PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sixty-seven years after the allied invasion at Normandy, Michael Vernillo remembers it clearly.
“We were the second wave to land on D-Day,” he recalled. “First wave was killed, almost everyone was killed, and they had to clean the beach off before we could land.”
June 6, 1944 – D-Day at Omaha Beach. It was the first time a then-25-year-old Army Sergeant Michael Vernillo witnessed the horrors of war.
“I can’t talk because I begin to cry,” he said. “I lost all of my officers and a lot of men. They were all killed.”
“We went in, our group about 1,000 or 1,500 yards and we dug a hole to stay in for 40 days and 40 nights,” Vernillo continued.
“We fought from that day until the war was over, the end of the war.”
While thousands died on D-Day, including nearly 2,500 Americans, the end also marked a beginning for Vernillo – two friendships – one that continues today.
“I promised two buddies that I would go to their parents and tell them they were alive. I went to Richmond, Virginia, and to Williamsport,” he said.
Now, at 92, Vernillo still calls Pittsburgh home and while you can call him a hero, he calls himself humble.
“They say that, ‘You’re the greatest generation.’
“I don’t know about that. All I know is that I had to fight. I was in four and a half years,” he said.
Long enough to deserve our thanks.