North Dakota vets remember D-Day and its legacy

Published: Jun. 6, 2019 at 5:54 PM CDT
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Sixty thousand North Dakotans served in World War II and nearly two thousand didn't come back. On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which turned the tide in World War II, Andrew Horn sat down with veterans to talk about their service during the war.

"Invasion: Allies land in France, Smash Ahead; Fleet, Planes, Chutists Battling Nazi" is just one of the many newspaper headlines from that day.

After listening to veterans, it's clear the events of that day are just as important now as then.

One hundred thousand allied forces stormed five different points in Normandy during a battle that helped liberate Europe from Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Seventy-five years later, D-Day's significance isn't lost on World War II veterans Edward Simek and Arthur Fryslie.

"Sure it was the turning point of the war, but a terrible loss. A terrible price to pay,” said Simek, US Army 1945-1947. Simek was a radio operator.

"As I watched the invasion and I think, God, lucky am I. What those guys went through you know? So I'm grateful,” said Arthur Fryslie, US Navy 1942-1945.

Nearly 5,000 troops died in the first hours of the invasion. Harold Bach says he did a little bit of everything in the Army, including supplying aircrafts with bombs up to 2,000 pounds apiece.

"I'd hate to go through it again and yet I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything in the world,” said Bach, US Army 1941-1946.

After the success of D-Day, the allied forces got a foothold in Europe and eventually went on to force a German surrender in May 1945. For Fryslie, that means he had a promise to keep.

"I remember saying to myself if I get back to the states alive, I'll quit smoking. The day we pulled into San Francisco, I took my Lucky Strikes and threw them over the side of the ship,” said Fryslie.

Veterans like Fryslie, Simek and Bach are members of a shrinking group of soldiers who have first-hand knowledge of what happened on June 6, 1944. It's believed there's less than 500 World War II veterans are still alive in North Dakota.

Videos courtesy: North Dakota State Historical Society