Melvin Kloeppel and wife Alma pose for a photograph. Kloeppel was one of the soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach during D-Day. (Photo submitted)
Melvin Kloeppel and wife Alma pose for a photograph. Kloeppel was one of the soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach during D-Day. (Photo submitted)

DELPHOS – On June 6, the free world commemorated and celebrated the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy during World War II. This was a turning point in the war but many brave men gave their lives for that cause.

Melvin Kloeppel of Delphos was one of those brave men who landed on Omaha Beach. Kloeppel and his wife, Alma, live on their farm north of Delphos. Melvin will celebrate his 94th birthday on June 19. Alma turned 91 in March.

Kloeppel saw 11 different countries while he was serving during World War II. He went across Europe from France to Lenz, Austria — all the way in combat. He served in Pattons’s Army and the Battle of the Bulge and ended up in Lenz, Austria, two days before the war ended. He was awarded the highest award, The Bronze Star. He was injured during combat and the medic treated him for the burn on his neck.

“The medic told me if I went to the officer’s tent to be treated, I would have been awarded the Purple Heart,” Kloeppel recalled. “I preferred to stay right where I was, rather than risk being hit by a bullet going from one place to another.”

Before D-Day, most of the soldiers had been stationed across the channel in the United Kingdom. They boarded the ships the night before the invasion.

“We didn’t know what to expect but in the morning, we were told to eat a good hot breakfast because it might be the last one for awhile,” Kloeppel said. “That was also the last warm bed for months. Many times we slept in the snow.”

The troops disembarked the ships to the amphibious craft and had to wade through water to get to the beach and then climb up the cliffs while under fire. From there it was months of combat.

“When we reached the top of the cliffs, we saw dead bodies all over,” Kloeppel said.

This would later become the Omaha (or Normandy) cemetery, which many have seen on television.

Prior to the actual invasion, bombers flew over and knocked out strategic areas and radar, etc. Then shortly after midnight, paratroopers were dropped. Many of them were killed in the process. A Delphos native, the late Dutch Nagel, was one of those paratroopers who landed and survived. Next the gliders came in carrying heavy equipment, such as half-track, etc. The troops started to land on the beach at 6:30 a.m. The landing location was a 50-mile stretch, divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. Causalities were heaviest at Omaha, with the high cliffs. Allied casualties on D-Day were at least 12,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead.

The U.S. Navy also suffered causalities. Allied losses to mines included USS Corry off Utah Beach and USS PC – 1261, a 173-foot patrol boat. In addition, many landing craft were lost.

The invasion was so massive the numbers are mind boggling. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-D with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of June. The Allied divisions taking part came from Britain, USA, Canada, Polish and French. The French Resistance (underground) covered the sabotage, destroying railroads and bridges. The invasion fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels.

Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, after he managed to convert many of his countrymen to the Third Reich or Nazism. By the time of the Normandy Invasion, Hitler and his Nazi Army had overrun most of Europe. The United States of America got into the war after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Thus it was fighting a war against Japan in the Pacific and a war against Hitler and Mussolini in Europe and North Africa.

Hitler started World War II for the deliberate purpose of subjugating Europe and establishing eventual world rule of his “master race.” The ruination of Germany by the Nazis was one of the bleakest pages in history. Hitler declared war on all political opposition. The procedure was arrest, secret and unexplained by the Gestapo or SS, and trial in secret, without defense. Victims were put in protective custody in concentration camps.