PORTLAND (AP) – Eighty-two-year-old Valier Jandreau recalls the widespread death and destruction when he the joined wave of soldiers who stormed ashore at Omaha Beach in France 60 years ago.

At the time, Jandreau thought the D-Day operation would be a failure.

“Seeing all the damage and destruction, I really thought we’d lost the battle,” said Jandreau, who was then a staff sergeant. But on the evening of June 6, 1944, Jandreau was part of the force that held the bluffs high above the beach.

Instead of failure, the amphibious landing went down became recognized as the beginning of the end of World War II.

Jandreau, who lives in a nursing home in St. Francis, was unable to attend anniversary observances in France.

Also part of the D-Day invasion force were Leon Audet of Winslow and his friend Almo Nickerson of Hallowell, whose landing crafts bound for Utah Beach were close to each other.

Nickerson, who is 82, said his landing craft was sinking, so it returned to the barge that had carried the 4th Army Division soldiers from England and found a more seaworthy ride to shore.

“I came in a little bit late,” said Nickerson, who recently visited Audet’s Winslow home where the two men recalled events 60 years ago.

“We had to wait for you,” said Audet, who is now 85.

Kendell Garrett, 83, of Jefferson, was among those who swooped into Normandy from aloft in the predawn hours of D-Day.

Garrett rode in the belly of a Horsa glider towed by Dakota planes, one of 100 Horsa and Waco gliders that landed several miles inland. Garrett rode with 13 other men in a craft that landed in a field peppered with posts intended to prevent landings.

“Some of the gliders hit these posts and wrecked,” said Garrett, then a member of the 101st Airborne’s Screaming Eagles. “As long as you got on the ground without going nose-down, you were successful.”

“All hell went on,” added Garrett.

Another D-Day veteran from Maine, 90-year-old Harry Masters, who lives near the town of Bristol where he was raised, said he wishes he could go back to France again, but can’t in his condition.

Masters, who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day as an officer in the 82nd Airborne Division, returned to the scene in 1994.

“I still have my uniform,” Masters said. “I’m going to be buried in it.”

AP-ES-06-06-04 1231EDT

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