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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 5th, 2014
05:59 PM ET

D-Day vet recalls 'Private Ryan' bridge battle

(CNN) – Three days a week, 93-year-old Thomas Blakey sits at a table at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and takes tourists back in time.

He was part of the allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy, a member of the airborne division parachuting behind enemy German lines on D-Day.

Seventy years on from the day, that airplane ride is still fresh in his mind.

"Everybody was very quiet," said Blakey. "No conversation, no jocularity. Nothing."

"We finally got a break in the weather and could see the boats heading toward France. Tons of boats. Hundreds of boats. And one of the guys said, 'How can we lose with this going on?' he says.

But as they got closer, bullets starting hitting their plane.

"(We) got to the coast of Normandy than it really got hot!" said Blakey. "We were all hooked up. You had a red light. And when that green light comes, 18 men were going out that door in 11 seconds."

Blakey landed in a cemetery and made his way to his target.

"We were to take a bridge, La Fluer Bridge. Take it before daylight and hold it until relieved," said Blakey.

"Well the bridge was there," he remembers. "We had to clean out some of the Germans around it."

"They were coming down the road right into the barrels of our rifles. And we did it. We killed a lot of Fermans. They killed some of our people but we killed far more of them," Blakey said.

The battle for the bridge was dramatized in one of the final scenes in the movie "Saving Private Ryan."

For more of veteran Thomas Blakey's story, click on the video above.

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