Seventy years ago, the Allied invasion of Normandy began the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.
Some of the living liberators are making an appearance at the beach this year.
“They call us the tip of the spear,” Jim Martin of Xenia, Ohio, told CBS.
He knows exactly where he was 70 years ago: He was part of the 101st Airborne, preparing to parachute behind the German lines in Normandy to stop a column of reinforcements from reaching the beaches.
It was supposed to be a surprise, but as they were about to jump, the air was suddenly exploding all around them.
“We wanted to get out of the planes quickly because it was hitting the planes. The planes were blowing up and we wanted to get the hell out of there,” said Martin.
It wasn’t much better outside the plane – they ended up right in the middle of the German columns.
“That was a slaughter house. It was SS all over the place and they just slaughtered us,” he said. “My colonel was lost, my company commander was lost.”
After fighting in Normandy, Jim fought in Holland and onto the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and he finally ended up in Berchtesgaden – the fuhrer’s retreat.
When asked if he thought he would die, Martin said he did, everyday.
“You just have to accept it,” Martin said. “If you’re going to worry about dying all the time, you can’t fight.”
This week, Jim Martin went back to Normandy. At the age of 93, he put on a parachute near the same spot he landed 70 years ago. He saw the beaches below and the rows of graves stones on the cliffs above – and a world that would have been very different had it not been for the courage of men like him.