North Dakota veteran front and center in iconic D-Day photo

Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 10:08 AM CDT
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The 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Europe is June 6, and a longtime North Dakota veteran's face will be front and center again as part of the national commemoration.

On June 5, 1944, the night prior to the Allied assault on Normandy, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower addressed paratroopers who would jump behind enemy lines to begin Operation Overlord.

Take a look at this historic photograph. William Hayes is right in the middle of this iconic image, listening to the supreme commander of the Allied Forces as he addresses the 502nd Parachute Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

Hayes worked in the Fargo Sears store for more than 40 years, and that's him, right there, front and center without his helmet. He even spoke with Eisenhow, who asked him, "Are you ready?" To which he replied…"yeah."

Hayes and hundreds of other paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines the night before the invasion to destroy German artillery defenses.

Staff Sgt. Hayes earned two Bronze stars and two Purple Hearts during his service in World War II.

He passed away in 2006 in Fargo.