SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — An Agawam veteran receives a prestigious medal of honor Friday from the French government for his role in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
It was June 6, 1944 when allied forces crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy.
The D-Day invasion began the liberation of western Europe from Nazi control during World War II.
Among those Americans who landed on Omaha Beach on that day was Army Veterans Joseph Della Giustina of Agawam.
He’ll never forget all the soldiers who never made it up the beach.
“When we hit the beaches and man you never saw so many guys being put in plastic black bags,” says WWII veteran Joseph Della Giustina
On Friday, the Agawam veteran was awarded the prestigious Legion of Honor Award by the French government for his efforts in helping to liberate France.
“We should never forget to thank soldiers like Joseph Della Guistina that we enjoy today a free and democratic world,” says Christopher Guilhou, French Consul General.
Della Giustina was very humbled by this prestigious award.
“I’m very surprised. I never figured on getting anything. I put my life on the line, that’s it. I did my work.” adds Della Giustina.
The D-Day invasion was the largest amphibious military operation in history.
The invasion hit several beaches along the Normandy coast including Omaha Beach.
While opposition was lighter at some of the beaches, the task was much tougher at Omaha Beach where 2,000 troops were lost.
Della Giustina says he remembers losing a good friend on that beach.
It is an emotional remembrance.
“I haven’t said anything to anybody for some time. I get emotional. I cry…I get emotional…” he recounts.
By day’s end, 155,000 allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.
And thanks to the service of veterans like Joe Della Giustina, within three months after D-Day, the northern part of France would be freed and the invasion force would be preparing to enter Germany.
Della Giustina was also given awards from Congressman Richard Neal and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno for his service on D-Day.