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

Roosevelt’s Infamy Speech – Pearl Harbor – December 8, 1941 – By Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory Project

By: Jeffrey Worthington & iHistory Project

One day after the Empire of Japan’s attack on Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, the United States President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, delivered this speech to a Joint Session of Congress.  The speech is best known for the line “December 7, 1941… a date which will live in infamy.” Unfortunately many students today do not know what happened at Pearl Harbor that day.

But there is something you can do to help educate today’s teens by getting them to learn out nations history from the people who were there… before it is too late. Roughly a 1,000 World War II veterans die everyday. The New York Times said that by 2020 there won’t be any left at all.

Please visit http://www.ihistoryprojectww2.org to see how you can help in your community!

If you have any questions or need more information please visitor our website iHistory Project: WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

Besides Us, Who Will Make It Back Alive? by Jeffrey Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

Airmen of the Second World War were, if nothing else, resilient. This was true for all of the men who flew the skies patrolled by the Axis and none deserved the title more than the pilots and the crews of the B-17 Fling Fortresses. Norm Stevens commanded one of these formidable aircraft and his is a story of survival in the face of near certain death.

Recounting his experiences as a bomber pilot, Norm tells of a typical mission briefing, the time all of the pilots learn their targets and assess their risks. Out of groups of eight bombers, only two would make it back, intact. With characteristic confidence, a cross between cockiness and the kind of humor needed to stay focused on the mission and not the suicidal nature of their work, Norm tells how he would look around the room and wonder who, among his fellows, would come back with him and his crew?

Yes, the missions were dangerous. Pilot Stevens was twice wounded and twice won the Purple Heart for battlefield injuries. On one particular mission, facing heavy anti-aircraft fire, he took shrapnel in the back of his head. Shrapnel pieces are the metal fragments embedded in flak; those ever present puffs of smoke that let crews know the anti-aircraft gunners below wanted them dead.

On this particular run Norm’s belly gunner pleaded with him to break formation. He could tell from the predictable time between blasts and their locations that they were flying headlong into the path of the anti-aircraft fire. Of course Norm couldn’t break formation. This was about “mission” and they all flew knowing they might have to die fighting for victory. The same blast that hurled shrapnel into Norm’s head slit the belly gunner’s jugular, taking his life in a matter of seconds.

The pilots and the crews of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses were common men performing uncommon feats of bravery in the face of a fierce enemy who gave them little hope of surviving. Still, with confidence in themselves, in their fellow crew members and in their mission, they sprang back time after time, resilient despite all odds.

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