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West Harrison WWII Vet Recalls Bravery of D-Day

Harrison World War II veterans like 87-year-old Ross Marsico on Monday recalled the shock they endured on Normandy, France beaches during the D-Day invasion 67 years ago.

Marsico, a West Harrison resident and board member and financial secretary at the American Legion Post No. 135 in White Plains, began loading equipment onto allied ships near Southampton, England at 6:30 a.m. on that June day in 1944. He assumed he was preparing for a military maneuver like any other.

Then he looked up. The airplanes heading towards Normandy swarmed overhead and completely blocked out the sky.

“That’s when I knew,” Marsico said of D-Day. “It was quite a day. It couldn’t have been more than a two hour trip to  France. And then it was nonstop. All you heard was, ‘Let’s get this war over with.’”

Marsico and the 15,000 others on his ship swarmed against German gunfire and waves until they reached Omaha Beach. They met with 160,000 other Allied troops along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy coast, where they began a pivotal campaign against Germany’s occupation of Europe during World War II.

Marsico, a West Harrison resident, said the Germans expected the Allies to attack in a more geographically flat area, but they were still armed and ready.

“The front of the boat flopped down into a ramp, but you didn’t know how high the water was when you got out,” said Marsico, a former West Harrison police officer. “A lot of people got shot when they were getting off. The Germans had cement bunkers with machine guns in them. We were down on the ground in front of them.”

More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day, according to the U.S. Army’s website .

“Just saving yourself and your comrades, that’s all you thought about,” said Marsico, who serves as volunteer firefighter in West Harrison.

After the initial invasion, “it was a cakewalk,” according to Marsico, who fought in WWII until Germany surrendered in spring of 1945.

“Their gas lines and food lines were too long,” said Marsico. “They couldn’t support their troops. By the time they backed up into Germany they were just dropping their arms and walking around with their arms raised.”

Marsico, who was drafted six months after he graduated from high school, said it’s important to remember those who died while serving on D-Day.

“I wish everybody would look at it like that and all the stores would be closed for half of the day during the Memorial Day service,” said Marsico.

White Plains resident James Livingston, 84, shared Marsico's respect for World War II veterans, particularly his brother, a paratrooper who stormed Normandy on D-Day.

“I still look at the photos I have of him training,” said Livingston, a former railroad electrician. “It was something to be proud of and brag about.”

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