06 Feb D-Day Through the Decades: 1964 Commemoration
Hello again! We are another month closer to the big day. There are lots of exciting things going on at the National D-Day Memorial as we prepare to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy landings. If you have any questions concerning events going on during the weekend of June 6th, be sure to visit the 70th Anniversary Events section of our website at http://www.dday.org/70th-anniversary-events.
|General Omar Bradley|
|Col. Gaynor and Sgt. Maj. Polnoroff looking out to the Channel|
In preparation for the big event, I present a story from the Stars and Stripes archives, written on 6 June 1964. I hope you find Col. James Gaynor and Sgt. Maj. Jack Polnoroff’s account of their first trip back to Omaha Beach as enlightening. Reading accounts such as this one reminds me why we at the Memorial work day in and day out to always remember the sacrifices made by all the Allied forces on 6 June 1944.
“‘There was a burned-out half-track there,’ he [Sgt. Maj. Polnoroff] said. ‘I crawled behind it and lay there exhausted. I was there not more than three or four minutes when a shell exploded right behind me. It tore a hole in my coat, but it didn’t hit me.’ The lapping of the English Channel surf against the sand and stone of the Normandy coast released a swell of frightful memories as two veteran soldiers revisited the strand they assaulted 20 years ago against a desperate defense. Col James K. Gaynor, now legal advisor at EUCOM Hq near Paris, was an intelligence officer, and Sgt Maj Jack Polnoroff, now topkick of the 2nd Bn, 70th Armor, 24th Inf Div, at Augsburg, Germany, was a machine gun squad leader in the D-Day landing.
Neither had returned to Omaha Beach until they went back this year with a Stars and Stripes reporter and, photographer. They found it wrapped in silence, washed clean by the waves. They discovered changes. The edge of a cliff has tumbled into the sea. Shifting sand has taken new form during the last two decades. It took time for them to adjust to the quietness and the cows grazing on the hills above. They used maps to orient themselves and then they remembered. ‘We came into this cut and landed just about 1,200 yards east of St. Laurent,’ Gaynor said. ‘I was standing right by that bunker at the head of the draw, talking to the chief of staff of the 1st Division.”’
If you would like to read the rest of the Stars and Stripes article, click here. Eisenhower and Walter Cronkite also returned to Normandy, taping a special report entitled D-Day Plus 20 Years which aired on CBS in a two part series. In the series, Eisenhower walked through the Southampton House discussing the planning of the invasion and went to Omaha beach to discuss what happened when the troops started landing on June 6, 1944.
I leave you with this short video clip from France as they looked back to June 6th. We hope to see you here in four months!
Until next time,