US Veteran Returns to France 80 Years after Surviving D-Day

04:21 June 4, 2024

US Veteran Returns to France 80 Years after Surviving D-Day

In 1944, Jake Larson was carrying a backpack with 34 kilograms of gear as the boat he was in got closer to Omaha Beach in France.

Omaha Beach was the name given to one of the five landing places on the coast of Normandy where allied forces landed on D-Day.

Larson was an American soldier who was about to jump out of a boat and begin fighting Germany’s Nazi forces in World War II.

Today, he is 101 years old and has 800,000 followers on TikTok. He tells his stories of fighting in the war on the social media service.

On June 6, he will be back in France for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Larson was one of 150,000 soldiers who landed in France that day. Many did not survive.

Larson said he jumped out of the boat and into water that was up to his neck. German fighters fired guns and shells at the landing soldiers.

Larson said he got to the beach and avoided both the gunfire and the landmines buried in the sand.

He said he tells his story to honor the soldiers who died on that day. Talking about the soldiers who died in the water and on the beach, Larson said: “Those guys there, those there are the ones that deserve recognition. And I'm here to make sure that happens. I honor those guys,” he told the Reuters news service from his home in Martinez, California.

He remembers everything from that day. He calls himself “the last man.” There are very few people now living who fought on that day in June.

Larson wears a black jacket with the words "WWII Survivor" on it. It has symbols of the six major battles in Europe that he survived, including the famous Battle of the Bulge.

Larson is also known as “Papa Jake.” He started his military service by joining the National Guard in his home state of Minnesota. His group was called to action at the start of the war. It was sent to Londonderry in Northern Ireland. Larson moved to the Army V Corps before the D-Day invasion.

After getting out of the boat and holding his weapon above his head to keep it dry, he found a safe spot by some large stones. He took out a cigarette and tried to light it, but his matches were too wet. He turned to the man next to him and yelled, “Hey, buddy, have you got a match?”

When he got no answer, Larson said he looked again. The man next to him was dead. He said he felt like he could hear the man saying, “Get up and run right now.” Larson started running, and he survived the fight.

In the last four years, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Larson and his granddaughter started posting his memories on TikTok.

Many people answered.

They say things like “thank you, thank you, Jake.” He said the people say his stories have changed their lives. “It’s an honor for me to hear something like that,” Larson said. “It keeps me going. People thank me for being a hero…I am here to tell you I am not a hero.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

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