On the 78th Anniversary of D-Day we remember the four D-Day veterans who traveled with us to Normandy to attend the 75th Anniversary of D-Day commemorative ceremonies held on June 6, 2019, at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
It was an honor and a privilege for us to have George Cross, Bud LaCounte, Dave Hamilton and Norwood Thomas as our guests. They graciously shared their first-hand experiences as we visited the hallowed ground where they sacrificed and fought.
George Cross, Paratrooper, 82nd Airborne, 505 PIR, C Company
George Cross, who was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, 505 PIR, C Company, parachuted into Normandy 18 miles inside enemy lines on D-Day. Journalist Diane Covington-Carter spent some time chatting with George at Utah Beach and included him in her wonderful article, “A chance to heal: Veterans return to Normandy 75 years later, honor the fallen at D-Day.”
David Hamilton, Pilot, Army Air Force
On 8 December 1941, Dave Hamilton enlisted in the Army Air Force and trained as C-47 pilot. Dave was assigned to 436th Troop Carrier Group, 9th Air Force, and sent to Bottesford Base, England. He went through Pathfinder Pilot training and was assigned to the Pathfinder Unit. During his first mission, he dropped pathfinder paratroopers into Normandy, France on D-Day 6 June 1944. Dave was highly decorated by the time he retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1963.
Willard “Bud” LaCounte, PFC, 118th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Battery A
Willard “Bud” LaCounte landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944—the day after the initial landing—with the 118th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Battery A. He was part of the Allied forces that fought in Normandy, Southern France, Northern France, and the Ardennes, participating in the Liberation of France in 1945. Bud made such an impression on our guests that the first night at dinner he received a standing ovation.
Norwood Thomas, Paratrooper, 101st Airborne Division
On D-Day, Norwood Thomas landed in the field at La Fiere Bridge just south of St. Mere Eglise in Normandy. He fought across Europe with the 101st in the towns of Carentan, Bastogne, Hagenau, and Berchtesgaden, just to name a few.