'It was like the whole world exploded': Sask. veteran recalls D-Day invasion on 74th anniversary

Saskatchewan-born Harold Hague was on the front lines of the D-Day invasion when he was 22 years old.

Nearly 4,500 allied troops died during the invasion

Harold Hague fought in the D-Day invasion with the Canadian navy when he was 22 years old. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

Harold Hague was 22 years old on D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, he was one of nearly 150,000 Allied troops who invaded the beaches of Normandy, France to fight the German occupation.

About 14,000 of them were Canadian, including Hague, who was born in Earl Grey, Sask., and lives in Regina.

Hague, now a decorated veteran at 97 years old, joined the Royal Canadian Navy at 19 and became a member of the 31st Canadian Minesweeper Flotilla.

During the invasion he was on a ship clearing enemy mines.

He still remembers the morning of the invasion.

Regina resident Harold Hague, originally from Earl Grey, Sask., has received numerous awards for his time spent in the Canadian navy. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

"I was on the bridge and I looked on the horizon. It was daybreak. I could see the images of all the ships as far as the eye could see," he said.

"To see that, and to witness what was coming in, and to witness what went over our head, the aircrafts and paratroopers. It was scary.

"I thought honestly we would never get out of it."

He'll never forget seeing bullets fly, bombs explode and bodies all around him, he said.

"It was like the whole world exploded."

Hague said there were so many dead bodies in the water that his ship had to drive through them while clearing mines.

"We had to keep going," he said. "Their bodies hit our ship, but they were dead.

"Some of them were alive and we tried to, against all rules, pull them out, but we weren't successful."

He remembers hearing wounded soldiers spend their last breaths calling for their mothers. 

"We lost a lot of men. We had a lot of heroes," he said with tears in his eyes.

After hours of battle, the Allied forces took hold of the beaches, a crucial step on the path to liberating Europe from German occupation.

74th anniversary

Hague emphasized the importance of commemorating D-Day. He said it's important to remember those who fought and sacrificed their lives in the battle, as well as those who supported the troops at home.

"The whole Canadian nation had to work hard, not just the guys in uniform, but the whole nation," he said.

"Everybody suffered a hardship."

It is estimated nearly 4,500 Allied troops died during the D-Day invasion.