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San Jacinto News Times - Local News

Copyright 2014 - Polk County Publishing Company

 

70th anniversary of D-Day observed

 

On the morning of June 6, 1944, an invasion started at Normandy, France, initiating the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during WWII. Telling a story of the invasion and those from San Jacinto County who were there, First Vice Commander Dale Everitt said, "This morning in 1944 at day break the allies began the attack with 5,000 ships, 11,000 planes and 150,000 troops. Due to low tide the troops were faced with 300 yards of open beach at Normandy and the enemy covered with reinforced concrete bunkers and with weapons that could tear apart the human body. The soldiers had been instructed over and over 'to get off the beach or die' and die they did for hours. At one point of the invasion General Omar Bradley considered calling off the assault but they kept fighting and more soldiers kept landing. After hours of fighting and dying the soldiers crossed the beach and breeched the barbwire barriers. "When Hitler was informed that morning that the invasion had started he joyously replied, "what a great day, we can now destroy them". He had his personal train ready to go to Paris and congratulate his army when the allies were destroyed. Rommel was being driven across France to Normandy because he was afraid to fly because the allies' planes controlled skies over France. Neither he nor Hitler knew that the French resistance was wreaking havoc on the infrastructure of the German Military and creating all manner of diversions. In 48 hours they would get hand delivered reports and they would send out a company of men to track them down and destroy them. These soldiers were not accustomed to being disobeyed. When they could not find the ones doing the sabotaging they killed 207 women and 203 children. "When our troops cleared the beaches their orders were to take the town of St. Lo more than 20 miles away and this had to be done through the dreaded hedgerows and taking hill 122. In these hedgerows on June 11, Freelum Gilbert, of San Jacinto County, would give his live for his country and 25 days later, July, 6 at Hill 122 his brother Truman Gilbert would join his brother by giving his life. Hill 122 is a small hill just over 300 ft. above sea Sheplevel. It was used by early man and was a fort in Roman times. In 56BC Caesar's army under Quintus Titurius Sabinus used this as a camp for his army of 18,000 men during his battle with the Gauls. In 1944 the Germans had dug themselves in on Hitler's orders to stop the American advance to the south. They called it the Mahlmann Line and it was defended by an elite Regiment the 15th Regiment of the 5th Parachute Division. The battle for this hill where 5,000 Americans died is still being taught in French schools, like Bunker Hill and the Alamo is taught in our schools. These brave men did not get to rest after Normandy; they kept fighting across Europe continuously until May 1945. For example the 2nd Infantry Division was in combat for 337 days, 209 of those days were continuous. They crawled, walked and rode 1,730 miles and their artillery weapons fired over 500,000 rounds of ammunition. "D-Day will be studied and reported on for many generations to come and as it should be, for the entire world to know what happen there. Words cannot express how I am touched by it but I do try to convey my feelings with one sentence and that sentence is; "These brave men saved Western Civilization and kept us from being ruled by fanatical dictators." Following Everitt's speech, plaques were presented to the families of the San Jacinto County veterans who had fought during WWII, honoring the service and sacrifice their loved ones made. Lanette Jackson, niece to Freelam and Truman Gilbert accepted the plaque for her uncles. Leon Copeland accepted the plaque in memory of his first cousin, Clyde Copeland. Clyde was killed later in the Philippines. Everitt accepted the plaque in memory of his father, Wallace Everitt. Tony Riffe accepted the plaque in honor of his grandfather Robert McKellar's memory. Charles McMurrey accepted the plaque for his father Jim McMurrey. Martha Newton was given a plaque in honor of her father Milton Newton. Laura "Sissy" Prigmore accepted a plaque in honor of her father Ray Prigmore. Luby and Woodrow Turner are survived by their sister, Artie Coffman, who was unable to attend the memorial. Their plaque will be delivered to her. Lewis Borden Lilley's nephew, Thomas Bonds, accepted a plaque in memory of his uncle. Another uncle of Bonds, Meritt Lilley, who served in the war and later was kept as a POW in Korea during the Korean War. Lilley has been missing in action since that time. Everitt said he plans to speak at the next commissioner's court meeting to see if the court would agree to erecting a monument in Meritt Lilley's honor.

 

Polk County Publishing Company