Honored World War II veteran remembers D-Day
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Long Islanders paused to reflect Thursday on the June 6, 1944, D-Day assault on the beaches of Normandy, France, that helped break the Nazi grip on Europe and bring World War II to a close.
One of them was Frank Agoglia, who during the invasion's early moments crash-landed aboard a glider near the French town of St. Mare Eglise behind the German lines.
"To be truthful, I knew we were going into combat, but I never realized what we were about to go through, and there was no turning back," said Agoglia, 89, a retired New York City Police officer, who was honored Thursday by members of the Suffolk police department during a ceremony in Yaphank.
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That morning, 160,000 Allied troops led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower faced withering German gunfire stormed Normandy's beaches.
The invasion was costly for Allied troops. In all, some 9,000 were killed by day's end. But the all-out assault on 50 miles of the heavily fortified French coastline began the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe.
Agoglia, who lives in Deer Park, was one of six Agoglia brothers who served during World War II. Miraculously, all of them came back alive.
Assigned to the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, Agoglia was among some 4,000 U.S. troops who were dropped by gliders inland of Normandy's beaches.
His glider clipped an embankment and split in two as it tried to land, killing several of his companions.
He said those who survived continued fighting for a month before they were evacuated and sent on another mission.
"There were mortars, and the tanks were very accurate," Agoglia recalled. "We were under fire day and night. When you were able to, you dug a foxhole to get away from the shrapnel. But if your name was on it, that was it."
He joined the NYPD in 1947, moved to Deer Park in 1965, and retired in 1980.
Suffolk Police Chief of Department James Burke said D-Day veterans help inspire members of his force.
"It is truly guys like Frank and his service to his country and his service to the New York Police Department that I and the men of this police department look up to," Burke said.
During a quiet moment after the ceremony, Agoglia reflected on the level of reverence many Americans still offer to D-Day veterans nearly 70 years after that fateful day.
"I'm pretty sure they appreciated all of us being sent over to end this war," Agoglia said. "We did lose a lot of people that day. That was the sad part about it. But it had to be done. There was no turning back."