Local WWII veteran re-lives moments storming the beaches of Normandy at 19-years-old

By WEEK Reporter

June 6, 2014 Updated Jun 9, 2014 at 2:07 PM CDT

FAIRBURY, Ill. -- It was a pivotal moment in World War II--70 years ago Friday.

On this day in 1944 American and Allied forces stormed the Normandy beaches in France. The invasion marked a turning point and turned the tide of World War II.

For 89-year-old Art Walter this anniversary reminds him what life was like at 19-years old--the week of D-Day 1944.

"We were on a ship waiting to come in for days," said Walter, now residing in Fairbury. "Getting off the ship. I remember that like it was yesterday. They just throw the net over and that's how you went down. The water was up to my neck. I looked at the man next to me coming up and down and I said, 'Well that's the way to do it.' You learn quick. You move on."

He would go on to set up the first field hospital on the beaches of Normandy, making sure everyone had what they needed to survive.

"They needed two small guys to get blood to the front, and of course I was small and the pilot they got was small, so we hauled blood up and hid it for aid," said Walter.

That day, more than 100,000 drafted soldiers, 5,000 warships and a life-or-death fight for freedom.

"You know it's funny....you get used to things," said Walter. "You lay there and hear guns. You would know if it was ours or the enemy's."

On D-Day 9,000 soldiers were injured or dead. Walter's secret weapon was the thought of his soon-to-be wife and loved ones.

"If you break down from that--you're done," said Walter. "That's the best thing anyone's got--your mind."

He made it back alive, got married and now has two sons, granddaughters and great grandchildren. However, he will never forget everyone's sacrifice.

"You just think they were human beings and they were doing the same thing I was doing, fighting for what they were brought up to believe," said Walter. "It could have been me."

A 19-year-old boy turned 89-year-old man who is now remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

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