Veterans remember celebrations, violence from D-Day Invasion - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Veterans remember celebrations, violence from D-Day Invasion

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PARIS, FRANCE (WIS) Seeing American tanks rolling down Parisian streets was a true sign of France's liberations after four years of living under Nazi occupation.

However, the war was far from over.

American soldiers were still fighting across Europe trying to put a complete end to the conflict that would later go down as one of the deadliest in modern history.

The last time Navy veteran John Cummer saw Paris, his name was drawn out of a hat on the shore of Utah Beach.

"I wasn't about to pass this chance up," Cummer said. "So, we tossed our bags in the back of a truck, and we went down the very same route we went today. I was curled up inside of a tire in the back of a truck all the way to Paris."

In August 1944, Paris was liberated and many veterans today remember the relief and celebration that took place under the Arc D'Triumph.

"Civilians lined the curb line almost 10-12 deep," 82nd Airborne Division veteran Leif Maseng said. " It was marvelous. When that happens, it almost carries you along."

The war ended in less than a year and some soldiers were ready to let their hair down.

"Two guys decided to hit the bars and find the girls," Cummer said. "And the other guy and I decided we would try to be safe...  (This guy) thought he knew French. So he starts talking this funny-sounding French, wearing this funny-looking uniform and the marquis were in the place and they looked at him and they arrested those two guys. And that's all they ever saw of Paris."

Both veterans would return home soon after that. What awaited each man was similar but different. It was quiet.

"I'll never forget coming home," Maseng said. "It was Christmas Eve. Snowfall. Like something out of a movie."

Returning to the United States 70 years later after this trip, however, would be quite different. Despite taking part in the war that liberated Europe, these men say they're not heroes. To this day, some struggle to forgive the violence of the past.

"I find it difficult to accept the enemy after the war," Maseng said. "Stacking dead bodies like hardwood. Do they not believe in God? They probably don't. They couldn't do it if they did. It's hard to understand how God could forgive them."

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