METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - It's a 175 miles from Omaha Beach to the monument in Paris. That's a three hour drive, but it took allied forces two-and-a-half months of fighting to get here. Clarence 'Mac' Evans, 87 from Metairie, was part of that struggle 70 years ago.
"I crossed the beach with nothing but wet clothes," says Evans.
As a 17-year-old, Evans nearly drowned when he jumped over the side of his landing craft at Omaha Beach in the face of deadly German machine gun fire.
"Then you're on dry land and the only thing there for cover is the obstacles on the beach and all of those had 75 millimeter shells on them or they had teller mines fastened to the top," explains Evans. "So if a bullet happened to hit one of those teller mines and you're laying under it, you're just as dead."
"And we had been told, if your buddy gets hit, don't stop for him. Keep going," he adds. "Luckily, I didn't know a lot of the people anyway. Mentally, that's a help because you're not seeing real close friends die. But people were dying everywhere."
Surviving Omaha Beach was only the first step. Allied infantry then had to fight their way through the Normandy hedge rows.
"Mounds of earth [were] built up anywhere from 8 to 12 feet high," says Evans. "And trees and shrubs and brushes growing into it all the way down. And it's impenetrable, you couldn't get through it. It's perfect for defense, terrible for offense."
After eight months of combat, Evans became one of the casualties.
"At that time, it was just grass and weeds. I was in the left and a mortar shell came in. I got hit in the right arm, the left arm and the right leg," explains Evans. "And I went down. I was trying to get up and a lieutenant hollered said 'stay down Evans, we'll come back and get you.'"
"You think about your friends that die and you wonder why did they die and I didn't. Why? What's the purpose? I still don't know," he adds.
Mac Evans is one of the veterans returning to the beaches of Normandy this week to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day.