D-Day Remembrance: Pvt. Houston Duhon and Albert "Spoony" Sponheimer | Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours

D-Day Remembrance: Pvt. Houston Duhon and Albert “Spoony” Sponheimer

Normandy American CemeteryOn the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, Jason Theriot, host of a podcast on Cajuns in World War II, traveled with Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours to Normandy to pay homage to the fallen, in particular Pvt. Houston Duhon from New Iberia, Louisiana (Jason’s hometown). On the 80th Anniversary of D-Day, we share Jason’s remarkable story of meeting Albert “Spoony” Sponheimer, Jr. on tour and learning how Spoony’s personal D-Day story intersected with Duhon’s.

D-Day Remembrance: Pvt. Houston Duhon and Albert “Spoony” Sponheimer

Pvt. Houston Duhon was in the 397th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, which suffered 80 casualties in the first 20 minutes of landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was the only Cajun killed at Omaha Beach on June 6. His best friend, Carroll Mestayer, jumped off the Higgins boat with him and carried his lifeless body to the shore. He is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.

D-Day veteran Spoony Sponheimer on D-Day Tour
Spoony (center) on the D-Day to the Rhine Tour

While on tour, Jason met Albert “Spoony” Sponheimer, Jr., a D-Day veteran who was traveling on our D-Day to the Rhine Tour as our guest. Spoony landed on Omaha Beach in the 2nd wave as a medic in 197th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Battery A. As noted in an article written by former guest Robert Anderson who met Spoony on a D-Day tour years later:

“All you could see were dead people,” he said as he came ashore. Chaos reigned that morning as landing craft were blown off course and many never made it to their intended landing points. Yet Spoony was still alive this morning on the shore of Omaha Beach as he ran from wounded soldier to wounded soldier providing crucial aid, as was his job as a combat medic in his Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battery. Was it bravery that kept him going or fear? Perhaps he thought he was destined to die but he wanted to save everyone he could before his time was up.”

It was while Spoony was being interviewed by MSNBC that Jason discovered that he was a medic whose battalion had landed after Pvt. Duhon’s. Those were the men Spoony was treating and those were the guys who died in his arms.

Jason conducted a live radio interview from his hotel in Paris (he left Spoony at the Bar!) on June 6, 2004, with the local radio show from New Iberia, the very day the community honored Duhon’s sacrifice at the New Iberia town square with Carroll present. He recounted his moving experience in Normandy, sharing Pvt. Duhon’s and Spoony’s stories. That audio was preserved and he made this slide show with it.

The Frenchie Podcast

Jason hosts and produces The Frenchie Podcast, sharing the stories of French-Speaking Cajuns in World War II, as told by the veterans themselves. During the last two decades, he has recorded oral history interviews with several WWII veterans from Louisiana who used their bilingual abilities as interpreters and translators in overseas military service. These Cajuns, like their Acadian ancestors, grew up speaking French. Each Podcast episode features an individual WWII veteran with digitized audio excerpts from his/her oral history interview. Jason provides additional content to help the listener with background information about the featured veteran and their worldly travels during the war. Where appropriate, he reads additional material, such as letters and memoir excerpts, that add to the story line.

The next episode of The Frenchie Podcast will retell the story of “Finding Duhon’s Grave.” Jason interviewed Carroll several times. His voice will be the feature of the podcast.

Listen to The Frenchie Podcast >

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