In Memory of the Valor and the Sacrifices which Hallow this soil.

thank you

Only a few days ago we celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. People often forget that D-Day did not mark the end of WWII, it merely marked the beginning of the end.

So many sacrifices were still made in the days and months following D-Day. Thousands and thousands of mainly young men, some the same age as my own 2 sons, gave their lives for the freedom of strangers. Most of them did not know the people they were fighting for, all they knew is that an evil regime had to be beaten.

The title of this blog is a quote which engraved in the Marble reception hall of the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial  in Margraten in the Netherlands.

The cemetery was created in October 1944 under the leadership of Joseph Shomon of the 611th Graves Registration Company, as the Ninth United States Army pushed into the Netherlands from France and Belgium. American casualties from the area, and also those that fell in Germany were buried here (as Americans could not be buried permanently in enemy territory)

Margraten 1940s

Currently 8,301 souls are buried here.Stretching along the sides of the court are Tablets of the Missing on which are recorded 1,722 names. Totaling 10,023 souls remembered here. I could write pages and pages on honouting these men but there is only one word that really describes each single one of them-Heroes-.

Below are just some impression of this most hallow of places. Let us never forget.

US FLAG

Flag

FLOWERS

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In this world where the greatest generation often gets disrespected, I am proud to see that there is still so much respect for the men and remembered here. The sight of 8301 pure white marble graves, is awesome,saddening and eerie at the same time, but these hallow soils are treated with the utmost respect.

white crosses

 

Sources

Own archive

Beeldbank WO2

Overlord 75

 

D DAY75 years ago you embarked on something that had never been done before. 156,000 of you were dropped on the beaches in Normandy.

156,000 just imagine that. It is the equivalent of a medium sized city, like Alexandria in  Virginia USA.

Not all 156,000 made it, thousands died even before they reached the beaches.

Utah Beach;Omaha Beach;Gold Beach;Juno Beach and Sword Beach are now just beaches filled with sunbathers on a sunny day. How many of those sunbathers realize the sacrifices made on that sand, Sacrifices to secure their freedom, sacrifices so that they can walk,cycle, or just lie down in the sand.

How many know?

At time I despair at how many of these hard fought liberties are eroded by so called political correct agendas.

They call you the greatest generation, simply because you are.

I am thankful for what you have done. I will never ever forget the battles you fought to secure my freedom. The battles often fought seemingly in vain because so many died, But eventually you were the victors. We should therefor never be victims.

I salute each single one of you may you still walk on this earth or gone in peace in that big place in the sky.

The operation was called Operation Overlord- Overlord has turned 75 today. 75 years, 900 months.

D-DAY MEN

 

The unlikely Irish contributions during D-Day.

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Ireland remained neutral throughout World War II, but that is not to say there was no contribution from the Irish during the war. Many young Irish men did join the British army and also  partook in Operation Overlord, more common;y known as D-Day.

However this blog is not about any of those troops but about 2 less likely participants in Operation Overlord.

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When Maureen Flavin took on a job as postmistress at the Blacksod light house in Co. Mayo in Ireland she had not anticipated the other job which was bestowed on her.The job was taking barometer and thermometer readings(basically weather forecasting) at the remote Blacksod weather station on Ireland’s west coast. But she did do her job and it made a global impact.

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On her 21st birthday, June 3 1944, she took the barometer readings and noticed a sudden drop, indicating bad weather was coming. Maureen gave the report to Ted Sweeney who was the lighthouse keeper and they sent it in and, Maureen , quickly received a call from a British woman asking them to check and confirm the report.

The report was send again and an hour later, she received a call from the same British woman, asking her to check and confirm again, which she did.

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Unbeknownst to Maureen the Allied leaders who were  in London were relying on her weather reports to judge whether they should proceed with the D-Day launch as planned. The chief meteorologist, a Scottish man named James Scagg, was giving General Eisenhower regular weather updates.

He advised Eisenhower that based on Maureen’s report Operation Overlord, which was planned for June 5,1944, should be postponed. Scagg knew that the weather forcasted by  Maureen would hit the UK and France after it hit Ireland.Eisenhower took the advice and postponed the planned invasion by a day. So D-Day happened on June 6 because of young Irish woman. Maureen later married the lighthouse keeper Ted Sweeney. Their son Vincent is currently the lighthouse keeper at Blacksod light house.

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The other unlikely Irish D-Day hero was born and raised in the village of Carnlough on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. He joined the RAF as a messenger, and although he wasn’t a pilot nor did he have a plane he still flew a dangerous mission.

You see Paddy was a messenger pigeon who served with the RAF during the Normandy operations in June 1944,

Paddy

He was the fastest pigeon to reach England with a coded message from the battle-front beaches of Normandy.

The brave bird brought back vital information about the Allies’ progress, flying 230 miles in four hours 50 minutes – the fastest time of any of the messenger pigeons involved in the mission with an average speed of 56 mph.

In the face of poor weather conditions and the threat of German falcons, deployed to intercept Paddy and his comrades, he delivered his message to his home loft at RAF Hurn.

He was the only Irish pigeon to have been awarded the Dicken Medal for bravery. Paddy was trained for his specialist role in Northern Ireland and England.

Prior to the D-Day Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, the bird was delivered to RAF Hurn in Hampshire. Two days later he was among 30 pigeons taken to France by a unit of the 1st US Army. Paddy was released at 8.15 a.m. on June 12, carrying coded information on the Allied advance.

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Sources

RTE

BBC

My secret Northern Ireland

Irish Central

Irish Mirror

Independent.ie

 

Charles Durning WWII Veteran.

Charles Durning

Anyone who knows movies will know the name Charles Durning. He has starred in so many classic movies in a variety of genres, comedies, thrillers, musicals/ Movies like “Dog day afternoon”, “The Choirboys” ot “The best little whorehouse in Texas” the list is endless. Additionally he has also starred in a great number of TV shows.

But his illustrious career as an actor nearly didn’t happen. Charles was one of the many brave men who landed in Normandy on the 6th of June, 1944-D-Day, at age 21.

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Even though he survived the initial assault reasonably  unscathed, he was injured by a German mine a few days later which earned him  a Purple Heart. After a recovery period of  six months, he was put back on the front lines to combat the German Ardennes offensive. In the battle of the Bulge.

During a German attack, Charles recalled that a particularly young soldier charged him, however  Charles couldn’t bring himself to fire. The two engaged in battle by using  their bayonets, and Charles got wounded again during the fight. Charles did manage to kill the German infantryman, with a rock .. After the offensive, He received his second Purple Heart.

He was discharged in January 1946 as a private first class.

He died on December 24, 2012, Christmas Eve, which is ironic because he played Santa Claus 6 times(Once as Kris Kringle)

A truly remarkable actor and human being. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Charles

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Sources

IMDB

Military.com

 

The Longest Day and how Goldfinger temporarily was banned in Israel.

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The Longest Day is still one of my favourite movies. The epic cinematic event about D-Day and the direct aftermath. It was one of the first ensemble cast movies, basically anyone who was anyone in Hollywood was part of the movie.

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Because it was shot less then 2 decades after D-Day and the end of WWII it meant that some of the actors in the film had actually seen action on the battlefield during the war.

As you can see from the title there is a mention of another movie, the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Gert Fröbe who played Auric Goldfinger also played in The Longest Day, he portrayed the role of the Wehrmacht soldier Sgt. Kaffekanne.

Sgt. Kaffekanne

Fröbe was born on 25 February 1913 and had joined the Nazi party at the young age of 16 in 1929. Disillusioned by the party and what it stood for he left in 1937. By September 1944 however he was drafted into the Wehrmacht.

During an interview in 1968 with a reporter of the Daily Mail, Fröbe had said “I was a member of the Nazi Party. During the Third Reich, I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people, although I was a member of the Nazi party.”

The reporter however had shortened it to ” I was a member of the Nazi Party” As a result Israel banned the movie Goldfinger for several months.

GOLDFINGER

Many people just didn’t believe Fröbe’s version of the interview. Until one of the Jews he helped, Mario Blumenau, showed up at the Israeli Embassy in Vienna.  Blumenau informed them that his and his Mother’s life  were saved by Fröbe by hiding them.  They’d heard of how Fröbe was being vilified and wanted to set the record straight.  Shortly after this, the Israeli ban on Goldfinger was officially lifted and Föbe’s reputation restored.

Gert_Fröbe_(1965)

 

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Sources

IMDB

 

Robert G. Cole-Medal of Honor

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One of my new year;s resolution is to start honoring more heroes and raise more awareness of what these real heroes have done for our freedom.

No actors,musicians,athletes, or reality tv stars but real heroes who sacrificed themselves for the betterment of others.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert George Cole (March 19, 1915 – September 18, 1944) was an American soldier who received the Medal of Honor MoHfor his actions in the days following the D-Day Normandy invasion of World War II.The 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions were the first to jump into occupied France and cease certain important areas. An important part of the invasion, was to capture Carentan. Carentan the link between Utah and Omaha beach.

On 10 June Cole and his 3-502 PIR were moving up the causeway in between St. Come-du-Mont and Carentan. Trying to capture territory over the Germans. Close to the outskirts of Carentan, the Germans had a well defended position in the hedgerows near the Ingouf farm. While moving up the causeway, Cole’s men had to move through intense enemy fire, causing a lot of casualties in their ranks. The causeway is now nicknamed ‘Purple heart lane’.

At the end of the causeway, the Germans placed some obstacles, which acted as a bottleneck for Cole’s paratroopers. Slowly advancing, the paratroopers finally got into positions at the last bridge over the Madeleine river leading up to Carentan. Only 265 men of the initial 400 from third battalion were left and prepared for an assault on the farm. With the Germans in well defended positions and their fire still suppressing the paratroopers, Robert Cole had to make a difficult decision. He ordered his men to fix bayonets and prepare for a bayonet charge.

Robert Cole, like many other Airborne commanders, led from the front and ran with his men towards the hedgerows. The attack didn’t start out to well, but some of the men from H-502 PIR started running to the German positions together with Cole, getting more men from other companies moving too. More and more men got motivated to participate in the push. While Cole kept firing his .45 pistol in the direction of the German defenders, the attacking force reached the German lines and got into hand-to-hand combat, finally overpowering the enemy. Cole’s charge proved costly, leaving him with 130 of the 265 men. Cole set up defensive positions at the Ingouf farm and called for 1-502 PIR to support his exhausted troops. For the bayonet charge and his efforts that day Cole was to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest American medal a soldier can earn. Sadly, Cole did not live to see it.

LTC Cole was recommended for a Medal of Honor for his actions that day, but did not live to receive it.

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On September 18, 1944, during Operation Market Garden, Colonel Cole, commanding the 3rd Battalion of the 502d PIR in Best, Netherlands, got on the radio. A pilot asked him to put some orange identification panels in front of his position. Cole decided to do it himself. For a moment, Cole raised his head, shielding his eyes to see the plane. Suddenly a shot was fired by a German sniper in a farmhouse only 300 yards away, killing Cole instantly.

Two weeks later, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bayonet charge near Carentan on June 11. As his widow and two-year-old son looked on, Cole’s mother accepted his posthumous award on the parade ground, where Cole had played as a child, at Fort Sam Houston.

LTC Cole is buried at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, in Margraten, the Netherlands.

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Medal of Honor citation

“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty on 11 June 1944, in France. Lt. Col. Cole was personally leading his battalion in forcing the last 4 bridges on the road to Carentan when his entire unit was suddenly pinned to the ground by intense and withering enemy rifle, machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire placed upon them from well-prepared and heavily fortified positions within 150 yards of the foremost elements. After the devastating and unceasing enemy fire had for over 1 hour prevented any move and inflicted numerous casualties, Lt. Col. Cole, observing this almost hopeless situation, courageously issued orders to assault the enemy positions with fixed bayonets. With utter disregard for his own safety and completely ignoring the enemy fire, he rose to his feet in front of his battalion and with drawn pistol shouted to his men to follow him in the assault. Catching up a fallen man’s rifle and bayonet, he charged on and led the remnants of his battalion across the bullet-swept open ground and into the enemy position. His heroic and valiant action in so inspiring his men resulted in the complete establishment of our bridgehead across the Douve River. The cool fearlessness, personal bravery, and outstanding leadership displayed by Lieutenant Colonel Cole reflect great credit upon himself and are worthy of the highest praise in the military service”

Dear Sir I salute you.

robertgcole006

 

 

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Primum non Nocere-First do no harm.

HippocraticOath

First do no harm is  a misquoted line from the Hippocratic oath, but it has been adopted as part of it.The actual translation is “I will utterly reject harm and mischief” however the message is the same.

A great number of Physicians of the Nazi regime did not adhere to the oath. They took the opportunity to do a lot of harm in order to conduct their own experiments.

But some Nazi Doctors did stick to the oath with the aim to heal rather then to harm, and even defy the Nazi regime’s regulations.

US Army Pvt. Bob Levine arrived in England a few days before the Allied forces were to land on Normandy.

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He actively took part in the D-Day invasion and his 81-mm mortar crew was right behind the 90th Infantry when the actual invasion took place. The Allied forces met with fierce German opposition, and the intense fighting lasted weeks. In one such encounter, Levine was hit by a grenade that landed very close to him; his right leg was severely damaged in the explosion. He was captured by German forces, along with many other US soldiers. On his way to the POW camp, they were hit by a mortar shell fired by the US Army, which landed very close to POW killing scores of soldiers. Although Bob survived the explosion, his leg took more blows and he became even weaker and lost more blood.

Next thing Levine remembers was a Nazi doctor’s face, inspecting his wounds and reading his dog tag.

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Levine said that when this doctor read his dog tag and uttered the words ‘Was ist H?’ he knew then that he would definitely be executed. At that time, every American soldier had a religious designation marked on the dog tag, C for Catholic, P for Protestant and H for Hebrew. He was badly wounded, and was at the mercy of a Nazi doctor, in Nazi-controlled territory, and on top of all that, he was Jewish, Levine called this a recipe for disaster.

The Nazi doctor who treated Levine was Dr Edgar Woll.

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When Levine woke up after some time of unconsciousness, he found out that his leg had been amputated, and that the Nazi doctor was gone. His dog tag was missing and there was a note tucked into his pocket. The doctor had written a note on back of a Nazi propaganda card bearing quotes of the Fuehrer. Levine could not understand it, as it was written in German.

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The soldier couldn’t understand a word, but he clung to the card for months, hanging onto it while still a POW, after he was rescued by Allied troops and on the ship taking him back to the United States

Once translated, Levine found the note explained exactly why the doctor opted for amputation and detailed his post-surgical treatment:

“Crushed right foot. Fracture of lower leg. Foreign body in upper right leg’s tissue. Opening of the ankle joint. Amputation at place of fracture. Bandage with sulfa. Vaccinated against gas gangrene.”

After this, Levine was transferred to a POW camp, where he stayed until US soldiers liberated them and he was sent home.

The Nazi doctor had definitely saved his life, by performing an amputation, and most importantly removing his dog tag with its mention of ‘H’. The missing dog tags likely spared Levine from Berga, a notorious camp for Jewish POWs where 350 American soldiers were worked to the bone — or the grave.

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Levine went back to Normandy in 1981, where he wanted to meet the Nazi doctor but found out that he had died in 1954. A local historian tracked down Dr Woll’s family, who were happy to see Levine and his wife. They had an evening of drinks and toasts together. Levine mentioned to Edgar’s family how grateful he was for what he had done for Levine, to which one of Edgar’s family member said that if it hadn’t been for Levine, they would still be saying ‘Heil Hitler

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The Ghost Army- Special FX in WWII.

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I know what you are thinking “We are still a month away from Halloween and he is already starting telling ghost stories”

Well yes and no, you see the Ghost Army wasn’t an army of real ghosts however it did scare many German units, without firing one shot.

During World War II, Americans of many different backgrounds and professions were drafted into the armed forces. One unit in particular, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops of the U.S. Army, had an odd membership. This group was made up mostly of artists, architects, designers, sound engineers, and other creative types — all of whom had an IQ of at least 119. And while other units were given standard issue weapons and benefited from the employ of tanks and artillery, the 23rd was given a much different order.

The 23rd, known colloquially as the “Ghost Army,” would set up faux, inflatable battalions near German encampments (but away from the actual Allied forces) to try to throw off the enemy. These actors-as-soldiers would don different uniforms and insignias, with the hope of catching the eye of German intelligence — who, in turn, would report back (incorrect) estimates of manpower and location of Allied troops.

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Shortly after the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, two Frenchmen on bicycles managed to cross the perimeter of the United States Army’s 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and what they saw astounded them. Four American soldiers had picked up a 40-ton Sherman tank and were turning it in place. Soldier Arthur Shilstone says, “They looked at me, and they were looking for answers, and I finally said: ‘The Americans are very strong.
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Patriotic pride aside, the men of the 23rd were not equipped with super-human strength. They did, however, have inflatable tanks.

Shilstone was one of 1,100 soldiers who formed the unit, also known as the Ghost Army.

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Inspiration for the unit came from the British units who had honed the deception technique for the battle of El Alamein in late 1942, as Operation Bertram.

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The unit had its beginnings at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, and was fully formed at Pine Camp, New York (now Fort Drum), before sailing for the United Kingdom in early May 1944. In Britain they were based near Stratford upon Avon, and troops participated in Operation Fortitude, the British-designed and led D-Day deception of a landing force designated for the Pas-de-Calais.

he 3132 Signal Service Company Special handled sonic deception. The unit coalesced under the direction of Colonel Hilton Railey.

Aided by engineers from Bell Labs, a team went to Fort Knox to record sounds of armored and infantry units onto a series of sound effects records that they brought to Europe. For each deception, sounds could be “mixed” to match the scenario they wanted the enemy to believe. This program was recorded on state-of-the-art wire recorders (the predecessor to the tape recorder), and then played back with powerful amplifiers and speakers mounted on halftracks.

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The sounds they played could be heard 15 miles (24 km) away.

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Their efforts were reportedly successful. For example, the 23rd set up a fake “mulberry harbor” — an artificial military harbor used to offload cargo and troops onto beaches, such as at Normandy a few weeks after D-Day — diverting German attention away from the true landing locations. But the biggest success? The Washington Post noted that at times, the Ghost Army convinced German adversaries that they numbered as many as 30,000 troops, even convincing some units to surrender out of fear of being greatly outmatched.

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Posing as the 30th and 79th divisions, 1,100 men had to pretend to be more than 30,000.
Mixing real tanks alongside the inflatable ones, the troops appeared to be assembling a massive attack. Their fake observation planes were so convincing, American pilots tried to land in the field next to them.

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When the offensive finally made its move across the Rhine, with General Dwight Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill watching, they were met with little German resistance. The riverbanks were left for the taking and the Ghost Army earned a commendation for its success.

Because the men had to keep their true purpose a secret, they regularly pretended to be other units. They’d mark their trucks with chalk or sew fake badges to throw off potential spies in the cities where they spent time off duty.

Set apart from other troops by their secret mission, the artists also brought an unusual perspective to war. Upon finding a bombed-out church in Trévières, several of them stopped to sketch the structure. When they stopped in Paris and Luxembourg, the men recorded everything from the beguiling women biking by to the scenic rooflines and street scenes.

Arthur Shilstone sketch of his unit digging in after their arrival in Normandy.

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A sketch by Ghost Army artist Richard Morton

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Visiting a Paris brothel was quite an eye-opener for Victor Dowd. “The ladies would come downstairs in their scanty costumes. I’m no Toulouse-Lautrec, but it was a great opportunity for me to draw. A woman named Doris sat on my table, she had a glass of wine in one hand,  a cigarette in the other, high heels and practically no clothes on. She was trying to entice me to go upstairs. I wouldn’t have had to pay anything if I gave her the drawing. But I wasn’t particularly anxious to go upstairs with Doris, and I decided to keep the drawing.”

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The U.S. Army may have used the tactic in other wars, as well, as the Ghost Army’s mission in World War II was kept classified until 1996 — and even today, many details are still kept secret.

These were just some men of the Ghost Army.

Irving McKane Nussbaum “Mickey”

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M. Sgt. Forrest Lewis joined the Army in 1942 and was originally assigned to maintain barrage balloons around the Bremerton, WA. naval shipyards.  After the defeat of the Japanese at Midway he was reassigned.  He volunteered to join the 23rd HQ Co. Special Troops at Camp Forest, TN like many of the others.  He traveled with them to England and land in France on June 23, 1944 with the bulk of the unit.  He served in Brittany, Northern France, Luxembourg and Germany as did most of the troops in the unit.  He was not an artist nor electronic technician but served with Headquarters Company within the unit.

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Sergeants James Taylor and Forrest Lewis.

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The “Diggers”

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Anthony Young

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The caring side of WWII- A glimmer of Hope

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It wasn’t only doom and gloom during WWII. Occasionally there were moments of hope and care. Amidst the darkest and horrific era of human history, humanity shone through.

I will leave the pictures do the talking, most of these were taken around D-Day.

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There is always time for a drink.

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And chocolate

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New hope and new life

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Time for a sing song and entertainment.

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Picnic

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Actors dressed as cowboys as part of the Canadian Army Invasion Revue in Banville on July 30, 1944. (Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives of Canada)

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Pfc Joseph E. Day (of Belloire, Ohio) holds a puppy named “Invasion” in a German helmet. Photo taken on July 14, 1944.

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Gratitude

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Paule M. Truffert among civilians in Cherbourg. According to LIFE, she was the only girl in town who spoke English.

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A woman stretches to give a bottle of water to a member of the 4th US Armored Division as they cross Le Repas

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Members of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, Sergeant T.F Mc Feat and Private J. Viner, administer plasma to a victim.

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Theodore Roosevelt Jr.-the forgotten Roosevelt.

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The Roosevelt name must be one of the best known names in US and world history, for it was the name of not 1 but 2 legendary presidents.

A lesser known but not a lesser heroic man was Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt III (September 13, 1887 – July 12, 1944), known as Theodore Jr., an American government, business, and military leader. He was the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt.

 

Roosevelt was instrumental in the forming of the American Legion in 1919 following his valiant service in the United States Army during World War I. He later served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–32), Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–33), Chairman of the Board of American Express Company, Vice-President at Doubleday Books. Returning to the Army in 1940, he led the first wave of troops at Utah Beach during the Normandy landings in 1944, earning the Medal of Honor for his command. He died in France 36 days later, holding the rank of Brigadier General.

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Five months before the allied landings in Normandy, Roosevelt was assigned to the U.S 4th Infantry Division (Ivy Division), and was stationed in England. Roosevelt had requested to lead the attack on Utah Beach with the first wave of soldiers; however, this request was repeatedly denied by Major General Barton. Barton eventually agreed, albeit reluctantly, and Barton made it very clear that he did not expect Roosevelt to live through the initial landings on Utah Beach.

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As a result of this agreement from Barton, Roosevelt would be the only General to land with the first wave of troops on any of the allied beaches on D-Day.

At the time of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944, Roosevelt was a frail man, not in the best of health; needing the aid of a walking stick. His health had suffered as a result of the first World War. Despite his poor health, he proved to be a fine leader and as depicted in the film the longest day, he would famously state: “We’ll start the war from right here!”. He made this famous quote after discovering that the allied landings on Utah Beach were approximately 2 km off course.

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His decision to start the battle regardless of this error, worked in favour of the allies. As many of the German’s stationed in this area were redeployed to deal with the allied paratroopers dropping over Sainte Marie Du Mont, resistance from this part of the Atlantic Wall coastal defences was considerably weaker than expected.

Later in the day, once the beach head at Utah Beach was secured, General Barton came ashore and to his great surprise, Roosevelt was waiting to meet him. Barton never expected to see him alive and both men were filled with great emotion.

On July 12th 1944, after being involved in fierce fighting, Roosevelt died from a heart attack. He was buried at the Omaha Beach American Cemetery in Colleville Sur Mer, Normandy. He was buried next to his brother, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in the first World War.

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Theodore Roosevelt Jr. is buried in Plot: Plot D, Row 28, Grave 45.

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For his bravery, Theordore Roosevelt Jr was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Dear Sir, I salute you.

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