Retired Maj. Gen. James Mallory speaks with veterans Chester Middlesworth, Andy Pendleton and Garland Page during Thursday’s D-Day anniversary ceremony in Statesville.


World War II veteran Andy Pendleton was seated front and center on Thursday with his friends and Korean War veterans Chester Middlesworth and Garland Page at a ceremony to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day. 

Organized and hosted by American Legion Post 65, the ceremony at the Iredell County Hall of Justice in Statesville paid tribute to the 195,000 Allied troops who participated in the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, as well as all 16 million Americans who served in World War II and especially those who died in defense of freedom.

For Pendleton, watching televised coverage of the 80th anniversary ceremony in Normandy on Thursday morning and attending the local ceremony brought back memories from his days as a bombardier on B-24 bombers.

“Things I didn’t remember from 80 years ago became real again,” the 101-year-old Statesville resident said, growing emotional as he shared a story about a pilot friend who lost his life while on a mission to bomb German U-boats.

“I did what I was told to do. I was lucky and survived without (getting) hurt. And I praise those who gave their life for us so that we could enjoy freedom … God bless them,” Pendleton added. (Read more about Mr. Pendleton’s service HERE.)

A total of 149 service members from Iredell County lost their lives in WWII. Their names are inscribed on a granite monument on the grounds of the Hall of Justice.

Members of the Post 65 Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute in honor of the fallen service members.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. James Mallory told the crowd that gathered for the ceremony that D-Day stands alongside July 4, 1776; November 11, 1918; and December 7, 1941; as the defining days in American history.

It took two years to plan for the Normandy invasion, which remains “the largest amphibious operation in the history of mankind,” Mallory said.

In the months, weeks and days leading up to the Normandy invasion, American service members were fighting in Northern Africa, Italy and the South Pacific.

“D-Day, for the Americans that were fighting, that was another day of slogging it out in islands, in the jungles, or in the air all over the world,” he said.

Referencing Iredell’s fallen war heroes, Mallory said: “All of these 149 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that gave their lives — their last full measure of devotion to their country — served all over the world.”

The nearly 200,000 Allied forces who participated in the D-Day invasion — which Mallory said was “the beginning of the end for Nazi, Germany” — deserve to be remembered for their courage and heroic efforts during the two-month battle.

But they could not have done it alone.

“It took the mobilization of all of America,” Mallory said. “Fifty percent of American men wore the uniform in World War II — one uniform or another, to include the Merchant Marines.

“The other 50 percent, plus an awful lot of women, were working in industry and manufacturing, in the fields, farms, to be the arsenal for democracy. It was that work that produced the planes, the ships and the men to be able to ultimately defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.”

The D-Day operation was initially delayed by rainy weather, but when a weather station on the coast of Ireland predicted the Allies had a 24- to 36-hour window beginning on June 6, 1944, “Gen. Eisenhower, who was smoking 80 Camel cigarettes a day, said, ‘Let’s go!’ ” Mallory said.

More than 2,500 American service members died on D-Day, including many who lost their lives while storming Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, “where the toughest action was.” About 9,500 Allied troops were killed or wounded in the first 24 hours of the invasion.

“At the end of the day, this massive operation of untold numbers of ships depended on individual soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines doing their job and many … gave their last full measure,” Mallory said.

“That’s what we remember today, and I would challenge all of us to share this with our families — with your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren — because America is at its best when it’s not looking inward but looking outward, when it’s a shining city on the hill and where we fight for the rights of human beings and we do so in a political environment where, hopefully, when we disagree we can agree to disagree agreeably.

“That’s what our Greatest Generation fought for,” the retired general and former chairman of the Iredell County Board of Commissioners added.

Less than 120,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in the Armed Forces during WWII are still alive today.

Dianne Wilson, president of District 11 for North Carolina American Legion Auxiliary and master of ceremonies for the event, expressed her gratitude to Pendleton, Middlesworth and Page for their service.

“We thank them for raising their hand and taking the oath to protect our country,” she said. “Because of these three brave men and our comrades we live in freedom today.”

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