Remembering D-Day in East Tennessee

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) -- June 6th, 1944, the day Operation Overlord was launched during World War II, a day we remember as D-Day.

It was the beginning of the end for the German military, truly the sign that the tide was turning in the war in the European Theater.

Today, East Tennesseans remembered the offensive, its veterans who sacrificed everything they had in the name of freedom.

63 years and 3 generations distant, that's how long it has been.

With its survivors passing with each year, soon it may be pictures that remain as our records of D-Day.

It's a thought that remains in the mind of Steve Hickman, one generation removed and a veteran himself, albeit of a far-different War in the jungles of Vietnam.

The bonds of brotherhood drew him and many others to Island Home airport today, to re-connect those living
history books with those who stood tall against tyranny.

"I know there were a lot of guys who died there so I could see these planes," Hickman said. "This plane flies every day. They tell us it was made in 1941 and still flies to this day. I wasn't born in 1941 and I'm not in that good a shape."

Captain Colonel Needham still is, and yes, that is his real name.

"It was confusing everywhere," the World War II veteran said of his name. "I had dog tags made twice everywhere I went!"

Neither Colonel nor Lieutenant Colonel Carl Albright flew on D-Day, but both make clear that the sacrifices made that day helped make their their missions successful in the months following.

According to Albright, the dangers were beyond bullets and bombs.

"When the temperature's anywhere from 35 to 50 below zero, and you're in an airplane that's not pressurized or heated," Albright said in reference to additional hazards of war. "Cold is an ever present danger and it was not all that uncommon, to either freezing or to lack of oxygen."

They say wars often bring a peace dividend and today we saw that in a war bird converted to rescue
craft.

As Steve Hickman watches the remembrance he hopes that America's collective conscience rewinds, and remembers that it was others sacrifices that make our nation what it is today.

"They do a job that people who weren't there can never realize," Hickman said. "To show my respect for them, there's not words."

Remote Area Medical sponsored today's salute to service.

It's DC-3 dropped paratroopers at Normandy, and during the D-Day invasion.


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