Normandy: D-Day Plus 60 Years
Well, after my fifth trip to Normandy in the past five years, I find myself rejoining life here in Texas and feeling more than a little let-down.
There is no place on earth like Normandy and the people there are unsurpassed. The Normans treat Americans like royalty, even people like me who had nothing to do with D-Day and their liberation.
The weather during this trip was very much un-D-Day-like. There was sunshine every day, no rain, and gentle breezes. We even saw people who got sunburned.
My wife, Maggie, and I traveled on our own, but we did get to cross paths with many 508ers on the Static Line Tour. In no particular order, we saw Chet Graham, Francis Lamoureux, Bob Speers, Harry Hudec, Leonard Sakaroff and his wife, Jan Silver, Louis Mannion and his wife, and George Miles.
There were scores of ceremonies to attend, and two in particular were meaningful to us -- a crossroad located at the west end of the Chef du Pont - Hill 30 causeway was named in memory of two 508ers, Lts. Millsaps and Polette, who braved crossing the Merderet floodplain (while it was flooded) facing enemy fire, in order to bring plasma from Chef du Pont to Hill 30 to treat the wounded who were stranded there.
About a half-mile north of this intersection, near the home of Georges Marion, a portion of the road that circles the perimeter of Hill 30 was named in honor of Chet Graham.
There were many, many local citizens there, including a bus-load of school children. Our time there was amazing and wonderful. It is heart-warming to see American veterans of WW II treated with genuine respect and honored with gifts and heart-felt words. Many of my dearest and closest friends live in Normandy.
Capt. Edward F. King
Shortly after returning from Normandy, I received an email from Tina King, niece of Capt. Edward F. King. She and her husband had been searching for information about Capt. King and had learned he was a good friend of my uncle, Capt. Nation.
For the past few days I have had the joy of sharing letters from my uncle mentioning Capt. King as well as photos from my uncle’s movies of him. What a joy this is for me! It feels fulfilling to be able to help others track down information about their loved ones, especially those who did not survive the war.
Capt. Ignatius P. Maternowski
While we were in a hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport waiting to fly back to Texas, I happened to pick up a copy of the “International Herald Tribune” in which there was mention of Chaplain Maternowski, who served as the Catholic Chaplain for the 508.
In the article, a Frenchman, Louis Marion, who lived on his parents’ farm on the outskirts of Sainte Mere Eglise recalls a glider crash in which a dozen paratroopers had been severely wounded. Chaplain Maternowski and others had transported the wounded to a cafe in the center of Sainte Mere Eglise. Chaplain Maternowski asked if there was a German hospital and was told there was a German doctor nearby.
Thinking he was protected by the rules of war, Capt. Maternowski went in search of the German doctor and was shot in the back and killed.
This story touched me deeply, for there are some good, clear shots of Capt. Maternowski in my uncle’s movies from the war, and I feel I know him. If any reader of this column knows the whereabouts of relatives of Capt. Maternowski, please contact me. I would love to share what I know about the Chaplain with his family.
508 PIR Association 30th Annual Reunion
Time is running out to register for the 508 PIR Association’s 30th annual (and final) Reunion, which is to be held Sunday, October 17th through Thursday, October 21st, 2004 in Gainesville, Florida. As of the middle of June, Ernie Lamson reports there are already 500 people registered for this grand finale.
The reunion will be held at the Paramount Hotel, 2900 SW 13th St., Gainesville, Florida 32608.The retirement ceremony will be held on Tuesday, October 19th at Camp Blanding, and it will be hosted by the staff of Camp Blanding.
For more information about the 30th Annual Reunion and Retirement Ceremony, Contact Ernie Lamson, 508 PIR Association Treasurer, at (651) 699-7366.
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