SUSSEX COUNTY, Del.- On June 6, 1944, Dan Durso was far from where he grew-up in northeastern Pennsylvania. Durso was stationed in England with the 702nd Tank Battalion. A month, later he would be in France engaged in World War II battles with Nazi German tank divisions. It was during his training when the liberation of Europe began with D Day.
“When it took place, at noon time we all gathered in the kitchen and had a little prayer,” Durso, now living in Rehoboth Beach, recalls. “Nothing actually took place [in England] that day as far as training was concerned. People were asking ‘What’s going on, how are we doing, and how will it be?’ We were thinking of ourselves because we knew we were going to follow.”
A few months after Allied forces landed on France’s Normandy Beach, Durso was wounded when his battalion was shelled by the Germans. He suffered several wounds, one of which resulted in the loss of one of his right-hand fingers. Durso would receive the Purple Heart after being sent back to the United States to recover.
According to Durso, he is one of just three living members out of 165 in his battalion who landed on Normandy Beach a month after D-Day.
Milton’s Walt Koopman, the child of a WWII veteran and a Korean War Veteran has traveled to Normandy many times and says the Americans who served on that fateful day are still appreciated by the French to this day.
“You meet the real people who are very grateful for our liberation into that country in 1944,” he says.
Also remembering D-Day 75 years later is Dr. Gary Wray with the Fort Miles Historical Association. The old World War Two outpost is outfitted with a gun from the U.S.S. Missouri, the ship that oversaw the end of WWII with the Japanese surrender.
Wray says there are hyperlocal connections to D-Day, albeit not commonly known.
“A lot of people don’t understand it but a lot of the boys were from the Eastern Shore of Maryland,” he says. The 29th division that went ashore at Omaha Beach that took so many casualties including 19 boys who were killed from the little town of Bedford, Virginia […] I’d like to give a thought and shout out to them and all the things that they did to help me be able to stand here in the greatest country in the world to talk about the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.”
The Fort Miles Historical Association is paying tribute to D-Day with a special presentation and book signing at their renovated Battery 519 on Sunday.