Living History: D-Day Survivor Jake Larson's 80th Anniversary Journey

Jake Larson, a 101-year-old World War Two veteran, is one of the last D-Day survivors. As he prepares to return to France for the 80th anniversary of the historic invasion, Larson reflects on his experiences and honors his fallen comrades. Despite his adventures now popular on TikTok, he humbly denies being a hero.

Reuters | Updated: 29-05-2024 15:33 IST | Created: 29-05-2024 15:33 IST
Living History: D-Day Survivor Jake Larson's 80th Anniversary Journey

World War Two U.S. Army veteran Jake Larson is 101 years old and a survivor of D-Day, history's largest amphibious invasion on June 6, 1944, and he is heading to France for the 80th anniversary to honor the brothers-in-arms who did not make it home.

Sitting in his home in Martinez, California, alongside photos and mementos from his years in the National Guard and the U.S. Army, Larson can recall every moment from the day he landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and calls himself "the last man." He carried 74 pounds (34 kg) of gear in his pack, the waves rocked the landing crafts up and down four feet (1.2 meters) at times, the Germans fired 14-inch (35.5-cm) shells overhead and small arms from the dunes.

"I walked in over that minefield, where so many were killed. Not only from the mines, but from the small arms fire. And they're all up there above. Those guys there, those there are the ones that deserve recognition. And I'm here to make sure that happens. I honor those guys," he told Reuters in May. Larson, who goes by the name "Papa Jake," is among a dwindling number of World War Two veterans who will return this June to mark the anniversary of the allied invasion when more than 150,000 allied soldiers invaded France to drive out Nazi Germany's forces led by Adolf Hitler.

Larson wears a black jacket inscribed with "WWII Survivor" and the six battles in Europe he survived including the Battle of the Bulge. Born in the U.S. state of Minnesota, Larson joined the National Guard as a teenager before the Guard was called up at the start of World War Two. After arriving in Londonderry in Northern Ireland, he was transferred to the Army V Corps. It was under the V Corps that he was assigned to the D-Day invasion. On June 6, after hours of circling in the waters, he and his unit received the word. One by one they jumped into the cold waters of the English Channel. Wading into water up to his neck holding his rifle above, he made it onto the beach.

He eventually found a small stone berm with just enough space for cover. He took out a cigarette from his waterproof pack, but his matches were soaked. "I sensed someone took to my left. So I just hollered, 'hey, buddy, have you got a match?' I got no response," Larson said. "So I looked back. There's a guy laying. And there was no head under the helmet. It was like magic. I was hearing the soul of that guy was telling me, 'Get up and run right now.' So I did."

He remembers that story and many others to this day. And now he is sharing those stories on TikTok, thanks to his granddaughter who started the account for him during the pandemic. With the username @StoryTimeWithPapaJake, he's amassed more than 800,000 followers, with 8.7 million likes, and he's even received fan letters in the mail.

"You cannot believe what people say, 'Thank you, thank you, Jake.' I'm a very positive person and I show that when I'm talking and they said, 'You have changed our lives.' It's an honor for me to hear something like that. It keeps me going," he said. "People thank me for being a hero," Larson said. "I am here to tell you I am not a hero."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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