WWII veterans, nearly 100 years old, defy age during D-Day visit

PORTSMOUTH, England -- Harold Radish climbed into a vintage World War II Jeep on Thursday, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he's 94 years old. He wanted to get behind the wheel of a military vehicle like the one he drove back in the 1940s.

The calendar may say it's been 75 years since their youthful invasion on the beaches of France's Normandy coast, but for these veterans, the passing of time has had little impediment.

Radish is one of 16 veterans who arrived in Europe Friday with The Greatest Generations Foundation, a Denver-based charity that returns World War II and Vietnam soldiers to the battlefields where they once served.

The group is spending part of the weekend in Portsmouth, England, where the D-Day attack was forged and home to the port legions of American troops passed through on their way to Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.

When allied forces crossed the English Channel and invaded Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6, 1944, it was the largest amphibious assault in the history of the world. It carried a costly human toll (more than 4,400 allied deaths on that one day alone), but their actions helped turn the tide of the war and bring about its end.

Next week, the veterans will take part in official D-Day 75th commemoration ceremonies, including the event at Normandy American Cemetery, where President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will speak.

The veterans spent part of Friday meeting with their British counterparts. Sailors from the British Navy were present at a reception in the Americans' honor.  Soldiers and sailors from both countries shared war stories from seven decades ago.

At a luncheon and concert that followed, Steven Melnikoff, 99, barely took a break from the dance floor. Melnikoff served in the 29th Infantry Division and was shot in the neck by a German soldier days after the D-Day invasion. But the injury barely sidelined him then, and certainly doesn't slow him down now.

Melnikoff turns 100 years old later this year, but maintains the pace of someone half his age. He golfs almost every day and has traveled to Normandy dozens of times to commemorate the D-Day invasion.

FOX31 is the only Denver TV station reporting live from Europe over the next week.  Watch for Jeremy Hubbard's reports every day at 5 p.m. and 9p.m. And we hope you'll join us for a FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve special, "D-Day 75: The Final Reunion," airing Saturday, June 8 at 9:30 p.m. on KDVR.

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