Chet Graham doesn't express a lot of emotion when he
talks about parachuting into France on D-Day 60 years ago. He talks
about the war in a matter-of-fact way, not giving a lot of details
about battles or strategies or even the deaths he witnessed.
What comes across when talking to Graham about the Normandy
Invasion on June 6, 1944 are his sense of pride from taking part in
one of history's greatest war battles and his value of the lasting
friendships he still has with other men who fought alongside him.
Earlier this month, Graham, 85, returned to the French town where
he landed, even the actual site where he landed, to take part in a
60th anniversary celebration of D-Day. On his recent visit, he
received a commemorative pin from the French government and a
medallion from the county seat in the town where he landed.
But he is most proud of one little honor — a country lane
named after him. The lane is about 100 yards from
where he landed in an apple orchard and is now graced with the sign:
"Route Capt. Chet Graham, 508th PIR 82AIR." The sign indicates that
he was in the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd ABN
Graham landed in a tree in the middle of an apple orchard just
outside the small town of Le Port Filiolet. He was
the company commander of a 140-man unit that parachuted into France
in the dark of night to liberate the French from German occupation.
He's estimated he has returned to the site of his landing about 16
times over the last 60 years, but his last visit was a major event.
"The 60th was a big deal," he said. "People want your autograph all
The 12-year Rossmoor resident, was specifically invited to return
to take part in a ceremony with two other men. After the ceremony,
they went to a local school and talked to the children about D-Day
and spent an hour just answering the questions of some very
News photo by Mike DiCarlo
This is a piece of the tree that Chet
Graham landed in when he parachuted into France on D-Day on June 6,
Whenever he returns to
the small French town, he visits the owner of the orchard, Georges
Marion, the son of the original owner who was there when Graham's
unit landed on D-Day. He even has the son's photo hanging on a wall
in his Tice Creek Drive manor.
"I always go to the property where we landed. I see the owner, his
wife and his grandchildren," Graham said. "His father let us get
water from his pump," when his unit took over the property during
News photo by Mike DiCarlo
Chet Graham shows a replica of
the sign that is posted on a French country lane near where he
landed on D-Day. A French army officer duplicated the sign for him.
Graham has all kinds of books and
memorabilia on D-Day and even has a picture of the tree where he
landed. Although the tree blew down in 1989, he was able to secure a
small piece of it, which is now engraved with "My Tree" and the date
of his landing on one side, and his name on the other.
In addition to staying in contact with the property owner in
France, Graham remains in contact with members of his 508th regiment
and expresses feelings of nostalgia when talking about the men he
alongside during the war.
"I have so many friends out of this, some of the finest men you'd
every want to know," he said. "We went through a lot together."
However, this October will be the last time the former 508th
regiment will get together. "This is the last one because of age,
money and health," Graham said with sadness in his voice.
Three-hundred men have signed up to go this year.
"We were very close, all of us who were over there," he said.