(CNN) -- It was the beginning of the end of World War II: Wave upon wave of allied troops storming the coast of northern France to liberate the country and its people from Nazi occupation, in the largest seaborne invasion in history. Braving everything from heavy seas to machine gun fire and grenades, soldiers clambered ashore at beaches code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword and began to fight their way inland. Thousands died in the attempt; today their bodies fill military cemeteries along the Normandy coast. Some of their former comrades make the trip back to France every year. "I don't want them to be forgotten ... it's too early," explained retired Staff Sergeant Jacques Jones, laying a wreath at the American cemetery. But with each year that passes, fewer and fewer survive to keep the memory of what happened alive. For Harold Bradley, there is an added reason why landing at Sword Beach is something he could never forget: It was his 21st birthday. "I landed in Normandy on my 21st," he says. "I remember saying to a friend -- it's my birthday today Rob, and he said: 'It seems a pretty good day to have it.' But of course once you are on those boats you aren't thinking about birthdays." Read more here
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