"We didn't know exactly what we were getting into," said Sheldon Bare, reflecting on his involvement in the D-Day invasion 69 years ago.
Bare, a World War II veteran who served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion's Dog Company, praised the men he served with during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, including former Altoona Police Chief Jack E. Kuhn. Bare served with Kuhn in the 2nd Ranger's assault on the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.
After a fierce fight to climb and secure the cliff tops, Kuhn and other Rangers used thermite grenades to disable multiple German 155 mm guns. The artillery guns had been hidden in a nearby apple orchard and were sighted on the Normandy beaches where Allied forces were landing.
Sheldon Bare served on D-Day, 69 years ago today, with the 2nd Ranger Battalion’s Dog Company, along with a former Altoona police chief.
Their actions saved a lot of lives during the Normandy invasion, Bare said.
When Vietnam veteran Bob Eyer visited Europe in 2004 to honor World War II veterans, he said it was "overwhelming" to speak with soldiers who fought to establish the first foothold in Europe.
"It was very emotional for them, and quite frankly, everyone, to be there," Eyer said. "It's just something I always wanted to do from when I was a child. I just wanted to go to Normandy and give those men thanks."
Honoring veterans' for their service and sacrifice was a characteristic ingrained in Eyer growing up and listening to veterans' stories as a small child, he said.
During the assault on Pointe du Hoc, Bare waded ashore as German soldiers fired down on the invading forces.
Men drowned trying to get to the beach, weighed down by their weapons and ammunition and injured from enemy fire.
"I'll never forget that," Bare said.
After scaling the rocky cliffs, Bare took cover in a bomb crater with another soldier who had been wounded by a sniper in the assault. As Bare moved to find the German sharpshooter, he was shot in the shoulder.
Of the about 200 men who went up over the cliffs, only 90 were able to continue fighting the next day, he said.
Bare's second Purple Heart was awarded for injuries he suffered as a result of a shrapnel wound to the neck while fighting to secure Hill 400 in Germany.
Bare was also awarded the French Medal of Honor, the highest medal awarded by the French government to foreign soldiers.
"Quite a few other guys deserve it," Bare said of his various medals. "There's a lot of guys wounded more than I was."
Eyer said families can honor their veterans by uploading pictures and stories to the national World War II Memorial.
"It's not their entire history, but it's going to be there forever," Eyer said.
More information is available at www.wwiimemorial.com.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.