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A 100-year-old World War II veteran landed in Birmingham yesterday after making a trip to France on the 78th anniversary of D-Day.

George Hamilton was sponsored by the Best Defense Foundation and Delta Airlines to fly in a Boeing 767 to France earlier this month.

Hamilton fought on the Pacific Front of the war but went to Normandy to pay respects to the Allied troops who fought there on June 6, 1944. The battle that took place on D-Day was the largest seaborne invasion in history that led to the liberation of France and ultimately resulted in victory for the Allies over Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. 

At least 10,000 Allied soldiers lost their lives on D-Day. German casualties have been estimated to be between 4,000 to 9,000 men.

Hamilton said that other veterans were present who had stormed the beach during the war.

“There were several of them that were in the first wave,” Hamilton said. “...It’s hard to imagine, but I do remember that in those days, whatever order you were given, you obeyed without question.”

The veterans departed from Atlanta on June 1 and landed in Deauville, France, where hundreds of grateful French people greeted them.

There they participated in a week-long program, including a D-Day Commemoration on June 6. 

Hamilton said he rode in a World War II-era Jeep down Omaha beach, one of the beaches stormed on D-Day. While in France, the veterans visited the Brittany American Cemetery, Mont Saint Michel, Carentan and the historic Chateau de Bernville. The veterans finished the trip by participating in a parade in Carentan on June 4.

The Best Defense Foundation and its corporate sponsors covered all the expenses for the veterans.

“The mission of the Best Defense Foundation is ‘taking care of those who took care of us,'” said Donnie Edwards, the founder of the Best Defense Foundation. “Through this amazing partnership with Delta Air Lines, we are able to accomplish this mission and provide these heroes with the opportunity to reconnect with their brothers, honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and celebrate the liberation of an ally.” 

The Best Defense Foundation was founded in 2018 as a non-profit to help veterans and their families. It assembles programs to bring veterans back to battlefields for closure, camaraderie and celebration of their service.

Hamilton said the Best Defense Foundation treated him and his fellow veterans “like kings.”

When his flight landed at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Hamilton was greeted by friends and family.

“It was one of the most wonderful trips I’ve made, and we were treated with more respect than I’d ever had in my life,” Hamilton said. “... It was just great, from start to finish.”

Hamilton was born in Louisiana but has lived all over the South. He now lives in Pleasant Grove.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com

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