PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Friday is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called it a crusade.
Brave young men crossed the English Channel by air and by sea to turn the tide of World War II. Now, 70 years later, those brave young men belong to 'The Greatest Generation'.
News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 had the honor to speak with one of the bombardiers involved in D-Day. Here are Alex Ranftle's mermories, in his own words:
Our job was to bomb a bridge and choke points of a little city about 15 miles from the coast called Conde-Sur-Noireau. My name is Alex Ranftle and on D-Day -- June 6, 1944 -- I was a crew member of the B-17 G. We flew the afternoon raid.
We found out about 4 o'clock in the morning when they came in to wake us up. Then we knew that was going to be our first mission.
We didn't fly in the first wave, in the afternoon flight. Then all nine of us were on the airplane. That ended up being our first mission over enemy soil.
Once we crossed the English Channel, it was so surprising, you looked down at the number of ships that were down there, couldn't believe. They look like you could walk across the channel, so many ships.
Never saw so many ships in all my life in one spot. We already got two or three bursts of flack because the majority of the guns were pointing out into the channel shooting at the ships.
There were so many American fighters in the air. We had the P47, P51's, P38's, and then the British had there spitfires. We never even saw a German fighter that day.
The purpose of the bombing was to make it tougher to bring up replacements so the Germans couldn't. We bombed the bridges, the rail stations, that is what our primary targets were that day.
When you saw the lead plane drop his bombs, the plane would push a lever and drop its bombs, so all the 22 planes, [within] ten seconds the bombs are released and then they will hit the ground in the exact formation that you were flying in.
For us, we're bombing as I say a bridge. That was my first mission on D-day and we ended up flying 33 missions before we finished up. We had very good results on that day. Got the bridge, we got the choke points.
It's something that had to be done. It was a good feeling because it was going to start the invasion and take back the land from the Germans.