1944 - 2014




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Celebrate the American Spirit on a historical tour by Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours, founded by Stephen E. Ambrose, the author of the best-selling books “D-Day, June 6, 1944,” “Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West” and “Band of Brothers” as well as co-executive producer of the epic Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers.”


July 7th, 2014

WWII Veteran, Dear Friend and Great American Hero Albert "Spoony" Sponheimer Passes Away

All of us at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours are very saddened to report that our dear friend and American hero, WWII veteran Albert "Spoony" Sponheimer, passed away on July 4, 2014.

Candace Page did a wonderful interview with Spoony before the 70th Anniversary of D-Day of for, which you can read here.

We hope you will take the time to read Spoony’s obituary below. It is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man.

EAST RYEGATE, VERMONT – Another member of "America’s Greatest Generation" passed to join the ranks of his fellow soldiers on July 4, 2014. Albert Sponheimer Jr., 89, died at home with his daughters and his dog Midnight with him. He was born in Seymour, Connecticut to Albert and Edna (Daleen) Sponheimer on September 30, 1924. He attended schools in Seymour, leaving midway in his senior year to enlist in the Army in 1943. "Spoony" served as a combat medic attached to A Battery, 197th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion. He was among the first to land on D-Day at Omaha Beach. He was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the Eastern-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. Fifty-three years later after records surfaced, he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action on June 6, 1944, attending to the wounded on Omaha Beach. He told one story that the Germans were unable to shoot him because he was so thin, weighing only 120 pounds at six feet tall.

After the war he came home to Seymour to work as a Master Plumber and Electrician. He married Audrey W. Rowe Wilkinson on October 3, 1953. While in Connecticut he was active in the Seymour Fire Department and Post 10 American Legion (past Commander). They moved to Ryegate in 1965. The next winter their home burned to the ground. He and Audrey spent countless hours rebuilding their home on the hill.

Spoony enjoyed attending his annual Army reunions and going on many Stephen Ambrose Historical D-Day tours to share his war time stories. He enjoyed talking to school groups and others, wanting people to remember the sacrifices and importance of D-Day. A true Red Sox fan, it wasn’t until 2012 that he went to Fenway with his grandsons, Jereme and Trevor. He was active in his community after he retired, serving as selectman for the town of Ryegate for 6 years and zoning administrator for 19 years. For many years he was member of the Woodsville/Wells River 4th of July Committee, Blue Mountain School Budget Committee, Republican National Committee, Vermont Republican Town Committee, Northeastern Vermont Development Association, The National WWII Museum, Veterans of the Battle of Bulge, Inc. and a member of VFW Post 5245 North Haverhill. He was proud to have been a member of Connecticut American Legion Post 10 for 69 continuous years. His father paid his first membership dues to the Post upon his arrival home from the war.

Survivors include his stepson, Glyn Wilkinson (Lucia) of King Street Burlington VT, his daughters Denise (Frank) Leafe Harley View Drive Monroe, NH and Katrina (Michael) Peller Hydeaway Court Highland, MD. He was the proud grandfather of Amber Wilkinson, Jereme, Trevor and Brittany Leafe and Stephen Peller. He had one great-grandson Braden Francis, nieces, Daleen Anderson and Lindsey Stephenson and nephew, Gary Anderson and many cousins. Survivors also include dear friends and "best neighbors" Larry and Theresa Lavioe whom he cherished. Friends Dale and Raylene Wright who without fail brought him a weekly delicious meal for years. Many wonderful friends and many Stephen Ambrose Historical Tour friends, including special friends Rick, Joni and David Hubbard and Gary Newell.

Albert was predeceased by his parents and sisters, Evelyn Anderson and Florence Sponheimer, niece
Louise Holmes, as well as his wife, Audrey.

A Memorial Gathering will take place at 360 Hillside Drive East Ryegate at the flagpole on Saturday August 16th at 1 PM. Burial will take place at Arlington National Cemetery in the Fall.

Please consider a tribute gift in Spoony’s name to either the National World War II Museum, this will help preserve for future generations the American experience in the war that changed the world.
945 Magazine Street New Orleans, LA 70130

Or the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, losing most of his eyesight from this disease was life changing for Spoony. ( P.O. Box 515 Northampton, MA. 01061-0515.

RIP Spooney. We will miss you dearly.

June 6th, 2014

June 6, 2014: We Salute the Veterans Who are Traveling on Our 70th Anniversary of D-Day Tours

Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours would like to salute all of the veterans who are traveling with us on our 70th Anniversary of D-Day Tours: Raymond Davis, Clarence "Mac" Evans, Tom Givhan, Henry Hirschmann, Raymond Lavendier, Ernest Quist, Donald Richardson, Mort Sheffloe, Henry Stawicki, and Irvin Troutman.

We will be forever grateful for the sacrifices they made fighting for our country and freedom.

We would also like to acknowledge the WWII veterans who fought during the Allied invasion of Normandy.

Clarence "Mac" Evans Mac lied about being 16 years old when he applied to enlist in the U.S. Army. He landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach in a Higgins Boat. He was a 17-year old soldier in G Company, 2nd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. His 11 months of fighting across Europe began at 6:30 a.m. that day. As he has been quoted as saying, "It was a slaughter. Company A and Company B went in right on target, and within 30 minutes, both companies were gone." Mac was named a French Knight in the order of the Legion of Honor in 2012.

Henry Hirschmann A German Jew, Henry was imprisoned in Buchenwald concentration camp on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938. Five months later, the American Consulate granted him a visa and he emigrated to the United States. When America entered the war, he enlisted in the Army to fight the Nazis. He went to England and then Utah Beach as a scout corporal on his battalion's own D-Day, July 14. His battalion fought throughout France and then Germany, ending up in Salzburg, Austria. While in Munich, Germany in May of 1945, he asked to be driven to Dachau (at the time he did not know how to drive). It was three days after the Americans had liberated the concentration camp and he arrived as they were removing truckloads of skeletal remains. He received a Purple Heart.

Raymond Lavendier It seemed a lifetime passed before Ray Lavendier could get out of a shell hole in which he and his U.S. Navy shipmates took cover after his landing ship delivered British tanks to Gold Beach in the first wave of the Normandy invasion. “In actuality, it took about 20 to 30 minutes at most,’‘ he said, before British infantry cleared the beach of German defenders and more British troops and tanks poured ashore to begin breaching Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. But there were some close calls for Lavendier and the rest of his landing ship crew as the boats neared the beach in the first moments of D-Day, June 6, 1944. An American and a British battleship were lobbing huge shells over their heads at the German positions, while German artillery tried to pound the attackers. (Excerpted from an article published in The Courant on June 27, 2003.)

Mort Sheffloe Private Scheffloe landed on Utah Beach a few days after D-Day. He joined the 8th Division under General Omar Bradley's army on July 10, 1944 as a replacement infantryman and became a second scout in his squad of 12 men. On September 10, Sergeant Sheffloe's unit was ordered to take Fort Bourgen, a fortification near Brest, France, where the Germans were still hunkered down. A sniper shot him in the lungs and liver. He received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry Badge.

Henry Stawicki Henry was assigned to the 341st Engineer Regiment. He landed on Utah Beach a few weeks after D-Day to put his skills into action during the battle's aftermath. As he was quoted in saying in an interview with The Connection “The Germans destroyed bridges, and we were there to repair them and put them back up, and also to take care of the minefields. When I landed on the beach, I had pneumonia. They wanted to put me in the hospital, but I didn't want to go because I wanted to travel with the people I had trained with. I survived. I was pretty healthy. In army life, they push you through a lot of hard work. I was blessed, that's all.”