D-Day: A memory alive in the minds of survivors and remembered every June 6

The Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day, started on June 6, 1944, when more than 160,000 allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.

More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies, which included mainly France, Britain and the United States, gained a foothold in Continental Europe. The cost in terms of lives lost on D-Day was huge. More than 9,000 soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin a slow but hard slog across Europe to defeat German troops.

World War II veteran Ralph Ticcioni, 93, showing a photo of his younger self as a soldier. Credit: Media.jrn.com (full link)

World War II veteran Ralph Ticcioni, 93, showing a photo of his younger self as a soldier. Credit: Media.jrn.com (full link)

To commemorate the observance, Ralph Ticcioni, a 93-year-old World War II veteran and survivor of the D-Day invasions, returned to the Norman coast for a second visit, 72 years later. The New Berlin man had not returned to France until last week, when the residents of St. Mere-Eglise, the village near where Ticcioni landed as part of the D-Day invasion, arranged for him to come and participate in a weeklong commemoration. He has been treated as a hero.

“Of course I was scared,” Ticcioni said on the occasion. “We all were. But once you get into the action, your adrenaline takes over, your training comes into being, and I'm just one of the lucky ones who survived.”

Two Sundays ago, he received the French Legion of Honor medal in a solemn ceremony along with two other recipients, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's granddaughter Susan Eisenhower and four-star Gen. John Nicholson.

Ticcioni didn't know he was receiving the prestigious honor until his name was called. “I'm overwhelmed. Completely surprised. I had no idea,” he said.

But why was the day called “D-Day”?

A commonly touted explanation given for the meaning of D-Day is that it stands for “designated day.” Others claim that it stands for “decision day,” “debarkation,” or even “deliverance day.”

Actually, according to the U.S. military, “D-Day” was an army designation used to indicate the start date for specific field operations. In this case, the “D” in D-Day doesn’t actually stand for anything.

The military also employed the term “H-Hour” to refer to the time on D-Day when the action would begin. The use of these terms stretches back to World War I. One American field order from September 1918 noted, “The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient.”

Other nations had their own shorthand. In World War I, the French used the code date “J-Jour,” while the British called their operation start days “Z-Day” and “Zero Hour.”

WWII survivors remembering D-Day

The following video, uploaded to YouTube by Matt Archer, shows interviews with veterans from both sides -American and German- talking about their experiences.