The first landings were made in France by the Airborne Forces. The whole operation planned to take place with great precision was the result of many months of final preparations. Paratroopers are briefed before the take off on June 7, 1944.
"Over 5,000 ships filled the waters and planes filled the sky as far as one could see ... all headed in one direction. The noise, indescribably deafening. Continuous firing from our ships ... salvo after salvo ... coupled with the drone of our planes bombing the beaches. Never in all the training I went through was I prepared for this."
- Benjamin Alvarado, G Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, V Corps, 1st Army; G Company, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, XII Corps, 3rd Army; 129th Military Police
Read Alvarado's full account of his service during World War II
>> A returning B-24 Liberator of the U.S. Eighth Army Air Force passes over part of the invasion armada as the boats steam across the channel toward the coast of Northern France, on June 6, 1944.
"I remember the sky filled with airplanes, and there's no way you can describe a thousand airplanes in the air at one time, and the roar of the planes, and the sky just filled with airplanes."
- Glenn B. Weber, 8th Bomber Command, 9th Bomber Command
Read Weber's full account of his service during World War II
>> Long row of shiny new Flying Fortresses, part of huge reserves being built up in the United Kingdom for D-Day, stands by to be flown to combat units as replacements, May 25, 1944.
"You could’ve walked from my ship, to ship to ship — you could've gone ashore, I think, if you'd lived."
- Frederick Robert Coop, USS LCG(L)-687 (Landing Craft Guns Large), 11th Amphibious Force
Read Coop's full account of his service during World War II
>> Landing craft, escorted by ships of the Royal Navy, sail to the Great Assault on June 5, 1944 the guns of H.M. ship are at the ready. In the background, between two landing craft, a supply ship is flying the balloon which she has already carried on many coastal convoys.
"Probably the only reason I survived the assault on the beach was the Germans could fire into a massive crowd behind me and they weren't worried about the first person up ahead."
- Claud C. Woodring, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Read Woodring's full account of his service during World War II
>> In this photo provided by the Office of War Information, U.S. landing crafts are beached on the Normandy shore to unload troops and supplies to back up Allied advances against the Nazis in France, June 6, 1944.
"You saw a lot of ships and a lot of men going ashore, and then when you start landing, when the landing barge goes down and you have to start running out, that's when you realize you're being shot at, because all of a sudden you see some of your men falling into the water because they got hit."
- Ralph Martire, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division
Read Martire's full account of his service during World War II
>> Out of the open bow doors of a Landing Craft, American troops and jeeps go ashore on the beach of the Normandy coast of France, June 6, 1944.
"We were all scared. I had to say to myself, 'You know, you could get killed out there.' I said, 'I know.' So I had to ask myself the question, 'You've been waiting for this for a long time — is this a cause worth dying for? Because you're going to have to decide, because this is what's going to probably happen.' And I told myself, 'Okay, I'm going to get killed, but the cause is worth it.'"
- Seymour Robinson, Civil Affairs Team, 1st Infantry Division
Read Robinson's full account of his service during World War II
>> Landing craft loaded with American troops pass other landing craft lining the dock side while in foreground, other craft take on equipment on June 6, 1944.
"I couldn't see anything because I was hunkered down in the boat as we went in, but I do remember seeing the looks on the faces of the young men, most of them was 18, 19 years old. We had kidded in life like soldiers do, but all at once it got completely silent, and young men looked like old men. You could see their lips moving; we were praying, all of us was praying. I was praying."
- Jesse A. Beazley, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division
Read Beazley's full account of his service during World War II
>> American soldiers and supplies arrive on the shore of the French coast of German-occupied Normandy during the Allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in World War II.
"It was a gigantic mass of humanity and equipment and airplanes."
- John R. Paulson, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division
Read Paulson's full account of his service during World War II
>> British Commandoes assemble at a coastal port in England, June 4, 1944, in readiness for sailing to France for the liberation of Europe.
"I just started running; just kept running until I got to the sea wall, which was about two-thirds of the way across the beach. It was about five or six feet high, and there was a promenade road over this wall. So I got behind the wall and I was going to take my raincoat off to clean my rifle because it became full of sand and water and it wouldn't fire after it jammed. So I took my raincoat off to spread that out to clean my rifle, and my raincoat was full of bullet holes. I didn't realize that we had been under fire all the way across.
"Nobody could possibly be trained for what we found that day. But you learn fast, you know. It's a quick study when your life's on the line."
- John Robert Slaughter, Company D, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division
Read Slaughter's full account of his service during World War II
>> Troops on Utah Beach in Normandy, France on June 9, 1944, take shelter behind a sea wall while awaiting orders to move inland during the invasion by allied troops in June 1944.
"I just kept right on going, and I guess like a zombie, never even thinking. I didn't expect to live from one minute to the next, but as long as I was, I kept on going."
- Daniel L. Curatola, Headquarter Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division
Read Curatola's full account of his service during World War II
>> On a beach on the French invasion coast stand defenses of steel and concrete on which some of the allied invasion vehicles have been wrecked on June 7, 1944.
"As we crested the hill and headed for our assigned camp area inland, I looked back at the beach with all the ships, trucks, tanks, artillery and men — living and dead — and the picture was etched into my mind forever."
- Michael Anthony Accordino, Company A, 299th Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Army
Read Accordino's full account of his service during World War II
>> Men and assault vehicles storm the Normandy Beach of France, as allied landing craft arrive at their destination on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Note men coming ashore in surf and vehicles starting inland.
"That second trip into the beach, my position on the (landing craft) was up next to the bow, next to the ramp. It's a lookout because, you know, we always had to look for what was in the water ahead ... But that second trip in, it wasn't obstacles that were the problem, it was the floating dead bodies — soldiers who never made shore."
- Frank Wolfe, Navy
Read Wolfe's full account of his service during World War II
>> Off the British coast, this huge fleet of warships, transports and landing craft awaits the signal to get underway for the allied invasion of Northern France, June 6, 1944.
"I blessed the good Lord for bringing me back safe and sound, because when I saw that Omaha red, it was red. That red sand, it was red sand all right, but loaded with blood, red American blood. And that always stayed with me right till I came home."
- Americo T. Pace, 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion
Read Pace's full account of his service during World War II
>> Inscription written in French on this grave of an American soldier made by French civilians in France on June 18, 1944. The soldier’s helmet tops the wooden cross. The American died in the fighting with allied troops fighting for the Cherbourg Peninsula.
"(We) went over the sand dune, a bunch of us there, and what did we find? Two miniature tanks that stood about four feet long, three feet wide, and stood a couple of feet off the ground. Looked like a real tank, except they didn't have a gun and turret. There was wires hanging, and those electricians start touching wires.
"Well, they started running. There are two of them, so they're touching wires, and they could control them. And they start playing chicken — something to do. Later, we found out when we got back on board ship, you know what they were? They were radio-controlled, full or high explosives. They were used on the beach to run into the side of the ship to blow the ship up. And here they were, playing chicken with them."
- Arlington Sanford, USS LST-335 (Landing Ship Tank); USS LST-307
Read Sanford's full account of his service during World War II
>> U.S. Navy men take apart a German "Beetle", a miniature tank loaded with explosives, during the Allied Normandy landings in France, in June 1944.
"The worst part of the morning after is something that is left out of the John Wayne movies. I will never forget the odor of death that hung over the battlefield at Gold Beach. Even after the bodies had been removed, that cloying, sweet, sickening smell of death pervaded the atmosphere. It's something I'll take with me to the grave."
- Robert A. Huttemeyer, USS LST 379 (Landing Ship Tank), Amphibious Forces
Read Huttemeyer's full account of his service during World War II
>> Wreckage and dead strewn along the beach, a grim reminder of the fury let loose on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in France, on June 20, 1944.
"Never did get scared, until about six or seven years later it dawned on me that I should have been scared."
- Thomas H. McCann, USS LST-16 (Landing Ship Tank)
Read McCann's full account of his service during World War II
>> American infantrymen follow in the tracks of tanks as they march along the beach, during Allied Normandy landing operations in France, June 9, 1944.
"You see the carnage, but I don't know — you don't let that stay with you, except it ought to increase your compassion towards anyone. And I think anyone who's been through a war like that has a greater sense of compassion than they otherwise would have had."
- Shields Wilson, Amphibian Corps
Read Wilson's full account of his service during World War II
>> American Army medical corpsmen try to assuage the grief of a little French girl with a gift of candy in France, June 17, 1944. Her head is bandaged and face swollen. Another child lies in front with his head bandaged.