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.

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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.
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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.

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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!

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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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What Would “Uncle Bob Do?” by Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

World War 2, WW2, World War 2 Contest, World War 2 Video Contest, You Tube Contest WW2, You Tube Contest World War 2, iHistory Project,   WW2 Volunteers, Jeff Worthington, Jeffrey Worthingon, Military History Contest, High School You Tube Competition, World War Two Video Contest, History Contest World War 2, Great Project for High School History, High School History Contest,We see wars as individual events, periods of time that have beginnings and ends.  The connections across time are often ignored.  I’m not talking about political events that link conflicts, but rather, the individuals’ stories; the human connections.  One such story binds the European Theater of Operations in WW2 with Saigon in 1968.  It’s the story of a soldier in the 137th Signal Radio Intelligence Corps, Sgt. Robert H. McAllister, later known as “Uncle Bob.”

Sgt. McAllister was the son of Hugh Robert McAllister, an Irish born sea captain.  All his life, he was groomed to be a seaman.  The problem was, he hated the sea.  He earned his Third Mate’s papers at the age of 17, but left the service to pursue a career in business.  When the U.S. entered the war he was a sales manager for a cork company, a title which earned him a deferment.  He told his son, Hugh McAllister that one day while renewing his deferment, a soldier at the draft office commented that he was “another Irishman afraid to fight.”  A fight ensued Robert H. McAllister enlisted that day. His son recalls that “my Dad never got the connection that the army staffer got what he wanted, another recruit, and all it cost him was a black eye.”  McAllister selected the US Army Infantry because of his admiration for an uncle, James Kelly, who served admirably in the “Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment” during the First World War. 

Even following enlistment, offered based on his earlier commission as a Third Mate in the Merchant Marine; he was offered a commission in his choice of the US Navy or the Merchant fleet.  Hatred of the sea and admiration for his uncle “Jimmy” conspired to keep him in the army.  Radio operation, a skill learned on board his father’s ship, got him a ticket to the signal corps, where he served until the end of the war.  His unit arrived in France on September 3, 1944 and served in France, Luxemburg, Holland, Germany and Belgium, leaving Europe on August 14, 1945, from the port at Lahore, on the Liberty Ship “Joseph Leidy.”  Along the way the 137th Signal Radio Intelligence Company engaged Nazi troops in the Battle of The Bulge.  Sgt. McAllister experienced war, operating in areas frequented by German Panzers and SS units.  He was lucky.  He survived. 

In the next post we’ll fast-forward to see how Uncle Bob made a big difference in another soldier’s life, in another, very different time and place.

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