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Displaying items by tag: WWII
Photos by Cathy Duffy.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Veterans & Community Housing Coalition (VCHC) recently hosted its Fourth Annual Veterans Ball at the Hall of Springs on Sunday, November 3. Over 400 attendees came in support of VCHC’s mission to serve local Veterans and their families with affordable housing and support services while they transition to independent living. The total raised at the Fourth Annual Veterans Ball was $60,000.
The evening’s highlights included Honorary Chair Ray O’Conor, LaSalle Institute’s JROTC Cadets, live music by The Joey Thomas Big Band, photo booth provided by Chuck Mossey Photography, chocolate fountain provided by We Do Fondue, décor provided by Fine Affairs, elaborate food stations and a fabulous silent auction.
A memorable highlight of the evening was a special tribute to area WWII Veterans who were each ceremoniously honored and presented with quilts tenderly made by The Sunday Sewing Sisters. The list of Honored WWII Veterans included:
Dom Scavia | 92 years old
U.S. Marine PFC, Marine Combat Swim Instructor,
Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Theater
GEORGE WILLAMS | 94 years old
U.S. Army PFC., 42nd Inf. “Rainbow” Div. Mortar Man. Landed on the Shores of France, marched through the Country to take Germany. Europe/Africa and German Campaigns. The Rainbow Division is known for Liberating Dachau Concentration Camp
Sir Ken Bailey | 97 years old
U.S. Army 4th Cavalry, Corporal, Driver for Commander in European Theatre, 5 Battle Stars, 1 Bronze Star. Battle of the Bulge, D-Day, Battle of Mortain
Cecily Geraghty | 99 years old
RAF England, on duty for all Pilots returning from Battle, Bomber Command Bebington, Wirral, Merseyside Cheshire England
George Sumersell | 95 years old
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class/ Pacific Theatre
Joe Vertichio |100 years old
United States Navy, USS Antietam Pacific Theater
Bob Elbertson | 94 years old
United States Navy 1944-1947, USS Blue Pacific Theater
A special feature of the evening was a tribute to local Veterans who served in different Branches and Conflicts. The list of Honored Veterans included:
Chief Sam Carpenter
Machinist Mate Master
United States Navy 1990 - 2013
Sergeant Ray Gagnon
United States Marine Corps
1983 - 2008
United States Marine Corps
2004 - 2012
United States Air Force 2001 - 2004
United Marine Corps 1967 - 1970
The evening also included a special tribute to the Saratoga-Wilton Elks for their continued service in going above and beyond to help the homeless Veterans served at VCHC. A very touching tribute was made by Veterans & Community Housing Coalition’s Executive Director, Cheryl Hage-Perez, to Lt. Colonel Todd J. Clark who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Lt. Colonel Clark was killed in action on his fourth tour of duty on June 8, 2013 in Afghanistan.
Cheryl Hage-Perez, Executive Director of Vet Help, commented, “This year’s Ball was a success due to the generosity of our community and the dedication of our committee. The proceeds will be used as a kick off campaign to build a duplex home for single, homeless Veteran moms with their children. There is no facility for them to get the help they need while transitioning. I have a sincere thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, guests, and volunteers.”
The Veterans & Community Housing Coalition provides housing and support services to homeless military veterans and their families, advocates on behalf of military Veterans and their families, and provides housing opportunities for low income households. Over 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night in the United States. Nearly 600 homeless Veterans are in the Capital District. Veterans & Community Housing Coalition has made a commitment to help homeless Veterans attain and maintain permanent housing, achieve financial stability, have access to healthcare, and equally important, regain their dignity. The Programs of the Veterans & Community Housing Coalition provide a resource and ray of hope for homeless Veterans in Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties. Through their housing and support services programs, transitional and permanent housing is provided to over 200 veterans a year. VCHC staff and partnering agencies provide services to help veterans develop skills, and secure employment or benefits to transition to independent living. VCHC partners with the Stratton VA to ensure that the medical, mental health, and addiction needs of each veteran are met. For more information on Veterans & Community Housing Coalition and its services, contact Cheryl at 518-885-0091 or go to www.vchcny.org.
A WORLD AT WAR
To fully understand the importance of D-Day we must first explain the events leading up to it.
World War Two started in 1939 when Adolph Hitler unleashed his armies on the European Continent.
The first to fall was Poland. The Poles were no match for Hitler’s modern war machine, capitulating in a matter of weeks. Following that swift victory his eyes were now set on Germany’s historic foe France. It would be payback time for the failed attempt to defeat the French in the First World War.
In a massive three prong offensive, the Armies of The Reich demolished the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in a stunning six-week campaign.
Three hundred thousand soldiers were trapped on the French Coast at Dunkirk. In an extraordinary effort the entire British Expeditionary Forces along with many of their French Counterparts, were evacuated across the English Channel to fight another day. It would be four long years before they would return. When they did, it would be an American-led invasion that would shake the beaches of Normandy to its core.
BRITAIN FIGHTS ON
With the fall of France, the rest of Europe fell like dominos. Nazi Germany dominated the entire continent, save one. The Brits had no plans of suing for peace with Hitler. Sir Winston Churchill in a speech to the British Nation closed it with these telling words. “We shall never surrender.” In fact, they defended their island nation with ferocity. An all-out Blitz, as it became known, was hurled at them. Night in and night out the German Luftwaffe dropped tons of bombs on London and other populated cities of the British Isles. The Royal Air Force fought them at every turn. They took horrendous losses in the defense of their homeland. In the end they succeeded. The Germans had enough. Britain had stood alone against all odds. The Island Nation had lived to fight another day.
HITLER LOOKS EAST
Hitler had his revenge on the French. He held an iron grip on Europe. Now he made plans to conquer Russia. In the early summer of 1941, he again unleashed his armies. Operation Barbarossa was supposed to be a quick, decisive victory over an outmatched Soviet Military. Hitler’s Legions destroyed one Russian Army after another. The Soviets would bend but not break. They halted the German thrust just twenty miles from Moscow. This would be Germany’s high-water mark of The Russian Campaign.
A year later the greatest battle of Modern Warfare was fought at Stalingrad. The entire German Sixth Army of 200,000 men was destroyed marking the turning point of the war. From that time on the German War Machine would be on its heels. They had lost the initiative in the East.
AMERICA ENTERS THE WAR
When the Japanese rained bombs down on our fleet at Pearl Harbor, inexplicably the next day Hitler declared War on the United States. We were now in a conflict with both countries.
American soldiers in the European Theatre got their first taste of combat in North Africa. They were bloodied by the Germans in a series of battles there in early 1943. A change of command took place when one George Patton Jr. took command of American Forces in that region. Patton turned the poorly led troops into a finely tuned fighting machine. These soldiers showed their grit and determination on the way to Palermo and the Liberation of Sicily.
American Forces were now headed for the coast of Italy. Under the command of General Mark Clark, the U.S. Fifth Army slogged up the boot of Italy and cleared the way to Rome. Red Armies were on the move in the East. The Reich was being squeezed. In London the American-led Coalition was planning the greatest amphibious invasion in history. The world was about to hold its breath.
THE INVASION OF EUROPE
In the Spring of 1944 Great Britain was bustling with the sounds of American and Allied Soldiers preparing for the invasion of Europe. Transport ships unloaded tanks, weapons, munitions, and supplies that were vital to the upcoming offensive.
A superhuman effort was taking place. Nearly seven thousand ships were to be engaged in the race across the English Channel to the shores of Normandy. Twelve thousand aircraft were made available to support the landings. The manpower was astounding. American forces placed one and one half million men in England to lead the D-Day attack and its aftermath.
The choice for the overall command of Operation Overlord was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was handpicked by Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. Always a Marshall favorite, he rose from Colonel to Four Star General in an unprecedented two years. With the title of Supreme Commander, his responsibilities were immense in both a military and geopolitical sense. As advertised, he was the right man for the job.
Directly under Eisenhower, the British hero of El Alamein, Sir Bernard Law Montgomery was given Operational Command of the invasion. Vain, arrogant, and unlikeable are just a few of his well-known traits. Despite his deficiencies, he is considered one of the great Generals of The Second World War. The U.S. First Army was commanded by another star pupil of Marshall, General Omar Bradley. He had done all his homework and was a perfect choice to lead the 120,000 men placed under his command.
THE D-DAY LANDINGS
There is a military maxim stating that in preparation for battle, time is never an ally. D-Day was no exception to this rule. In crossing the Channel, the Allies had a three-day window to commence the operation. The time period began on June 4 and ended on June 6. British weather forecasters warned Eisenhower that weather conditions were not suitable, and the operation needed to be postponed until a later date. Eisenhower, unshaken, made the tough decision to go ahead with the invasion. It was the right call.
On the morning of June 6, 160,000 Allied Troops landed on beaches across Normandy. American soldiers accounted for 75,000 of the participants. Of those who landed on Omaha and Utah Beaches, nearly 5,000 of them would perish in the first wave of the attack. Despite a tenacious German defense, our forces were still able to establish a beachhead, securing the way for the advancement inland.
ENTER: THEODORE ROOSEVELT JR.
The U.S. 4th Division was to be a key ingredient of the D-Day landing. Ted Roosevelt, the first son of our twenty-sixth President and Assistant Commander of the unit, realized that when the troops hit the beach there would be no General Officer to direct their movement. Roosevelt requested to be allowed to land with the first wave. The request was denied due to the facts that he was fifty-seven years old, suffered from heart disease, and a debilitating form of arthritis. Finally, after a written letter explaining his motivation and pleading his case, he was given the green light. His bravery and courage are remarkable. He waded on shore carrying a pistol in one hand and a walking cane in the other. Roosevelt made no attempt to shield himself from enemy fire. He walked up and down the beach making important command decisions and calming the troops with his presence. He is considered instrumental in the success of the D-Day narrative. Roosevelt died two weeks after the landing. He was posthumously awarded America’s highest military award, The Congressional Medal of Honor for his exploits on Utah Beach. As George Patton so eloquently stated, “ The bravest man I ever knew.”
With the beachhead secured, the door opened for the thrust through France and onto Germany. A month after D-Day George Patton and his Third Army joined the fray. Paris was liberated in August of that year.
The Germans were still a very formidable opponent. Resistance in defense of their homeland would be fought with ferocity. Wehrmacht High Command planned one last bolt of thunder. A counteroffensive was launched in late 1944. The attack took the Allies completely by surprise. The Germans were able to advance toward the coveted oil reserves at Antwerp. Air superiority and the brilliant Generalship of George Patton put an end to Germany’s last hope of success in what became known as The Battle of the Bulge. The Third Reich was crumbling. The War in Europe ended in May of 1945. The D-Day Landings had made it possible. The might of the United States in term of manpower, equipment, and leadership had paved the way. The threat of Nazi Tyranny was over. The world would breathe a
sigh of relief.
It has been seventy-five years since the Allies landed at Normandy. We can now look back and reflect on the day when many of our fellow Americans, mostly fine young men just entering adulthood, stormed a beach in a foreign land and paid for that parcel of sand with their lives. They were the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the world free from a Totalitarian Regime. Let us never forget the courage, bravery, and selflessness of the American Soldiers who passed into history on D-Day, the 6th of June 1944.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — When you meet Marion Buchanan, you become immediately aware that you are in the presence of a lady in her truest form. Marion’s petite stature belies a tall order of graciousness, and as she takes your coat and shakes your hand, you sense her strong civic duty and know this is a woman who values a good job well done.
Marion was born Dec. 18, 1909 in Dedham, Massachusetts just outside of Boston. A loyal Red Sox fan, the team recently sent her a birthday greeting with some souvenir gifts, including dirt from Fenway Park. She moved to Glenville in 1984, and after selling her home, she moved to Prestwick Chase in Saratoga Springs in 2008, where she is today.
The active 107-year-young woman has a history rich in public service. She is the second child of 7 and has never married, but between all of her nieces, nephews, and their progeny, she says her family numbers around 50.
Marion remembers America’s entry into World War II clearly. It was to be a turning point in her life.
“I was in my living room, listening to the New York Philharmonic, when the announcement came over the radio, we were at war,” recalled Marion. “I was shocked. All the members of my family were, it was totally unexpected.”
She was in her third year at Boston University at the time, working and going to school at night. Not long after that radio announcement, she joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC).
“I was secretary to the WAC staff director in the European Theater,” said Marion. “When I returned in 1947, I was stationed at the Pentagon for a year and a half. I also served in a bombardier school in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I was an administrative specialist in the personnel division.”
She was thoughtful for a moment, then smiled as she said, “I was scared at first. When I was a child, I suffered from homesickness, but my mother felt I should represent the family and be of service, so she helped me. My brother joined the navy soon after I joined the WACs.”
Marion saw the role of women change dramatically during her life, saying it is very different now from when she first joined the WACs.
“We weren’t accepted,” she said. “We were new, and they thought we wouldn’t be effective. But I think the WACs did a good job, and relieved a lot of the men in their work so they could go off to war.”
She shook her head, saying, “They tell me women still aren’t getting equal pay. One thing I do miss after women’s rights, though, is the respect. It used to be, a man would jump up to let you have his seat.”
As a member of the Greatest Generation, Marion paid attention to current events as a matter of form, and clearly remembers history’s turning points as if they were yesterday.
“I was working for an orthopedic surgeon when a woman called in to speak with her father. She told us Jack Kennedy had been shot,” Marion said seriously. “That was a terrible experience.”
Marion was at the Grand Canyon when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. “I was very proud of my country,” she said, “and very proud of him, certainly. The whole world was watching. I remember getting our bags at the hotel, and the bellhop, who was Chinese, refused to pack our bags until the take-off. I was very proud of Jack Kennedy for having instigated the program.”
Her favorite presidents are Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, and, naturally, John F. Kennedy. She laughed and said, “I’m a Republican and my favorites are all Democrats. But Jack really was an inspiration to so many young people at the time.”
Marion said she has no secret to share for longevity. “I’m here by the grace of God,” she said. “I have done nothing at all to improve my life. I guess I would say it’s important to not take life too seriously, and be happy.” And then she laughed and said, “If I were to do it all over again, I probably would make the same exact mistakes I did the first time.”
Marion, who is fond of classical music and jazz; an avid Bridge player; a world traveler even after the war; a dedicated career woman who wore her hats and gloves with style, and a staunch patriot who has served her country well, has left those of us following behind her some very big shoes to fill. Thank you for your service, Marion Buchanan, and happy birthday.