WWII Veteran Recalls D-Day Memories on 69th Anniversary
WWII veteran John Leys
Thursday marks the 69th anniversary of the day the United States invaded Normandy, France, better known as D-Day.
Now, a 99-year-old veteran is reflecting on his time during the war.
John Leys has crystal clear memories of his time during World War II.
He was a commanding officer and captain of one of the ships that landed 300 soldiers on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
"They didn't do much real landing they scratched and scrambled and a lot of them drowned," he said.
Leys recalls making many trips to and from Omaha Beach.
"Bringing troops, nurses, Jeeps, anything," he said.
He often reflects on what he calls one of his saddest memories.
"A British admiral asked him to go along and tell captains of civilian ships that they were required to scuttle their ships to form a breakwater so that more troops and supplies could be landed on Omaha Beach," Carroll Langston, Leys' daughter, said.
But according to Langston, he hasn't always been so open about his experiences.
"It's interesting that he hasn't talked all of my life about his experience in the war, it was only when my daughter was born that he was able to talk about it," she said.
Langston was born while her father was away at war.
"He heard of my birth by semaphore, which came from boat to boat in the fleet and apparently a great cheer went up," she said.
Now the family is celebrating another birth close to the D-Day anniversary that Leys is around to see.
"It's quite an experience and I feel privileged especially today because my dad turned 99 on May 20 and he's just heard with me that my daughter has given him a great-grandson today," Langston said in an interview earlier in the week.
And as D-Day and World War II become more of the past each day, it's something Leys will never forget.
"Everything was so mixed up and you were trying to figure something out and you couldn't do it and you just did the best you could and that's all there was to it," he said.
Leys was also captain of the University of Virginia football team in 1935.
He is now the oldest living captain of any UVA sports team.
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