PORTLAND, Ore. — "We didn't think about it. Our duty was to hit the beach. That's what we did."
Those words are from mortar machinist Navy 3rd Class, Ben Asquith. He was among the 34 thousand that landed on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
The invasion originally scheduled for May 1944 was delayed due to a lack of landing craft. Weather almost delayed it once again, but the decision to move forward with the invasion was made by the Commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight Eisenhower.
Allied bombers began the assault shortly after midnight. Clouds hindered the air strikes, however, and the coastal bombing at Omaha Beach was particularly ineffective.
After the air assaults, more 24,000 American, British and Canadian airborne assault troops followed the air assault. That was followed by more than 73,000 American forces landing on the beaches of Normandy.
The 5 beaches code-named at Normandy were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Asquith was only 19 when he landed on Omaha.
"Your mindset, you was trained for that,” he said. “We went through rigid training. We were trained to take the Army into the beach."
His job was to transport army soldiers to the beach and also unload cargo.
"We had this TNT. We had these 20-30-foot hoses of TNT and we had a light on the beach and this is before H-hour," Asquith remembers. "We had this light on the beach and we went to the light and unloaded our cargo there."
H-hour refers to the hour in which the air assault was to happen.
Now, 75 years later, the chilling sounds of that day are what he remembers most vividly.
"All the machine gun fire and cannon fire and everything. The big guns were firing from over our heads. The noise was just terrific. On the water that noise vibrated on the water. It echoed so much," Asquith said.
The Mighty Endeavor runs through Veteran's Legacies is a non-profit that aims to preserve the legacy and memory of those who serve. The group organized an event at the Oregon Historical Society Thursday afternoon for veterans like Asquith and others to share their experiences, their memories and feelings about the day.
KGW featured Veteran's Legacies in November 2017 as it was just getting started.
Asquith was never thanked for his service when he returned home. He said he was just doing his job and never expected anyone to be there to thank him.
On Thursday, every person in attendance stood up, hands clapping after Asquith and others told their stories. Seventy-five years later, Asquith was honored and thanked for his service.
"It's an honor," Asquith said. "I think everyone likes to be honored."