During World War II’s D-Day invasion, allied forces banded together to invade Northern France and free it from German occupation.
More than 150,000 soldiers from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom stormed the shores of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It is now known as the largest seaborne invasion in history and resulted in a victory against the Germans.
Of those soldiers, many of them are now recognizable names and faces, from professional athletes to Hollywood actors. Here are 10 notable soldiers who served on D-Day:
Although he was already 37, actor Henry Fonda enlisted in World War II in 1942, saying he “didn’t want to be a fake in the war studio.” On D-Day, he gave support to the allies by serving as quartermaster on the destroyer USS Satterlee. He later appeared in the 1962 film The Longest Day, which focused on the events of D-Day.
He’s best known as a catcher for the New York Yankees, but before his record-breaking career as a major league baseball star, Yogi Berra served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He manned a naval support craft during the invasion of Normandy and later told Keith Olbermann that he didn’t quite grasp the gravity of the situation until it was over.
“Well, being a young guy, I thought it was like the Fourth of July, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I said, ‘Boy, it looks pretty, all the planes coming over.’ And I was looking out and my officer said, ‘You better get your head down in here if you want it on.’”
Before he rose to fame thanks to The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger fought in World War II and helped invade Utah Beach on D-Day. While he served, Salinger wrote more than 20 short stories, and his time in the war informed much of his writing.
Before he played Scotty on Star Trek, James Doohan was a lieutenant in World War II. Since he was part of the Canadian Army, Doohan and his men were in charge of taking on Juno Beach on D-Day. Doohan was struck by six bullets on that historic day, but the only injury he walked away with was a missing middle finger.
Professional golfer Bobby Jones was 40 years old in 1942, which was when he convinced the commanding officer of his Army Reserve group to let him join the fight. He fought at Normandy on D-Day, but, presumably scarred by the experience, refused to talk about it afterward.
Oscar-winning British actor David Niven, who was famous for playing British war heroes, was desperate to leave the war early and return to Hollywood ahead of D-Day, which surprised many who knew him. He stuck it out, though, and was one of the first officers to land at Normandy. He was later awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit Medal.
Irish-born actor Richard Todd was part of the British Airborne invasion, and his unit was in charge of opening communication routes for other allied troops. They famously jumped out of their planes on parachutes and gliders to stop the Germans from crossing a bridge that would allow them to attack, and Todd was the first one to jump.
"That wasn't my idea," he said. "I was supposed to be on plane number 33, but when I got to the aircraft I discovered the pilot was extremely senior and one of the most experienced there. He wanted to go in first because he had the creme crew. My immediate thought was: 'Oh Lord, I'm going to be the first on the ground.'"
American actor Charles Durning landed on Omaha Beach in one of the first waves of the D-Day invasion and was one of the few soldiers in his group to survive. He was shot several times during the invasion and went on to be awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star.
Activist and NAACP member Medgar Evers served in World War II and was part of a segregated unit of black soldiers in charge of delivering supplies during the Normandy invasion.
British actor Alec Guinness (famous for Star Wars and Bridge Over River Kwai) was part of the British Royal Navy during World War II and helped land an aircraft that brought British troops to the beaches of Normandy.