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DUXFORD, England — Keith Connor was a radioman with the Royal Air Force, but after going ashore at Normandy on June 6, 1944, he spent several months with America’s 101st Airborne Division, a time that provided him warm memories.

“Ice cream on Independence Day,” he said Sunday while sitting in the warm sun at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.

But his first glimpse of Americans that day was not so pleasant. As he landed, he saw the bodies of dead GIs floating in the surf.

“Loads of your guys got it straight away,” said Connor, 79. “Poor chaps. They didn’t have a chance.”

Veterans and aircraft mixed well at the museum’s D-Day Anniversary Air Show on a glorious afternoon with tens of thousands of aviation enthusiasts swarming the museum grounds.

Those grounds were part of the D-Day invasion as well. The airfield was home to the U.S. Eighth Air Force’s 78th Fighter Group. P-47 Thunderbolts provided air cover for the invasion fleet and sought targets to bolster the offensive throughout the day.

On Sunday, veterans were everywhere. They signed autographs in bookseller booths, strolled along the line of vintage World War II-era aircraft on the flight line or simply stopped to talk to any passer-by wanting to chat.

Nearly every city, town and village in England was holding some sort of a D-Day ceremony to honor local veterans. The invasion signaled for Great Britain a strike back at a foe it had fought for nearly five years, suffering greatly from air bombardment and the threat of invasion.

Perhaps the darkest time was four years before D-Day, when thousands of troops of the British Expeditionary Force were trapped at Dunkirk on the French coast. Hundreds of boats, including many civilian vessels, were used to pull them off the coast and return them to England before they were crushed by the German forces.

George Riley, 85, was one of the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk. He would return to France two days after D-Day.

Dunkirk, he said, was more memorable because it was nip and tuck whether he and his comrades would get out alive.

“It was a bit doubtful,” he said from a wheelchair pushed by his daughter. “Very doubtful. We were lucky to get away.”

When he landed at Normandy, the beaches were fairly calm.

“We went inland and it wasn’t so calm,” the former tank crewman said.

Fighting in the weeks following the invasion was as fierce or more so than on the day of the invasion itself, he said.

One of the first Allied troops to arrive in France that day was Wilfred DeViell, but it wasn’t by design. Asked where he was 60 years ago, DeViell, 90, smiled and said, “I was in a marsh in Normandy.”

His Lancaster bomber had been shot from the sky and he had to bail out about 3 a.m. on the day of the invasion.

“We bombed bridges near Caen to stop the Germans from bringing up reinforcements,” he said. “That was the idea.”

DeViell spent the rest of the war in a German prison camp. He learned of the invasion’s success months later when the prisoners managed to fashion a radio from bits and pieces and were able to hear news reports.

Albert Bolton’s memory of D-Day is seeing the vast armada that was assembled in the English Channel. He was in the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Ajax.

“When we turned up from Portsmouth, it was just one big array of ships,” he said. “The Missouri, the Iowa and the Texas, they were there.”

His ship’s 6-inch guns blasted targets inland from Juno Beach from dawn until about midday, he said.

On this anniversary, Bolton said, he was thinking “of all the chappies that got left behind.”

The air show came to a stop at one point for a brief moment of remembrance. Words were spoken that were surely echoed in churches, village halls and parade grounds throughout the country:

“They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

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