Local D-Day survivor, 98, shares Normandy survival story

MILLIKEN, Colo. – When you look Richard Mann in the face, you’re looking at 98 years of grit, hardship and heroism.

“Proud to know a man who's seen and been through so much. He’s a survivor, whether it's the Dust Bowl, and then obviously surviving the war and maintaining his sanity through that. It’s nothing I can imagine going through on my own,” his son, Russell Mann, fold FOX31.

This week marks 75 years since Mann and nearly 160,000 other allied troops stormed the beaches of France’s Normandy coast, to fight the Germans.

Their actions on D-Day, June 6, 1944, helped turned the tide of World War II, and bring about the eventual end of the bloodiest war in world history.

Right now, FOX31’s Jeremy Hubbard is traveling with a group of D-Day veterans, returning to Europe for the anniversary. They’re part of a program organized by a charity founded in Denver, called The Greatest Generations Foundation.

The organization returns soldiers to the battlefields where they once served. Over the last 15 years, they’ve taken thousands of World War II and Vietnam veterans back to Europe and Asia.

Mann is staying at his rural Weld County home for this anniversary, but he returned to Normandy about 25 years ago. And the memories came flooding back. On June 6, 1944, he was part of the second assault wave on Omaha Beach.

“Our biggest enemy was the weather. We couldn't find a place to land,” Mann told FOX31.

Surrounded by soldiers who were killed on Omaha Beach just a few minutes before him, Mann was positioned aboard a so-called “rhino barge,” used to offload trucks and heavy equipment onto the beach.

“Just before the rhino barge landed, a shell come over the top and I was sure I was hit. I crawled under that truck and something hit me. And I said oh, man, there's going to be blood. Well actually there was no damage whatsoever. What I thought was blood was grease off the bottom of the truck. But I didn't know that. I said, ‘I'm hit.’ We laughed. It was crazy,” Mann said.

It was a little bit of humor amid the heartbreak. Somehow he made it off the beach that day. Then came the Battle of the Bulge. And then, at war’s end, he finally came home. Decades of marriage followed, along with seven children. And a lifetime of lessons learned at war.

“I learned right away, don't let it get you,” Mann said.

“He doesn't sweat the small stuff. He knows what's important and doesn't get hung up on things that don't matter,” his son Russell said.

Richard Mann. A D-Day hero who made his country proud 75 years ago, and made his family proud each and every day since.

“Oh I'm very proud of him. I couldn't have asked for a better dad,” Russell Mann said.

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