Local WWII vet who stormed Normandy 70 years ago shares his story

 

MASON CITY, Iowa – On June 6, 1944 160,00 allied troops landed along the French coastline, on the beaches of Normandy.

They were united in the fight against the Nazi soldiers, and a north Iowa man was there.

A lot of time has passed since Art Gratias fought for his life on Omaha Beach, but even after 70 years he remembers what happened well.

“When I get talking sometimes I’ll break down.”

Time hasn’t healed all wounds for 94-year old Art Gratias.

“Even Memorial Day was a hard day for me, thinking about my buddies that didn’t come back and survive,” he explains.

Art doesn’t like to go into too much detail about what happened on June 6th 1944.

“I don’t knowingly know that I killed anyone, I hear some of my buddies say, “Oh I killed him,” you know. I don’t like to talk about things like that, I know they died, I know some of them died, but I think they’re human beings just like you and I are,” says Gratias.

He and his wife Alice prefer to acknowledge this day for another reason. D-Day is their 71st wedding anniversary.

“First wedding anniversary apart, not only that, I was going on Omaha Beach on D-Day, still hard to think about.”

Despite Art’s many accomplishments and accolades he’s received over the years, he remains extremely humble about his service in the war and his experience at Normandy.

“It isn’t anything I did, I was apart of the invasion force, what I always say, but a small part of it.”

His experience and his survival has left this veteran with wisdom and lessons he’s happy to share.

“I always say service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy here on earth, I really believe that. That we have opportunities but we have obligations along with it.”

Art says he says there are a lot of lessons that young people can learn from world war two.

He says it’s important to remember what happened and learn from the past.

Friday, KIMT News 3 visited the POW Museum in Algona.

The museum is packed with World War II memorabilia from veterans who are from Algona.

It also includes items from those who invaded Normandy all those years ago.

The museum is dedicated to the more than 100 men from Kossuth County who lost their lives WWII.

We spoke with Meghan Selke who runs the museum during the summer, she says there is a lot to be learned from the war

“The idea that we were able to band together as a country even the world and kind of fight for what we believe, fight for others, fight for the right of others specifically,” explains Selke.

The Algona POW Museum is open on weekdays from 9 until 4:30.

and weekends from 1 until 4.

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