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D-Day's brave sacrifices must never be forgotten

June 06, 2006

It was 62 years ago today and the number of those who remember it firsthand has been dwindling recently, but it is a day that no American should ever forget.

It was the D-Day invasion of France, four years after that country had been subjugated and the British forced back to their island, which was no haven from the German bombs and missiles.

Planned since late 1943, it has come to be known as the decisive battle of Western Europe during World War II, not because it was an easy victory. The troops that crossed the English Channel had to deal with mines and other obstacles on the beach and gunfire from the cliffs above.

In all, 3,393 Americans died that day, with another 3,200 killed or captured by enemy forces.

Not all of those Americans were from America's big cities. Some were even from Washington County.

The local soldiers included Capt. Leroy "Bud" Weddle and the men of Company B of the 115th Infantry, 29th Division.

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Weddle and his men were part of the American force that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Company B was also one of the first groups to try to take the French city of St. Lo from the Germans.

The fighting for that town was described in a 2000 article by John Schildt, a local historian.

Allied troops had been expected to take the town in six days, but Schildt said they had not bargained for the ancient network of hedgerows in the farm fields. The fight took six weeks and Weddle was wounded and nearly lost an arm.

Over the years, local veterans of that battle have talked about it, not in a boastful way, but as something they did in hopes that no one would ever have to endure such things again.

They fought in a war that ended before millions of Americans living today were born. Unlike many in Eastern European and Asian countries, who pass down memories of battles won and lost - and grudges held - for hundreds of years, many Americans tend to forget the nation's history.

World War II shaped the world we live in today for the better, thanks to the sacrifices of people such as those who served in Company B. They should never be forgotten.

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