WWII 101st Airborne paratrooper remembers Normandy

NORFOLK, VA. (WTKR/CNN) – The US and its allies are marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy, France during World War II.

Experts believe the invasion marked a turning point in the war.

It was the start of the allies long trek across Europe to defeat Hitler and the Nazis.

WTKR spoke to one of the last surviving paratroopers from the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company about his memories of D-Day.

“There’s only five of us originals from the original Easy Company,” WWII Veteran Col. Edward Shames said.

Colonel Shames left Norfolk at age twenty to become an army paratrooper.

“I was in every battle that was from the time we invaded the continent till the time we went up on top of Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s hideout. Every one,” Col. Shames said.

But there was none quite like the jump into Normandy.

“There was no jubilation. We had a good meal. We had steak and ice cream. First time we had that in years. The last supper I guess you could call it.

“We crossed the continent and all hell broke loose.

“If you’ve been to ocean view when you were a kid at fireworks time, that’s what it looked like. We jumped into that.

“Some of the guys jumped as much as fifty miles away from the jump zone.

“A lot of it was because of faulty equipment, faulty instructions and, I’m sure, cowardice on the part of the pilots trying to get out of it,” Col. Shames said.

Col. Shames was the first non-commissioned officer in his battalion to receive a battlefield promotion in Normandy to lieutenant.

A week later he survived a furious battle he’ll never forget.

“First of all it was my birthday and all I could see was ‘Born June 13th, died June 13th,” Col. Shames said.

Col. Shames and the others in Easy Company were made famous by the Stephen Ambrose book and movie “Band of Brothers”, but he says Hollywood is not history.

“The Band of Brothers is a very good novel, but there’s very little truth in it.

“It’s the imagination of Dr. Ambrose and I had quite a few arguments with him to the point he was calling me every s.o.b. in line because I told him what I thought and I told him this stuff is–and he told me ‘What the hell do you know about writing a book?’ and he was absolutely correct,” Col. Shames said.

But neither Hollywood nor age can diminish what Col. Shames and the others accomplished starting with Normandy seventy years ago.

“There’s two things that I’m proud of that I did in World War II.

“Number one was my battlefield commission and the other was that I brought more men home from my platoon than any of the 200 other platoons in the 101st Airborne Division.

“The rest is what I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to do it,” Col. Shames said.

President Obama and other world leaders are in Normandy for the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day this weekend.

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