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Mississippians to Commemorate 70th Anniversary of D-Day

By Paul Boger | Published 06 Jun 2014 05:34am | comments

Mississippians around the state are taking the time to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy today. The invasion, now know as D-Day, marked a major turning point during World War Two.  MPB's Paul Boger Reports.  

On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel to storm five beaches in northern France. It was part of an invasion that marked a turning point in what would become one of the bloodiest wars in history. Natchez resident McKinley Barnes was there. As a private in a transportation and supply unit, he joined the second wave of the invasion loading and unloading ships. 

“My company carried a shipload of bombs and shells.” says Barnes. “Of course at 6:00 that morning we was sitting out in Channel/ Then they set us down on what you call Normandy Beach. It was dangerous, because they was fighting right on up from us.”

Barnes, now 92, is part of a dying generation. The Veterans Administration says just 1.7 million of the 16 million Americans who served in World War Two are still alive today. G. Mark LaFrancis is part of an effort to record the voices of those who fought in the war. He says it's important to get these stories from the heroes themselves.

“Hearing it from the World War Two Veterans themselves is an extraordinary document that cannot be reproduced.” LaFrancis says. “That they were willing to death to defend free peoples everywhere.”

However, Barnes doesn't consider himself a hero. He says he was just doing his job. Bill Storey teaches history at Millsaps College in Jackson.

“The Allies showed the we were willing to increase our commitment in Western Europe, and probably most importantly showed the people of France that we really going to take steps to liberate their country.” says Storey.

Only small, local memorials are being held around the state, but officials with the National World War Two Memorial is New Orleans are planning a large observance to commemorate the invasion today and into the weekend.

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