FILE - In this Aug. 29, 1944 file photo, U.S. soldiers of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division march along the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe in the background, four days after the liberation of Paris, France. The fighting for the liberation of Paris took place from August 19 to August 25, 1944. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll, File)
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75 years later, U.S. World War II veterans say: Never forget

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By ANGELA CHARLTON

Seventy-five years ago, they helped free Europe from the Nazis. This weekend, U.S. veterans are back in Paris to celebrate, and commemorate.

Now in their 90s, these men aren't afraid to cry about what they saw in World War II. And they want everyone to remember what happened back then, so that it doesn't happen again.

"The veterans, all the veterans of World War II, I think we saved the world," said Harold Angle, who came to France with the U.S. 28th Infantry Division in 1944, and recounted his experiences to The Associated Press in Paris. "To be under the domination of a dictatorship like the Hitler regime and some of the terrible, terrible things that they did.

"When you talk about taking little kids out on a firing range and shooting them for target practice...." Emotion choked his voice. "I can't imagine anybody doing things like that. So I think we really did save the world. The guy had to be stopped."

Now 96, he's among Allied veterans, French resistance fighters and others taking part in ceremonies Saturday and Sunday marking the 75th anniversary of the military operation that liberated Paris from Nazi occupation.

Angle, from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, landed in Normandy in 1944 and moved into eastern France, where his division fought through a brutal winter. He saved a piece of a bullet that hit his helmet, and keeps it with a wartime photo of himself and a letter he wrote home to his mother, describing his scrape with death.

Steve Melnikoff, 99, of Cockeysville, Maryland, came ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 with the 29th Infantry Division. It was one of the most pivotal days in the war — but to him, just one of many life-and-death experiences infantrymen faced on the front lines of history's deadliest conflict.

"What we went through, to do what we did, people don't realize," he said. He still has pictures in his head of a fellow soldier falling beside him, and another. Of the muddy holes he called home. Of the German machine guns, each capable of firing thousands of rounds.

War, he says, is "nasty, smelly, terrible." But he maintains, "it was important for someone to do this," to stop Hitler from taking over more of the world.

Donald Cobb of Evansville, Indiana, took part in the invasions of Normandy and of southern France from aboard ship, operating high-frequency antennae to detect German submarines and helping load ammunition. He's back in peaceful Paris this week with the Greatest Generations Foundation, which organizes trips for veterans. He sometimes feels "survivor guilt," and has one fundamental message for younger generations: "Learn history, and don't repeat mistakes."

Harold Radish, now a 95-year-old retired teacher, arrived in France in 1944, fought his way to Germany — and then was captured. Hunger, lice and dysentery dominated life as a prisoner of war. His family in Brooklyn thought they'd never see him again.

As a Jew, he remembers a German guard accusing him, and Wall Street, of starting the war. He remains surprised and grateful to have made it out alive.

He came to Paris later, and reveled in Parisians' appreciation.

"That's what's important about the liberation of Paris, it was a new thing, something good had changed, the world was gonna get a little better. ... You came in to Paris, you were a hero. There were the mademoiselles all around." He smiled. "You know, we, in the prison camp, talked about food constantly. As soon as we were liberated that day, the talk was all sex."

Gregory Melikian, 95, now a hotel owner in Phoenix, was a high-speed radio operator working at Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in nearby Versailles when Paris fell.

"It was very important," he said. "There was only one Paris."

The fight for the French capital was faster and easier for the Allies than their longer-than-expected battle through Normandy and its gun-filled hedgerows. But it was still messy and deadly, with more than 1,400 Parisians and 3,200 German troops killed.

In May 1945, Melikian was in the Reims high school where the Germans surrendered. As the youngest radio operator available, Eisenhower wanted him to send out the encrypted news of the momentous occasion so that he could talk about it the rest of his life.

"And here I am," he said, incredulous, "75 years later."

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


7 Comments
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And they want everyone to remember what happened back then, so that it doesn't happen again.

But it is happening. Look at the nations veering even fuhrer to the right behind authoritarian leaders, especially the leaders of two of the nations most responsible for ensuring fascism was smashed. Look up the definition of fascism. Then look at what's happening in those two nations.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It's important to remember.

After all, we learn from the lessons of history.

Or do we?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Sometimes, like these veterans say, war is a necessary evil, undertaken to destroy a scourge like Nazism.

But those who come after them don't so much learn (or forget) the lessons of history as they tend to cherry-pick them in order to bolster whatever aggression or misguided ideology they want to push. It's a shame how despite the fact that so many of these old veterans are unabashedly anti-war, the trumpet-blowers and the warmongers will ignore that and instead misuse the old guys' sacrifices to push for yet more war. And yet the politicians and the warmongers are hypocritical enough to praise these old men to the skies while they're doing it. Sickening, really.

Anyway, well done, WW2 veterans. In your time American soldiers were unequivocally on the side of the angels.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"The veterans, all the veterans of World War II, I think we saved the world,"

These men literally saved the entire world, and we should never ever forget their valor and courage.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Brave men, all of them and let's not forget the fallen but wars are to be avoided and not started but we can never allow the face of fascism and imperialism to rule the earth and must stub it out where never it raises its ugly head.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

US veterans/ active jokers have it coming from Iran soon.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

It's a shame how despite the fact that so many of these old veterans are unabashedly anti-war, the trumpet-blowers and the warmongers will ignore that and instead misuse the old guys' sacrifices to push for yet more war. And yet the politicians and the warmongers are hypocritical enough to praise these old men to the skies while they're doing it. Sickening, really.

And yet the politicians and the warmongers keep on cheering to the reality TV show of war where soldiers are the new gladiators.

Look at the nations veering even fuhrer to the right behind authoritarian leaders, especially the leaders of two of the nations most responsible for ensuring fascism was smashed. Look up the definition of fascism. Then look at what's happening in those two nations.

A new holocaust occurred in Yugoslavia against Muslims, Croats, etc. under the fascist dictator Slobodan Milosevic. And a horrendous genocide occurred in Rwanda in 1994 against the Tutsis due to its fascist regime. And now look at the U.S.A. It's Hispanics. Who's next? *We must STOP this insanity!*

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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