Honor & Respect (Normandy American Cemetery) – D-Day June 6 1944 – by Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2 Video Contest

By: Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory WW2

Normandy

Three years ago today I was privileged to be on the beaches of Normandy for the ceremonies commemorating the 66th anniversary of the landing of the American and Allied forces on D-Day.  It was humbling to stand among the men who fought to give freedom to others.  Men who risked everything to free an entire continent that was under the oppression and persecution of Nazi Germany.

One thing I will never forget at Normandy was seeing how respectful the French were by adopting the headstones of fallen American soldiers.  It was a tradition started  almost immediately after the D-Day invasion in June 1944 – local families made sure that each soldier’s grave near their village was tended to.  That tradition has been handed down through the generations, and is continued to today.

Normandy
These photos are candid pictures of a French family paying their respects to a fall soldier, and teaching the next generation to do the same.
Normandy
Traditionally French families tend the grave sites of soldiers who died fighting near their home or village.

The family brought small bags of sand from Omaha beach and had each boy rub the sand on the headstones they visited in order to view the solder’s names more clearly.  Then they placed flowers in front of the headstones and took a picture of the boys, before moving on to honor another fallen hero.

Normandy
Young boys posing briefly for a picture by the headstone of an American soldier.

I candidly observed this ritual being repeated throughout the afternoon.  Many other grateful French families were also there paying their respects to the men who paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

PFC Richard Kunkel, New York. Killed in action June 6, 1944.
Richard Kunkel (PFC, 501st Parachute Infantry Regt, 101st Airborne Division) of New York was killed in action June 6, 1944, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. He was posthumous awarded a Purple Heart.

Since the French haven’t forgotten the price of their freedom, I pray that we as Americans  never will either.  Yet today, a growing percentage of youth lack basic knowledge about WWII or Hitler’s atrocities.  Help us change this by passing along the legacy of the Greatest Generation by spreading the word about the iHistory WW2 video contest for today’s junior high and high school students!

SONY DSC

And remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as retired businessmen,  volunteers, Wal-Mart greeters, and great-grandparents.  For more information, visit the iHistory WW2 website or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

Remembering the D-Day Landing At Normandy – June 6, 1944 (Part 1)

A year ago today I was privileged to be on the beaches of Normandy and in Sainte-Mère-Église for the ceremonies commemorating the 66th anniversary of the landing of the Allied forces on D-Day.  It was amazing to stand next to the men who fought to give freedom to others.  Men who risked everything to free an entire continent that was under the oppression and persecution of the Nazis.

Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Omaha Beach
Utah Beach
Looking out over the English Channel.

For some reason, due to Hollywood movies I suppose, I’d always envisioned Omaha, Utah, and Sword beach being relativity small.  I never thought that our soldiers had to, in some cases, run upwards of 200 yards across open sand.  Honestly, it was a miracle that we were able to take the beach at all.

(Click to see large photo)

For those men who did manage to make it across the beaches, they faced the challenge of breaching numerous layers of German defenses.  Even though Hitler had put most of his efforts into defending the coastline near Calais (about a 125 miles North East), the beaches of Normandy still formed a deadly obstacle for the American soldiers.

German defenses.
While under heavy enemy fire, the American soldiers had to push their way through the German defenses.

Unfortunately, many of our men paid with their lives.

Many paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Normandy cemetery is among the most beautiful and revered cemeteries in the world.

Honoring those who fell.
Reflecting on the cost of freedom.

The most moving thing for me during my visit to Normandy was learning of that the French have adopted fallen American solder’s headstones.  Almost immediately after the D-Day invasion of June 1944 – local families made sure that each soldier’s graves was  tented to.  That tradition has been handed down through the generations, and is continued to today.

These photos are candid pictures are of a French family paying their respects, and teaching the next generation to do the same.

French family.

They placed flowers and brought sand from Omaha beach for each boy to rub on the headstones they visited.

Showing appreciation is passed on to the next generation.

Posing briefly for a picture for the boys grandparents for a picture and moved on to honor another soldier.  I candidly observed this ritual repeated through out the afternoon.  Many other grateful French families were also there paying their respects to the men who paid the ultimate price for their freedom.

The young boys posing for a picture.
Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

If the French will never forget the price of freedom, I pray that we as Americans we never will either.  I believe the iHistory Project: WW2 should be in every American high school.  So please, help spread the word by sharing this website with your local teachers, home school groups, and church groups.  Thank you.
The iHP: WW2 is important in keeping the relevance of defeating Hitler and the Axis powers so that history will not be repeated.
And remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as a Wal-Mart greeters, volunteers, and grandparents.  For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

What Are You Doing Next Saturday At 4:00PM? by Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

War is Hell.  Ask anyone who has been there and the story is the same.  Still, amidst the death and destruction; despite the hating and the killing, humanity shines through, a beacon and a sentinel letting us know there is hope our spirit of good will prevail.  Frank and Jean Bausmith lived through the ravages but stood as a beacon of goodness in the face of inhumanity.  This is their story:

Frank was a quarterback and Jean was a cheerleader.  She wanted a football boyfriend for whom she could root and he admits he was watching Jean from afar.  They were both shy, but through the encouragement of friends, and the intervention of the local paperboy, who asked Jean if she would go out with frank, they began a dating relationship that was described as “back and forth.” Then came December, 1941…

The Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 was something Frank could not ignore.  “Pearl Harbor,” he recalled, “was what turned us on to joining the service.  That was it.  We had to do something, so I volunteered.”  He enlisted in the Marine Corps and served honorably as a medic with the 4th Marine Division.  Frank got a Purple Heart after a Japanese hand grenade hit him.  In another attack, while attending to a fellow Marine, he was wounded, again, when a Japanese bullet went through a palm tree and stuck in his arm. The wound was so minor that he didn’t get a Purple Heart for it.  The real magic of Frank’s time in the war, however, wasn’t his valor under fire.  It wasn’t the  wounds  he received nor was it the many fierce battle locations he survived, places like Saipan, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.  The real magic was the humanity he maintained despite the inhumanity around him. 

At Saipan, fighting was characteristically fierce and the Japanese held tightly to every inch of ground.  They had convinced the local people that surrender to the Americans would bring unthinkable horrors, so many committed suicide or tried anything, regardless of how desperate, to avoid capture.  In a cistern the Marines found bodies of dead civilians who had hidden themselves there and died.  Frank saw a baby move and jumped into save him.  A fellow Marine sent the baby to the aid station.  Amidst the horror, humanity survived.  In his personal life, too, Frank put love above the fray. Here is their story…

Frank and Jean maintained a long distance romance by mail.  He recalls that letters came from her every other day, under most conditions.  Sometimes the war interrupted mail flow, so occasionally a week would go by with no letters in the mail pouch.  He wrote, faithfully, every day.

The romantic intensity grew as the months and even years passed and Frank even bought a ring while on leave and sent it to jean, with no explanation.  The price tag was still on it.  She decided that, as she remarked, “it better be an engagement ring” and she put an engagement announcement in the newspaper.  When Frank returned home, he asked Jean when she thought they might marry.  She asked him:  “What are you doing next Saturday at 4:00PM?”   They have been married for sixty-seven years. 

War is Hell.  Still, somewhere beyond the horror, humanity can survive.
     
I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org