The 70th Anniversary of D-Day is an opportunity for SDIT to look to its ‘older’ siblings for similarities in the emotional search all Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ encounter. Written in the year 2000, here is the very personal account of Ed Peters’ search … for his father who was lost after parachuting into Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Following My Father’s Footsteps
My mother and I began our journey in Washington D.C. by attending the Memorial Day service sponsored by the 101st Airborne Division Association. We visited the wreath laying ceremonies at the Vietnam Memorial and the 101st Airborne Division Memorial atArlington National Cemetery.
At the 101st Memorial there was a wreath for the 506th PIR and a wreath in remembrance of my father and two other men of the 506th who lost their lives in World War II – Morris Thomas and Roy Talhelm.The next day we left for England.
Our first stop was Littlecote Manor. Littlecote (now called Littlecote House and Hotel) was the site of the regimental headquarters for the 506th while preparing for the D-Day invasion. We went on a tour, and as we went through the mansion both my mother and I imagined what it was like in 1944 — where the men slept and ate and where Col. Sink and his staff prepared for the battle to come.
From Littlecote we went to the railroad station in the city of Hungerford. We found the train station and some landmarks that allowed us to figure out approximately where my father was standing in a picture I have of him on May 28, 1944. It was a very powerful feeling to know that I was standing where he had stood 56 years before.
From Hungerford we traveled to the remains of Upottery air field, where most of the 506th took off for Normandy. The air field runways and taxiways are still visible. The fields betweenthe runways appear to be parts of working farms, except for a small stockcar racetrack in one corner of the air field. The airfield was quiet and windy. It was an eerie feeling to see the emptiness where there had once been so much activity.
We left Upottery and went about 8 miles to the town of Honiton, where the men detrained. We found the train station in Honiton and again I thought of the train arriving and the men getting on the buses to travel to Upottery.On Saturday June 3rd we attended the dedication of a monument to the men who died on June 6, 1944 in the crash of plane number 66. This plane held a five-man crew from the 439th Troop Carrier Group and 17 men from E company of the 506th. No one survived the crash. The Memorial was sponsored and constructed by the town of Beuzeville-au-Plain and the Forced Landing Association. The Currahee Web site contains additional information about the Memorial. M. Jean Pierre and M. Guy Lepretre of the Forced Landing Association, which was instrumental in the project, came from Belgium to participate. They treated us as honored guests. These people keep alive the memory of the American soldiers and continually express their thanks and gratitude. It is very humbling.
The next day we went to the American Cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer. We put a flag and 2 roses on my fathers grave and a recording of TAPS was played in my father’s honor. I have visited my father’s grave before, but visiting after tracing his steps and being there with only my mother made it a more special event.
I felt especially close to my father and, after many years of being angry, was able to thank him for the sacrifice he made for me and all of us. I also visited several other graves for others I know, including 3 men from the 506th who died in Normandy: Major George Grant, Sergeant Robert Todd and Sergeant Victor Turkovich (MIA).
After visiting the cemetery, we drove to the area of the 506th CP on June 6 1944. I shot video of the place I think my father met Col. Sink near the 506th assembly area, of the CP for June 6 at Culoville, and several fields nearby in one of which my father may have been killed.
I have learned a lot about my father, and where and how he died on this trip.
I planned it and looked forward to it for a long time. I am grateful for the opportunity, especially to make the journey with my mother. After seeing everything I saw, I realized in a new way that I will never be able to know enough about my father no matter how much I search. That feeling made me sad but also brought a greater sense of peace or closure. I have done what I can do and nothing will erase the pain of the loss. I was also reminded of another lesson I have learned in my searches: everyone has a story to tell; there are tragedies in everyone’s life.. My life has been a good one compared to many others and I am grateful for what I have been given.
The following link provides additional information on Capt. Peters and an explanation of the error on the cross marking his grave: http://ddaymemorial.blogspot.com/2012/07/our-d-day-fallen-capt-edward-peters.html