World War II veterans make trek to Normandy for D-Day anniversary

Harold Himmelsbach was just 18 when he was awakened at 3 a.m. on a ship June 6, 1944, and told to get his gear as explosions occurred around him.
6:55 | 06/04/19

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Transcript for World War II veterans make trek to Normandy for D-Day anniversary
tonight and our series, return to normandy. This week, we mark the 75th anniversary of d-day, the day that changed the course of world War II. We have traveled this country in the weeks leading up to this country to meet the veterans who are going back. They are our fathers, our grandfathers. And true to form, they are modest about what they did. You're about to hear their descriptions of that day, they remember it like it was yesterday. And they hope their country will remember, too. In every corner of the country, from fixing planes in this Alabama hangar, to quietly reminiscing among treasures photos in Nevada -- These are war pictures here. All my buddies. -- They are the modest heroes who did something extraordinary 75 years ago. 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. My name is jack brown Claiborne and I was a seaman first class in the Navy. My name is onovrio Zicari and I was in the U.S. Army. My name is Harold himmelsback. I was actually drafted into the army when I was 18. Reporter: And we have set out to meet them, to travel with them, as they journey back. How are you? Reporter: It's an honor. Harold himmeslback raised in Yakima, Washington. He is now 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 in my life. And I remember best and saw things that very few people would ever see. And I saw it all. Reporter: Harold remembers everythi. The morning of June 6th, 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 would say other guys died within feet of me. Reporter: They did all been training for d-day. Did you know what you were training for? Yes. Everybody knew what we were doing. We were going to go and defeat the Germans. Reporter: So, you all knew what you were going to do. Oh, yes. Reporter: You just didn't know when. That's right. That's right. Reporter: They woke up Harold and his brothers at 3:00 A.M. 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. All of a sudden, this explosion took place right next to us. And it just, of course, was a shock, obviously. And it -- it just, all of a sudden, water came up over my head and -- 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 open. Reporter: That was just the first explosion. Right. Reporter: And as you're standing there getting your bearings, a second explosion. Right. The second was more violent. The second was more violent. That was a powerful explosion, the second one. And that's why it did so much damage. Reporter: This was the moment brave sons became men. I remember I had to pick up one guy's head, you know, because he had been cut and so forth. And you almost took it as, the reality of where you were. In other words, you knew you had to do these things. Reporter: That reality at 18 years old. A reality he shares with veterans all over this country. Harold mcmurran. 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. Man, I was scared. I didn't realize what war was until that day. Reporter: At 96, he remembers d-day, even the smell. To this day, I have flashbacks. I'll smell diesel oil, right away I'll think of d-day. Can't help it. I just can't help it. Jack Claiborne, dyersburg, he was a gunner on that day. Seeing all of these boys that was killed, and just laying there on the beach. It was just tough for a little old kid to handle. And we were all young. Reporter: Vincent Unger in the Navy. We were the first on that beach. Terrible sound, from the cannons, the bomb dropping, everything all around us. It was a fire, explosions. Reporter: And back on that ship, Harold, who woke up at 3:00 A.M., ate breakfast with his brothers on that ship, had learned he already lost one of them in the first explosions. It was just, take care of your friend. And that's what we all did. We were all Americans. Rar. Reporter: Gum you jumped in to save others. That's right. Reporter: All of these men, who were so young when they were sent in on d-day, now packing up. Some of them driving to the airport, ready to go back. I'm ready to go. Reporter: 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 by telling you I'm somewhere in France. Reporter: He was extremely careful with his words. You were being careful because of the sensors and also careful because it was your mom. Right, my mother, you know. Mothers are sensitive, too, see. Reporter: And he shows us the photo his mother demanded he get taken 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. Reporter: And for all of these men tonight, a simple hope. For some closure. For some peace of mind. And for a country that will not forget. Harold, how important is it that America not forget what it is You can't forget. You can't forget. I'm very proud of being involved. Reporter: Well, we're proud of you. Okay. Reporter: Than thankful. Okay. Reporter: Grateful. Okay. We will be in normandy with those World War II veterans for the 75th anniversary later this week, reporting from London for the broadcast tomorrow night and then from normandy Wednesday and Thursday and of course, we hope you'll be with us all week here.

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

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