SAINTE-MARIE-DU-MONT, France – With World War II-era military planes darting overhead andNormandy's Utah Beach visible in the distance, a bronze statueemerged from beneath a camouflage parachute, in tribute to a manwhose quiet leadership was chronicled in the book and televisionseries "Band of Brothers." The unveiling of the Colorado-made statue of Pennsylvania nativeMaj. Dick Winters was one of many events marking Wednesday's 68thanniversary of D-Day, the Allied operation that paved the way forthe end of the war. The 12-foot (3.6-meter) tall bronze statue in the Normandy villageof Sainte-Marie-du-Mont shows Winters with his weapon at the ready.But Winters — a native of Ephrata, Pennsylvania who died lastyear aged 92 — only accepted serving as the statue's likenessafter monument planners agreed to dedicate it to the memory of alljunior U.S. military officers who served that day. "There were many Dick Winters in this war, and all deserve thebronze and glory of a statue," said former Pennsylvania governorTom Ridge, present as the bronze statue, draped in a camouflageparachute, was unveiled. |
Also attending were four or five D-Day vets, including two whoserved in Winters' "Easy Company," Al Mampre and Herb Suerth Jr. Winters "was a humble, simple person thrust into a position ofleadership in which he excelled," said Suerth, who heads theassociation of former Easy Company vets, only 19 of whom survive. The statue was made near Boulder, Colorado and transported here, toa roadside between the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and UtahBeach, distant but visible behind the statue. It was here that Winters and his small band of men dropped out ofthe sky soon after midnight on June 6, 1944, on a death-defyingmission to destroy four German 105mm artillery guns that threatenedthe Allied invasion force.
Winters "was a humble, simple person thrust into a position ofleadership in which he excelled," said Herb Suerth Jr., a D-Dayveteran who heads the association of former Easy Company vets, only19 of whom survive. During the ceremony various WWII-era military aircraft flewoverhead, including a U.S. artillery spotting plane just like thosethat would have darted through the skies on D-Day. Master Sergeant Frank Barnett, 37, a paratrooper from Anniston,Alabama serving at the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany,attended the ceremony with other members of the 435th Air GroundOperations Wing. Barnett and 18 colleagues had made the trip toUtah Beach to participate in a parachute jump over the sameNormandy fields where Winters and his "Easy Company" landed soonafter midnight on June 6, 1944.
The paratoopers, dressed in military fatigues, said they've allwatched "Band of Brothers" 'four or five times." "It's important for us on the airborne side to remember everthingthey did," Barnett said. "They are the Greatest Generation." The plan to erect the statue began two-and-a-half years ago, saidTim Gray, Chairman of the Rhode Island-based World War IIFoundation, which initiated the project and helped the $100,000 itcost. The statue "is not a monument to one man, it's a monument to manymen and the leadership they showed on D-Day," Gray said —"all the divisions that fought on the beaches and hedgerows ofNormandy on June 6, 1944." Tens of thousands of Allied and German forces were killed in theD-Day invasion and ensuing Battle of Normandy. Frenchman Reny Rossey, 86, recalled accompanying a British unit inthe invasion as part of the effort to liberate his country from theNazi occupation. "Coming back home, for us, it was enormous.
We had to do this job,"he said at a ceremony Wednesday at a British cemetery in Ranville. "My youth saved me. I was 17-and-a-half. I had no fear," he said."You had to have audacity to join in something like that." French President Francois Hollande, paying tribute Wednesday to thesoldiers who took part in the D-Day invasion, spoke of the Europeanunity born from the horrors of World War II — and that isstrained today by financial crisis and tensions over Muslimimmigration.
"Normandy is covered with the tombs of children from all of Europe.All Europeans ... should be capable, 68 years later, of bringingEurope peace, solidarity and progress," he said. "Only theemergence of a common European conscience will protect us againstthe return of hate." ___ Sylvie Corbet in Ranville, France contributed to this report.
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