From Wednesday 6 to Monday 11 June 2019 Battle Detectives Tom, Ivo and Kees visited Normandy.
This time, with the commemoration of D-Day 75 years ago, it was a very special event .

Active duty American soldiers gather around a mannequin in a D-Day era SS uniform in the
Dead Man's Corner Museum in Sainte-Côme-du-Mont

Lock-down on D-Day
On that sixth of June, the Normandy coastal area was largely on lock-down for the arrival of the heads of state of the countries that had taken part in the invasion; including US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. We had left early in the morning and were just in time to witness the commemorations at the memorial to Brigadier General Don F. Pratt in Hiesville. This deputy commander of the 101st Airborne Division was killed on D-Day when his glider crashed. The American active duty soldiers of the 101st Airborne, present at the ceremony in their camouflage uniforms, proudly wore their "Screaming Eagle" shoulder patches in color. That first day we saw fully equipped field hospitals at the Chateau de Colombìeres and in Holdy, complete with operating rooms and injured patients; re-enacted and with theater make-up of course.

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Pratt Memorial Ceremony

Field hospitals and operating theaters

D+1 and D+2
The next two days we met with American friends Mark Durivage from Ohio and John Klein from California separately; friendships created during the "Remember September" in Holland in 2004. John brought with him veteran Bill Galbraight (95) of the 506th Regiment. At the La Barquette locks, Bill explained how he had joined the soldiers of Colonel Johnson of the 501st Regiment to defend the locks in the Douve River. By closing these locks, the German occupiers had managed to flood large parts of the drop zones, but Bill could tell us that he had landed on dry ground at the time. He was determined to come back to Holland next September. In Carentan I met by chance the current commander of the 101st Airborne, Lieutenant General Brian Winski. In a short conversation, he said that a delegation of soldiers in active service will probably participate in the upcoming "Remember September" events.

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Mark Durivage
2) John Klein
3) Bill Galbraight
4) Bill Galbraight telling about his actions at La Barquette
5) Major-General Brian Winski of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

On June 9th we attended the ceremony held on the Place Moulin in Brévands in honor of the "Filthy Thirteen"; the demolition team of "HQ" Company of the 506th Parachute  Infantry Regiment tasked with destroying two wooden bridges across the Douve river. These bridges had been constructed by the Germans to facilitate reinforcements to the coast in the event of an invasion. The ceremony started with an eagle feather ritual by a delegation of Native Americans. After the ceremony there was an informal get-together in the small village.

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Again, active duty soldiers in their OCP camouflage uniforms with unit patches in full color
American Chinook helicopters fly over the village of Brévads prior to the ceremony
Good vantage point on a bocage mount
 & 5) Wreath laying ceremonies by various organizations
COL Joseph Escandon; commanding officer of the today's American 502nd Infantry Regiment
 Posing with First Sergeant Cole of the 326th Engineer Battalion
Native Americans, reenactors and active duty soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) pose for a photographer after the ceremony

Jacket on a 1984 photo
What was a highlight for Tom was coming face to face with the M42 parachutist jacket worn by veteran Frank Hoffman of the 502nd Regiment at the Dead Man’s Corner Museum in Saint-Côme-du-Mont.
He can be seen standing next to him, in that jacket, on a photograph that was made at the Drop Zone in Son in 1984. Until recently we didn’t know who that surly-looking veteran was in the background. Only recently we had discovered the identity of that veteran and what turned out to be? All his uniforms and souvenirs from World War Two are in that museum!
It was also wonderful to see an entire room with dining World War II veterans when we brought Bill Galbraight to Carentan. They are still there and they are back!

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We also found time to visit the location where German tank ace Michael Wittmann was killed in action near Cintheaux early August 1944 as well as up close around Bridges No.'s 2, 3 and 4 on Purple Heart Lane in Carentan. Keep monitoring our Latest News page for new articles featuring these locations.

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Looking in the direction of the British "A" Squadron, 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment
Pinpointing the location where Wittmann's fieldgrave was found in 1984
3) Ghost-photo of the actual location where Wittmann's Tiger tank exploded
4) Looking in the direction of the Canadian "A" Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment

& 6) Bridge No. 2. across the Douve river
& 8) Bridge No. 3. across La Groult river
Bridge No. 4. across La Madeleine river

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