GREAT NECK - Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of D-Day, and one Long Island veteran and survivor of the historic day is recalling his experience.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 American, British and Canadian troops landed on the shores of Normandy, France to battle Nazi forces. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in the invasion, which is considered one of the largest sea-to-land military assaults in history.
Walter Blum, of Great Neck, was 18 years old when he was called to war. He was part of an engineering brigade and had been called up to the front lines just five days before the invasion.
Blum says the job of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade was to get out in front, clear the water of mines and lay 350-pound mats on the beach to allow heavily armored vehicles to follow up the beach.
"It was successful except for the casualties," Blum said. "The casualties were enormous."
After the war, Blum, who is now 89, returned to Great Neck, where he bought a house and raised a family. Seventy-one years after storming Normandy, Blum says he still reflects on matters of life and death.
"You ask yourself, 'what did I live for, what did they die for?'" he said. "They died for the same thing I lived for, except they died and I lived."
Last year, Blum was inducted into the state Senate's Veterans' Hall of Fame. He will celebrate his 90th birthday next week.