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'We stuck with it until it was finished': 100-year-old N.B. veteran remembers D-Day beach landing

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Eighty years ago, Russell Kaye was firing at German positions from a landing craft as he and countless other men surged towards Juno Beach.

The roar and chaos of war erupted all around him, but the sheer scale of the moment – the largest invasion in human history – was lost on him and the people he fought with.

“This was a job we were assigned to,” he said. “We stuck with it until it was finished.”

Kaye, who was 20-years-old during the invasion, is now 100 years old and he received the French Legion of Honour medal by the French ambassador to Canada.

Kaye came into D-Day with the Winnipeg Rifles. On that momentous day, he first saw the enemy up close while directing prisoners of war down a line.

“I got close and they were Germans, so the first thing they want was a cigarette, so I gave them a cigarette,” Kaye said. “I just directed them down the line. They were both bleeding.”

Kaye’s numerous medals often spark conversations and stories with his son, Chris, but for many decades the veteran kept his experiences to himself, feeling no one would understand them.

“I sort of shut it down as much as possible,” he said. “I kept what I knew to myself pretty well.”

Five years ago, Kaye was able to return to the beaches of Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which brought back a flood of memories and allowed him to share his stories with family members.

“I went to places I thought I’d never, ever see again,” he said. “The Falaise Gap, where we got bombed and all that sort of thing.

“That was an absolutely great trip. That was one of the highlights of my life.”

Kaye is one of several veterans attending the ceremony remembering D-Day and the Battle of Normandy in Moncton, N.B., on Thursday afternoon.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Todd Battis and Josh Smith

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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