SEATTLE — Thursday marks 75 years since D-Day, when the Allied amphibious assault parachuted in, opening the way for Western Europe's liberation from Hitler's forces.
Seattle Resident George Westlake, a colonel and tank group commander, was one of the men who fought in World War II and arrived on the beaches of Normandy, France 75 years ago.
The veteran, now 100 years old, has many memories of D-Day.
Westlake served at Fort Lawton, which is now part of Discovery Park.
Westlake worked there for years as a civil affairs commander before retiring as a colonel in 1975.
Westlake says he got out for Memorial Day this year, and at a recent service, dozens of people talked to him about his D-Day memories, so when KIRO 7’s Ranji Sinha sat down with him, he was prepared.
Westlake had maps of France that he used to navigate the countryside. He also had a Nazi armband that he's held on to since World War II.
Westlake commanded a tank group and said it took days for them to land the tanks in a spot where they could get moving and then get into the French countryside.
He watched a good amount of the invasion and said that he wasn't sure it would all work, but when he landed two days later, they were still taking enemy fire on the beach.
"You remember the day. You'll never forget that. It was a day you learned what combat was all about. You never learned any of that in training. You learned how to shoot the gun, but you don't know what war is until they start shooting at you. Then you learn real fast or you don't ever learn,” said Westlake.
Westlake says that he chased the Germans through France and Belgium through 1944-45. He was at the Battle of the Bulge and remembers many German soldiers trying to ditch their uniforms and disguise themselves in civilian clothes as Allied troops moved into certain towns.
While he took part in history and the events that turned the tide in WW II, to this day he says he was focused on the task and simply did his part.
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