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US WWII Vets: Never Forget             08/24 09:09

   PARIS (AP) -- Seventy-five years ago, they helped free Europe from the 
Nazis. This weekend, U.S. veterans are back in Paris to celebrate, and 
commemorate.

   Now in their 90s, these men aren't afraid to cry about what they saw in 
World War II. And they want everyone to remember what happened back then, so 
that it doesn't happen again.

   "The veterans, all the veterans of World War II, I think we saved the 
world," said Harold Angle, who came to France with the U.S. 28th Infantry 
Division in 1944, and recounted his experiences to The Associated Press in 
Paris. "To be under the domination of a dictatorship like the Hitler regime and 
some of the terrible, terrible things that they did.

   "When you talk about taking little kids out on a firing range and shooting 
them for target practice...." Emotion choked his voice. "I can't imagine 
anybody doing things like that. So I think we really did save the world. The 
guy had to be stopped."

   Now 96, he's among Allied veterans, French resistance fighters and others 
taking part in ceremonies Saturday and Sunday marking the 75th anniversary of 
the military operation that liberated Paris from Nazi occupation.

   Angle, from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, landed in Normandy in 1944 and moved 
into eastern France, where his division fought through a brutal winter. He 
saved a piece of a bullet that hit his helmet, and keeps it with a wartime 
photo of himself and a letter he wrote home to his mother, describing his 
scrape with death.

   Steve Melnikoff, 99, of Cockeysville, Maryland, came ashore on Omaha Beach 
on D-Day, June 6, 1944 with the 29th Infantry Division. It was one of the most 
pivotal days in the war --- but to him, just one of many life-and-death 
experiences infantrymen faced on the front lines of history's deadliest 
conflict.

   "What we went through, to do what we did, people don't realize," he said. He 
still has pictures in his head of a fellow soldier falling beside him, and 
another. Of the muddy holes he called home. Of the German machine guns, each 
capable of firing thousands of rounds.

   War, he says, is "nasty, smelly, terrible." But he maintains, "it was 
important for someone to do this," to stop Hitler from taking over more of the 
world.

   Donald Cobb of Evansville, Indiana, took part in the invasions of Normandy 
and of southern France from aboard ship, operating high-frequency antennae to 
detect German submarines and helping load ammunition. He's back in peaceful 
Paris this week with the Greatest Generations Foundation, which organizes trips 
for veterans. He sometimes feels "survivor guilt," and has one fundamental 
message for younger generations: "Learn history, and don't repeat mistakes."

   Harold Radish, now a 95-year-old retired teacher, arrived in France in 1944, 
fought his way to Germany --- and then was captured. Hunger, lice and dysentery 
dominated life as a prisoner of war. His family in Brooklyn thought they'd 
never see him again.

   As a Jew, he remembers a German guard accusing him, and Wall Street, of 
starting the war. He remains surprised and grateful to have made it out alive.

   He came to Paris later, and reveled in Parisians' appreciation.

   "That's what's important about the liberation of Paris, it was a new thing, 
something good had changed, the world was gonna get a little better. ... You 
came in to Paris, you were a hero. There were the mademoiselles all around." He 
smiled. "You know, we, in the prison camp, talked about food constantly. As 
soon as we were liberated that day, the talk was all sex."

   Gregory Melikian, 95, now a hotel owner in Phoenix, was a high-speed radio 
operator working at Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in nearby 
Versailles when Paris fell.

   "It was very important," he said. "There was only one Paris."

   The fight for the French capital was faster and easier for the Allies than 
their longer-than-expected battle through Normandy and its gun-filled 
hedgerows. But it was still messy and deadly, with more than 1,400 Parisians 
and 3,200 German troops killed.

   In May 1945, Melikian was in the Reims high school where the Germans 
surrendered. As the youngest radio operator available, Eisenhower wanted him to 
send out the encrypted news of the momentous occasion so that he could talk 
about it the rest of his life.

   "And here I am," he said, incredulous, "75 years later."


(KR)

 
 
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