Flag-raising ceremony on Long Island honoring World War II veterans who landed in Normandy nearly 8 decades ago

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MINEOLA, NY — Monday marked the anniversary of one of the most significant military operations in the history of warfare.

D-Day – June 6, 1944 – was the day tens of thousands of Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. It marked the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler.

And, as CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, a few of those brave soldiers are still alive today.

A moving flag-raising ceremony was held on Monday to honor World War II veterans who lined the beaches of Normandy 78 years ago.

Now both 100 years old, David Wolman and David George of Long Island were part of the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare.

When asked if he was proud of his time in Normandy, Sgt. George, from St. James, said: “You bet. When you land, you feel like something might happen right away, but you don’t know what it is. But you’re not scared.”

His teenage life will quickly change. He described the first day of his landing.

“It was hell. We came across a sailor, a dead sailor floating in the water,” George said.

The D-Day landings marked the start of the costly campaign in northwest Europe, which finally convinced the German high command that defeat was inevitable.

When asked how he felt on the 78th anniversary of D-Day, Cpl. Wolman of Centereach,” said, “Wonderful. Tremendous. I miss all the boys I knew.”

Wolman, who was an air traffic controller, said D-Day was kept secret.

“On D-Day I was 95 miles north of London. They woke us up at 4 a.m.,” Wolman said.

The big local D-Day connection is the troop gliders and which were actually built in Mineola.

Joshua Stoff, curator of the Cradle of Aviation Museum, said a nearby shopping mall, which is now in Carle Place but was originally part of Mineola, is of historic significance for D-Day. A factory there got a government contract to help build gliders that brought soldiers to Normandy.

“Given the technology at the time, it was really the only way to get a lot of troops in the field in a hurry in one place,” Stoff said.

And the employees building the glider parts were mostly Long Island housewives — Rosie the Riveters — because so many men were in the fight.

Hundreds of land-built wings and tails were transported by ship across the Atlantic Ocean and assembled in Europe.

Only five gliders remain, including one on display at the Cradle of Aviation.

“It really is a neat display and a very rare artifact,” Stoff said.

And that helped change the winds of war.

“We can be together today in this room today because they saved the world,” said Thomas Ronayne, director of the Suffolk Veterans Services Agency.

Nancy Wolman told McLogan that she felt like a hero’s daughter.

“I do. They’re the greatest generation,” she said.

“I feel like I did my job,” George added.

Humble to the end.

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