US veterans prepare for journey to Normandy for 75th anniversary of D-Day: Part 1

ABC News' David Muir reports on six veterans from across the country, five of whom were there on the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago, share personal stories about serving in World War II.
9:08 | 06/07/19

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Transcript for US veterans prepare for journey to Normandy for 75th anniversary of D-Day: Part 1
In every corner of the country, from fixing planes in this Alabama hangar to quietly reminiscing among treasured photos. You don't know their names, they have asked for little attention, but now we document their return to normandy. World War II veterans who were there on d-day, and who are now going back. Harold Phil mcmurren. My name is jack brown Claiborne, and I was seaman first class in the Navy. I was in the U.S. Army. My name's Harold himlesback. I was actually drafted into the army when I was 18. And we have set out to meet them, to travel with them as they journey back. Harold. Raised in Yakima, Washington, he is 93, about to turn 94. You're almost ready to make this trip back. How significant is this Very. It was the most dramatic time of my life. I saw things that very few people would ever see, and I saw it all. Harold remembers everything. The morning of June 6, 1944. That moment when those mines began to explode. That was the moment you knew. Right. You better believe it. It was dramatic, it just blows up in your face. I was saved by the guys dying within feet of me. They had all been training for d-day. They woke up, Harold and his brothers on that ship at 3:00 A.M., told them to eat and get their gear. And all of a sudden I'm out on the deck when the first explosions took place. So I had no gear on or anything else. I was just, didn't even have my helmet on. And all of a sudden just explosion took place right next to us. And it just was a shock, obviously. And it just all of a sudden water came up over my head and washed over the top of us and everything. I was knocked around and down. It was a tremendous jolt, because it was actually tearing parts of the ship up, open. That was just the first explosion. Right. And as you're standing there getting your bearings, a second explosion. Right. The second one's more violent. That was a powerful explosion, the second one. That's why it did so much damage. This was the moment brave sons became men. I remember I had to pick up one guy's head, you know, because he'd been cut and so forth and you almost took it as a reality of where you were, you knew you had to do these things. That reality at 18 years old. A reality he shares with veterans all over this country. Harold mcmurren, new market, Alabama. People say, how did you get off that boat and go in on the beach. There was a job had to be done. Somebody had to do it. We did it. And onofreo zakara. I didn't know what war was until that day. It was awful. At 96, he remembers d-day, even the smell. To this day, I have, I have flashbacks. I smell diesel oil, right away, I think of d-day. Can't help it. I just can't help it. Jack Claiborne, die yersburg, Tennessee. Seeing all these boys laying there on the beach, it was just tough. For a little old kid to handle. And we were all young. Vincent Unger, Orlando, Florida, in the Navy. We were in the first on that beach, in Utah, terrible sound from the cannons and it was a fire and explosions. And back on that ship, Harold, who woke up at 3:00 A.M., ate breakfast with his brothers on that ship and learned he already lost one of them in that first explosion. It was just take care of your friend, and that's what we all did. We were all Americans. You jumped in to save others. That's right. All of these men who were so young when they were sent in on d-day, now packing up, ready to go back. I'm ready to go. Harold with the letter he wrote to his mother just days after storming that beach. I'm looking at this letter you wrote to your mom. He tells me he hasn't read it in years but he was about to read it to me. Dear mom. I suppose I should begin this by telling you I am somewhere in France. He was extremely careful with You were being careful because of the censors and also because it was your mom. My mom, you know. Mothers are sensitive, too, see. And he shows us the photo his mother made him take the moment he returned home, proof she had her son back. So this handsome young man is going back to normandy. That's right. I made it. It is a journey they never thought they would make. Harold mcmurren and entry in his diary that fateful morning. June 6, 1944. Invasion started. 7:15 A.M. English time. That would be all he wrote for five harrowing days. Harold at 94 drives to the airport. He's going back. So is jack Claiborne. This is me, setting there. Vincent Unger. And this is my baby, my ship. Going back too. Onofreo zakari, part of the fifth brigade on d-day, all of them leaving home again. I'm on my way to normandy. They have yet to meet one another, but they already share a bond. They were all there that morning, June 6, 1944. The largest amphibious invasion in military history. 50 miles of normandy coastline, the beaches with code names, Utah, Omaha, Juneau. And what they did would change the course of the war. When you looked around and saw all those ships, did you think, this is actually happening? Yes, I sure did. Could you see the beach? It was a couple thousand yards, you know. And then they saw things they will never forget. Harold mcmurren, fourth infantry division. The medic was overwhelmed with wounded people. Sometimes they were wounded themselves trying to, they would try to perform. Sometimes they would be in worse shape than the men they were trying to take care of. We all had what we called a buddy. We knew that that buddy would give his life for us and vice versa. Onofreo zakari remembers the orders. I can't even get up for god's sakes. It was just fire over your head all the times. Vincent Unger, second class signal man. The water was from an Orange to a deep red for miles. More than 4,000 allied troops were killed, but their brothers would prevail. When you go back to normandy, I'm sure you'll be thinking of some of those brothers you lost. Yep, that's right. I'm hopin' that going back to normandy gives me closure of some kind. Each of these men flying to Atlanta to meet up and then fly together to France. The pilot thanking them before they even board. We can never repay you for the debt that you have paid for us. Thank you. Flying to France, one by one. Harold himlesback, walking to the gate with his daughter sue behind him. Have a good flight, sir. Thank you. Hello. Harold mcmurren, brought to that plane. Jack Claiborne on board too, Vincent Unger, and onoefreo zakari. I never thought I would be coming, but here I am. When we come back, the return to normandy, the unexpected moment on Omaha beach. Look at all the crosses. Oh, boy. And the vet and his one wish to find a friend he lost 75 years ago with a photo he never stopped carrying.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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