Wellsboro WWII Vet returns to Normandy for D-Day 75th tribute
(WENY) -- 75 years later to the exact day, more than 160 WWII veterans returned to the same beach in France which changed the course of history. This is true for one local veteran from the Northern Tier, who was invited to attend Thursday's D-Day tribute from the French government.
Dr. Robert C. Bair is from Wellsboro and served in the U.S. Army during his time overseas. His daughter, Susan, explains how he started as a private and was immediately chosen for officer candidate school after being drafted at 22 years old.
"Going to the cemetery was very impressive...very...saddening I guess you'd call it," Bair says via FaceTime from France.
"It's very hard to describe. At that time we were all very young, very anxious and very carefree I guess you'd call it. Unafraid of anything. but we were all anxious to get into the fight and get the war over," Bair recalls.
The return trip to the beaches of Normandy, and the tribute at Normandy American Cemetery have been stirring emotional memories.
"The impressive thing about going back is the loss of lives and the horror of war. the stink of all the mangled bodies lying around and the very offensive odor that you get from the death smell," Bair explains, visibly emotionally.
Now, all these decades later, joined by other WWII and world leaders, Bair participated in a tribute fit for a hero.
"Well I was surprised when we got there, they put me up on the stage with my daughter and they sat me in the front row! and I looked around and I saw three chairs close by and then found out that they were for President Trump and Mrs. Trump," Bair proudly explains.
He also received a personal gesture of gratitude from the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.
"He stopped and put his arm around me and talked for about 4 or 5 minutes and just told me thanks for my service and how grateful that France was to the United States," Bair adds.
Only a fraction of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII are still alive today.