Seventy-two years have passed since Wilbert Spencer stormed Juno Beach during the Allied advance on D-Day, but the nightmares have never ended.
“Every night I can't sleep. I'm always going through the war from day to day,” said Spencer, who is now 92 years old.
Spencer was the guest of honour at Science North June 6 during a special screening of the IMAX documentary “D-Day: Normandy 1944 3D” on the 72nd anniversary of the day that turned the tide for the Allies on the western front during the Second World War.
While the film did bring back memories of the war, Spencer said it did not come close to depicting the horrors he witnessed on that day, and the months that followed.
“All my friends got killed. There were floating parts of bodies all over,” Spencer said. “Some soldiers were injured so bad they wanted me to shoot them and I couldn't do it.”
Spencer described himself as a “cog in the wheel” during the largest seaborne invasion in history.
He and his comrades were only given minimal information ahead of the invasion.
While they were still stationed in England they were told they needed to waterproof their vehicles.
“We knew something big was going to happen,” he said.
When he boarded a landing craft with his fellow soldiers they were told to advance at all costs.
After Canadian and British soldiers stormed Juno Beach – one of five beaches part of the Normandy invasion – 340 men lost their lives, 574 were wounded and 47 were captured by the Nazis.
In the days that followed the Canadian troops pushed further into German-controlled territory than any other allied nation.
“The people were so happy to see us,” said Spencer, referring to the French citizens he helped liberate.
He went on to fight in Holland, and while he was never seriously injured during the war, he has carried the psychological scars for the rest of his life.
He said he is grateful to his caregiver, and a psychologist who has helped him with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Science North IMAX will continue to screen “D-Day: Normandy 1944 3D” until Thursday, June 30.