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

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The Hero Next Door- By Jeffery Worthington- iHistory WW2 Video Contest

By Rachel MartinJeff Worthington, and iHistory WW2

You have probably talked to a hero this week and didn’t even realize it.

Heroes aren’t just the guys in red capes, or the super stars with multi-million dollar incomes. Rather, heroes take all forms – like the elderly man slumped in his chair at the nursing home, the Wal-Mart greeter who proudly wears his veterans hat, or Great-Uncle Carl, who always plays checkers with you when you visit Grandma at Christmas. World War II veterans are among our nation’s finest heroes. Risking everything, they sacrificed much to fight for freedom.

Courage

This week, we celebrate one of the most prominent displays of heroism in WW2. On June 6, 1944, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed when troops landed in Normandy, France. The plan was to surprise the German armies and gain a foothold in the area. Even though thousands lost their lives, the maneuver was ultimately successful. Over 100,000 troops began the march through Europe – a march which led to the ultimate defeat of Hitler.

Sacrifice

These courageous heroes risked and sacrificed their lives without the spotlight of fame or the glory of reveling in victory, and no guarantee of return.

There’s a chance you have a hero next door. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet a WWII veteran and tell others his or her story. Join the iHistory WW2 video competition and share his or her story with the world.

Join us on Facebook to follow the latest news and join the conversation as we salute veterans.
For more information, visit iHistory WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org.

How a Secrecy Veiled Tragedy Taught the Importance of War Stories- By Jeffery Worthington- iHistoryProject WW2

By Rachel Martin, Jeff Worthington, and iHistory Project WW2

War history. Veteran Stories. Why are they important?

I didn’t know. My dad didn’t know. I’m not entirely sure my grandmother knew. A small group of us sat in awed silence as my grandad recounted living through the catastrophic sinking of the HMT Rohna.We were awed to learn my grandad, a World War II veteran, was the survivor of a ship sunk by a Luftwaffe attack off the Mediterranean coast. Over 1,000 men were lost in the attack. Veiled in secrecy for years, the sinking of the HMT Rohna was the largest loss of US troops at sea.

HMT Rohna

My granddad was one of the 606 survivors of the November 26th, 1943 attack, and he clung to life in the ocean for days before his rescue. As one of the few survivors, he was one of the lucky ones.

The event was catastrophic. So much so, that the US Government veiled the incident in secrecy until 1996, almost 50 years after the incident.

How do you tell a story that was classified and veiled in secrecy for over 50 years?

How do you gather facts on a tragedy filled with “strong silent” types? It’s impossible to learn and tell a story unless you’re first ready to listen.

While he lived through a historic event, my granddad rarely spoke of his experiences.  

Granddad is gone now, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I had to hear about his WWII experiences. Had I not talked to him about his experience in World War II, his story would be lost forever with his passing.

History is important and there are stories to be told.

That’s why we’re launching iHistory WWII. We’re working in cooperation with the Library of Congress to bring stories of veterans to life. iHistoryWWII is providing students with the opportunity to hear stories first hand, and the chance to win free equipment for their classroom!

Visit our website, and stay tuned for more details!

For more information, visit the iHistory Project-WW2 or contact me directly atjeff@ihistoryproject.org.