Dal Estes, 82, came ashore on D-Day with the 497th Automatic Weapons Battalion, 29th Division, and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Ervin Aden of New Orleans, dressed in his old uniform, served in the Fourth Calvary Unit and landed at Utah Beach on D-day

Duke Levy, 82, landed on Utah Beach with his Army Infantry division and took part in 6 major battles in Europe.

Fifty-six years ago they were invaders confronting the horrors of war on the beaches of northern France. But today, June 6, 2000, hundred of D-day veterans smiled as they rode in glory down the streets of New Orleans celebrating the opening of the National D-day Museum.

The parade's grand marshalls were 8 World War II Medal of Honor recipients, each riding in a vintage Jeep who smiled, waved and flashed the victory sign as an old-fashioned military parade rolled through downtown New Orleans and ended at the New Orleans arena.

Other D-day veterans rode by the score in the backs of large military trucks with banners identifying their combat units. Many wore caps with their unit names and insignias - a few wore their old uniforms.Escorting the trucks were reinactors clad in vintage combat uniforms.


A shower of red,white and blue confetti rained over the parade route. Overhead there were 16 different fly-overs including a B-52 bomber, jet fighters and combat helicopters. Throughout the crowd there were many signs reading "Thank You!". One observer noted, "I just think we need to say thank you to those men who risked everything for us. I just want to make sure they know".


The parade included nine military marching bands from the USA, France and the United Kingdom, along with active duty marching units representing each branch of the US armed forces. Each of the units had an individual pace, style and look.


The color guard consisted of members of all the US armed forces.


 

 

Medal of Honor recipient, Walter Ehlers, told the thousands of people in the arena about a scene that met him when he landed as a young staff sergeant with the Army's 1st Infantry Division as part of the first wave of soldiers to hit the Normandy beaches.

"There was chaos", he said. "It was awful, the most devastating fight I have ever seen. We weren't prepared to see the devastation that we saw there".

Ehlers survived the landing, but his brother was killed during the second wave of the Allied invasion. Ehlers told the crows that the parade was "one of the greatest things" . To see so many people paying tribute to the military on the streets of New Orleans - it was fantastic".



Memories of those that died - over 400,00 Americans alone - weighed heavily on many who came to participate. "This is a memorial for those who died, not for me or for anyone who's living", said John McMahon of Algiers, a WWII veteran who entered Europe a month after D-Day.


Filmmaker, Steven Spielberg, whose movie "Saving Private Ryan" put D-Day in the public's eye and gave the museum a fundraising boost told the crowd that "we will never allow future generations to forget what you did to preserve our democracy. We must celebrate you not just on every June 6. We must celebrate you everyday".



Mary Ellen LeBlanc proudly waves the New Orleans
States that she and her family have kept since it was
published 55 years ago.

 


I would like to thank Jim Meeks for sending me all this information and Nikki Eubanks who took the photographs during the parade and sent them, the Times-Picayune and a video tape of the TV coverage in New Orleans to Jim Meeks who shared them with me, and now, you. Nikki is in her high school ROTC program and corresponds with Jim. - Thanks Jim and Nikki!


Click here for the National World War II website