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Remembering D-Day: Local historian, veteran say we need to keep history alive

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Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 11:09:35-04

BROWN COUNTY (NBC 26) — Monday is the 78th anniversary of D-Day, a major turning point in WWII when allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France.

"It basically stopped the Nazis from world domination, which brought us our freedom today," said Joe Aulik, Brown County Veterans Service Office director. "It's a very important day and kind of a solemn day to take a little bit of time to remember those who {paid} the ultimate sacrifice."

On June 6, 1944 more than 156,000 allied troops invaded Normandy's beaches code-named Gold, Juno, Omaha, Utah and Sword. Thousands of soldiers lost their lives in battle.

People in Northeast Wisconsin may have read about the invasion in the local paper or in LIFE Magazine.

The Brown County Public Library has many of those articles in its archives. One headline from a newspaper read, "D-Day off to a good start. Allies seize footholds, push inland in France." Another article detailed the need for 800 donors at the blood bank in Green Bay.

Mary Jane Herber, Brown County Public Library local history librarian, said the paper often had updates on local soldiers as well.

“It’s a whole different time in terms of being directly connected to everything that was going on, because for sure you knew one, or two, or 20 or more that had gone off to war," Herber said.

Years ago, Herber said she met a man living in Brown County who served during D-Day. She said he died about two years ago and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

"I was lucky enough to know a man that was driving a landing craft when he was 19 going into Utah Beach - not Omaha Beach, but Utah beach," Herber said. "I mean, 19? I just can't imagine what that was like in terms of him doing that."

According to the National Archives, 185 service members from Brown County died in WWII.

While many veterans who survived have passed away now, Aulik said it's important to keep their stories and history alive.

"To remember the errors that were made in history so they're not repeated, and to understand how precious the freedom of speech - and just the freedom to move freely - how precious that is. And this is what they were fighting against," Aulik said.

He said the goal is to remember history to avoid repeating the past.

Veterans can call the Brown County Veterans Service Office at 920-448-4450 to talk about benefits and additional support.