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Fri Jun 7, 2019, 02:16 AM

One of the Few Surviving Heroes of D-Day Shares His Story

Army medic Ray Lambert, now 98, landed with the first assault wave on Omaha Beach. Seventy-five years later, he could be the last man standing

As world leaders and assorted dignitaries join the throngs of grateful citizens and remembrance tourists in Normandy this year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, one group in particular will command a special reverence: veterans of the actual battle.

Their numbers are rapidly dwindling. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that fewer than 3 percent of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still living. For those who saw the fiercest combat, the numbers are even more sobering. One telling measure: As of mid-May, just three of the war’s 472 Medal of Honor winners were still alive. The youngest D-Day vets are now in their mid-90s, and it is generally understood, if not necessarily said aloud, that this year’s major anniversary salutes may be the final ones for those few surviving warriors.

One of the returning American vets is 98-year-old Arnold Raymond “Ray” Lambert, who served as a medic in the 16th Infantry Regiment of the army’s storied First Division, the “Big Red One.”

Lambert, then 23, was but one soldier in the largest combined amphibious and airborne invasion in history, a mighty armada of some 160,000 men, 5000 vessels and 11,000 aircraft—the vanguard of the Allied liberation of Western Europe from what Churchill had called “a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.”

When D-Day finally arrived, after years of planning and mobilization, the Big Red One was at the point of the spear.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/one-few-surviving-heroes-d-day-shares-his-story-180972323/

"Ray's Rock" on Omaha Beach, where medic Ray Lambert was part of the first wave during D-Day (Ray Lambert)

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