D-Day Minus 1, The Channel Crossing

On the last day of the Duxford shows, we launched a streaming take-off into a formation of over twenty C-47s bound for Normandy. David Hamilton joined us, the only surviving D-Day pathfinder.

David’s robust personality wins friends wherever he goes. Kay, his constant companion, gets him going just like Burns and Allen. He spent the morning among adoring fans and not so sensitive journalists, so he was ready for a rest. We moved him to the aircraft early. He had seen the interior when with us in Oxford, Connecticut, but now could avail himself of the reclining club seats. He rallied for our take-off and form-up on the way to East London, Kent, and Beachy Head, also known as the White Cliffs of Dover. Some of the repartee between Kay and David (Gracie and George) concerned his willingness to visit the cockpit and perhaps take a turn. Initially he declined, but when I and another pilot cupped each of his elbows to help him rise, any resistance evaporated. Indeed, he did most of the flying across the Channel. You can tell a pro right away. David’s smile while flying will be something I cherish long after the D-Day 75 fuel bills are paid. Helping him into the cockpit became my remembrance moment for Sgt. Myron Guy Sessions of the 101st Airborne Division.

The lushness of the Normandy coast hides many horrors of WWII. Hedgerows define land ownership. Cliffs and beaches created the barriers Germany believed it could defend. But history will wait until the morning. We required prompt delivery to our hotel anticipating a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. At least ten heads of state would attend the June 6th ceremonies the next day. Consequently, all C-47 crews had to return to our Caen Airport headquarters hangar before 6 a.m. to complete vetting by the Secret Service. After check-in, we remained in a sterilized hangar (i.e., essential crew only) until we took off for our formation passes on D-Day, plus 75 years.

One Response to “D-Day Minus 1, The Channel Crossing”

  1. John,
    You felt that you now understood more”the importance of our mission.” It’s the stories.
    Today, in shutting down my computer, I saw this story from the DailyMail (2 hours ago) Anneta Konstantinides For Dailymail.com.

    American veteran,97, and French woman,92, who fell in love when he was stationed there during World War II meet again 75 years later in emotional reunion.

    “In the midst of World War II, a young American soldier fell head over heels in love for an 18-year-old French girl while he was stationed in her small hometown. Fast forward 75 years and KT Robbins, now 97, has finally been reunited with the woman whose picture he has treasured for more than half a century. Robbins was a 24-year-old soldier in the US Army when he first laid eyes on Jeannine Ganaye, now 92, in the northeastern French town of Briey in 1944. The pair quickly fell in love but, two months later, Robbins was told he had to quickly leave the village and head to the Eastern Front to fight against the Axis Powers. ‘ I told her maybe I’ll come back and take you, but it did not happen like that,’ Robbins told French television channel France2. ‘ When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,’ added Jeannine, whose last name is now Pierson. ‘ I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.’ When the war came to an end in 1945, Pierson began learning basic English phrases, hoping Robbins would one day return for her. Instead Robbins went back to America, getting married and starting a family in Mississippi. Pierson also fell in love again, having five children of her own. But Robbins never forgot about his French lover, keeping a black-and-white photo of Pierson and her village tucked away fro decades. And he still had that photo when he was approached by a group of French journalists for a report on World War II veterans in the United States. Robbins showed them Pierson’s photo and told them he would like to return to her village ‘to find her family’ while he was in France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He assumed that Pierson had passed away, adding: ‘For sure I won’t ever get to see her.’ But the journalists managed to track down Pierson, finding her at a retirement home in Montigny-les-Metz, Moselle, about 27 miles from where tha pair first met. They arranged a reunion for Robbins and Pierson at the retirement home, telling the veteran: ‘She’s alive and she’s waiting for you’. ‘No kidding!’ Robbins exclaimed. Robbins and Pierson immediately embraced when they were reunited, gazing into each other’s eyes with adoration and joy. ‘I always loved you. You never got out of my heart,’ Robbins told Pierson. ‘He said he loves me. I understand that much,’ Pierson tols one of the journalists in French. Robbins then pulled out the photo of Pierson he had kept for so many decades, telling her: ‘This is you’. ‘Wow,’ she exclaims. Pierson then asked why Robbins hadn’t come back to see her sooner. ‘I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,’ she said. ‘I wish he had come back.’ ‘You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,’ Robbins replied. The former lovers spent a few hours together before Robbins had to leave for the anniversary celebrations in Normandy. Now both widowed, Robbins and Pierson promised they would meet again. ‘Jeannine, I love you girl,’ Robbins said as their eyes begin to wet and their lips met once again, for the first time in 75 years.

    There were photos provided by Associated Newspaper Limited.

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