Issue 6-1-14 Website - page 11

D-Day, June 6
I’ve been watching
the progress of the
Whiskey7, therestored
DouglasC-47 transport
planefrom theNational
War PlaneMuseum in
Geneseo on its way
back to Normany for
the 70th Anniversary
ofD-Day on June 6.
Whiskey 7 left
flew toMaine. During
thenext several days it
flew toNewfoundland,
Iceland andGreenland
andfinally toScotland.
It spent a few days
in England before heading to
the Ramstein Air Force Base in
Germany. The plane will leave
Sunday for Cherbourg, France
where it will pick up theLiberty
Jump Team that will parachute
intoseveralof theoriginal landing
zones at Normandy. Although
otherplaneswill beparticipating
in the event, Whiskey 7 is the
only plane that has been flown
from theUnitedStates toFrance,
a truly remarkable feat. In 1944,
the Whiskey 7 was the lead
ship of the 37th Troop Carrier
Squadron, which dropped the
82ndAirborneDivision near St.
MereEglise, France.
A couple of days ago, I ran
into Mike Welsh and he said
that I should give Dick Ladd a
call. As far as he knew, he was
the only D-Day veteran still
living inLeRoy. So I calledDick
yesterday. “Haveyoueverwritten
about D-Day ?” I asked. “No. I
have talked to family and friends
who were interested, but most
folksdon’tcare toomuch.”“Well,
tellme a little about it. I’d like to
write about it in the
SoDick spent a little time telling
me about what happened.
Hewas19and thiswashisfirst
combat mission. He parachuted
beyondGerman lines onD-Day
with the 502 Regiment of the
101st Airborne, the “Screaming
joinedby the82ndAirborneunit
and they were the first units to
parachute behind German lines
before the main amphibious
invasion at 6:30 am.
There were approximately
13,100 American paratroopers
on that mission and 4,000 more
were shuttled in by glider after
daylight. It was officially called
OperationNeptune.Dicksaid that
unofficially the men described
it as “snooping and pooping”
intelligence and reconnaissance.
Dick remembers that theirmission
began exactly at 10minutes after
one in themorning.He remembers
vividly the challenges of jumping
behind enemy lines in the dark.
Later, military historians would
say that the decision to drop
paratroopers in the dark was one
of the fewmissteps of the Allied
D-Day mission. Casualties were
heavy.Dicksurvived the jumpand
unit intoGerman-held territory.
He fought in the infamous
Battle of the Bulge in the
winter of 1944 and 1945 in the
Ardennes. He was wounded in
both hands at Bastone, while
he was riding in the gun turret
of a tank. The wounds were not
serious and he returned to his
unit six weeks later. When he
returned to England, he spent
some time inScotland,where he
met his future wife. They were
married in September 1945. He
was discharged twomonths later
onNovember30.Hiswife joined
him in theUnitedStatesonApril
1, 1946.
There were thousands of
casualties on D-Day. Genesee
County lost four men on that
day. Frederick Fenneran from
LeRoy, was only 19 when he
stormed thebeachesatNormandy
and lost his life. Martin Brown
graduated from the SouthByron
High School and attended the
University of Tennessee at
Knoxville. He enlisted in the
101st Screaming Eagles 506th
Brigade. He took his training
at Fort Benning in Georgia
and was shipped to England in
August 1943. On June 6, 1944,
he was another casualty of the
war. George Gouinlock was
born in Warsaw, but graduated
from Batavia High School and
received his engineering degree
from Syracuse University. At
the time that the war broke out,
hewasworking at theTennessee
ValleyAuthority. InMay1943he
entered theservicewith the138th
Demolition Unit. According
to the
Gold Star Book of
, he lost his life
“presumably in the invasion of
France” onD-Day.
Alvin Hettrick of Pavilion,
was a member of the 299th
Engineer Combat Battalion.
Before enlisting he worked as a
clerkatLapp InsulatorCompany.
Hewas reportedmissing inaction
on June 6, D-Day. Four days
later, hisdeathwasconfirmedby
his commanding officer. Alvin
was thefirstWorldWar II fatality
D-Day has been called
the “Longest Day.” Military
historians have written books,
movies have beenmade. Diaries
have been published. It remains
as one of the most critical and
pivotal days in the annals of
WorldWar II. The question has
always been, what would have
happened if the D-Day invasion
had failed?While on a museum
conference trip to theNetherlands
and Belgium a few years ago, I
happened tobe inArnhemon the
weekend that theycommemorate
the liberation of their city by
Canadian troops. ThefirstAllied
liberation attempt was thwarted
by the Germans, as recorded
in the movie “The Bridge Too
Far.” But eventually, the Allied
forcesprevailedand theGermans
retreated. Each year, Arnhem
invites the Canadian veterans to
join them for a homecoming but
each year the numbers become
feweras thosebravemenpasson.
I asked Dick Ladd if he had
ever been back to Normandy,
and he said he had been back a
couple of times. He had visited
with some of his family quite a
while ago, and again just three
years ago he had gone back, but
hewouldn’tbegoing for the70th
Anniversary commemoration.
A fewofmyEuropean friends
haveasked,whydoes it seem that
the Americans and the English
want to commemorate every
battleand invasionofWorldWar
II. Isn’t it time tomove on? I’ve
mulled that question around in
mymind quite a bit, and I’m not
sure I have the right answer.
I don’t remember the war. I
was born in November of 1944.
My father, afterbeing rejected for
medical reasons, finally enlisted
in theArmy,only tobedischarged
formedical reasonsa fewmonths
later. His cousin, was killed in
action inSeptember 1944. Three
of my mother’s four brothers
enlisted during World War II.
Perhaps we commemorate the
events, to assure ourselves that
itwasworth the sacrificesmade.
I wonder what it would mean
if we didn’t commemorate these
events. Idoknow, thatonJune6,
I will be thinking of Dick Ladd
because throughhiseyes,D-Day
takes on a personal meaning. I
alsowant to remember, thatwhen
I talkedwithDick, it was not so
much his war experiences that
he wanted to share withme, but
that it was during this time, that
fate interceded and he met his
wonderfulwife. Trulyawarstory
with a happy ending.
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