We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Successful Operation Dragoon Commemoration

U.S. Army World War II veterans of Operation Dragoon and Members of the Military District of Washington’s Sgt. Audie L. Murphy Club, the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, and the military attaché to the French Embassy pose following a remembrance ceremony honoring the success of Operation Dragoon held Arlington, Va., July 21, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

The 68th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon Commemoration was covered by the American Forces Press Service this time. Due to the expectations of severe weather at the time for the ceremony in the amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, the Legion of Honor ceremony was instead held in the 16th floor ballroom of the Sheraton Pentagon City. John Singlaub, Paul Donlon, Darryl Egner, Elias Hernandez, Michael Halik and the son of Stanley Siemrzuch were all presented with the esteemed French medal by COL Brice Houdet, the French military attaché. The ballroom was filled with conference attendees, family members, staff from the French embassy and a number of active duty members of the Military District of Washington’s Sgt. Audie L. Murphy Club.

As always, the event was tremendously educational, allowing historians and veterans the opportunity to educate each other and the audience on this less well-known operation.



To me, it was an awakening…

At night, sometimes Jim Welsh dreams. One would think that when the dreams of a paratrooper turn to World War II, he would dream of parachuting, of his comrades or of narrow escapes they made during the war. Jim tells me that more often, he finds himself dreaming of the glider men.

At Fort Benning, when the paratroopers would run past the glider men, they’d mock them. After the paratroopers completed their five jumps, they would blouse their pants and show off their jump wings, while deriding the “leg” infantry men in the glider battalions. The paratroopers had each volunteered for hazardous duty and considered themselves among the elite troops in the Army. The glider men had been assigned to an infantry unit that had the additional duty of arriving in combat via glider. They didn’t choose their assignment, received no “jump pay” or other bonus and were not privileged to blouse their pants like paratroopers.

Jim Welsh remembers that morning in southern France in August of 1944 and he shudders. The dreams he has of the glider men are not pleasant, but based on what he saw them endure that morning. Surrounded by fellow veterans and historians, Jim starts his recollection with, “To me, it was an awakening….”

After the horror of the glider assaults in Normandy and the south of France, paratroopers had seen what the glider men went through and there was no more mocking. The glider troops started getting “jump pay” and a good measure of respect from their airborne brethren.



Fantastic Event, Again

Once again, the Operation Dragoon Commemoration & Seminar has come and gone. It was a marvelous event. There were about a dozen veterans in attendance (I heard 13, but I wasn’t counting heads), including the 4 who were awarded the French Legion of Honor at Arlington Cemetery (Dick Seitz, John Carter, Roy Brumfield and John Keller).

It was an entire weekend of “highlights” for me, so I am thrilled that I got so much of it filmed. Interestingly, both last year’s event and this year’s provided me with about 32GB of raw footage. I expect to post Jim Welsh’s account of being in the drop zone/landing zone with the 551st while the gliders were landing in the next few days. I already posted a picture of Robert Maxwell and I to Facebook, but have a short piece about him in progress as well.

Everyone in attendance was so interested and involved in sharing the history that you couldn’t help but feel closer to everyone by the end of the weekend. While it made parting sorrowful, it also provided an incentive for everyone to return in 2012. Keep August 2-5, 2012 open for the 68th Anniversary.



Dragoon 2011 Commemoration/Seminar schedule

I have some more details on the Operation Dragoon Commemoration and Seminar being held next weekend (4-7 August 2011). While I do not yet have the list of speakers, I can reveal the schedule. Most of the seminars will be held on the 4th and 5th, with the wreath-laying and banquet on the 6th.

The banquet has always been pretty special, as veterans who’ve had a chance to get reacquianted have an opportunity and enough comfort with the audience to provide very interesting recollections of the war, such as John Carter’s Thanksgiving 1944 story.

At the wreath-laying, the French Legion of Honor will be presented to Lieutenant General (ret.) Seitz (517th ABN), Mr. John Keller (3rd ID), Mr. John Carter (1st Allied Airborne Task Force), and Mr. Roy Brumfield (3rd ID). LTG Seitz was the battalion commander of 2/517 PIR during the war and I read an interesting story about the interview process for new soldiers joining 2/517 as they formed that I detailed in a post this past winter.

LTG Seitz at the 517th reunion in 2005

There is ample time on Friday and Saturday for some oral interviews and I’ll be trying to sit with both Mr. Carter and LTG Seitz. Of course, I haven’t had a chance to really talk to any 509th veterans at length yet and Jim Welsh of the 551st PIB would be a great interview as well. So, all kinds of opportunities. If you’re interested in conducting some interviews, you’re more than welcome to come.

4 August (Thursday) – Check-in to the Sheraton National Hotel, 900 South Orme St. Arlington, VA 22204

1500-1700    Registration

1700-1830    Dinner (no host)

1830-2030    Opening Remarks and initial historical seminar

5 August (Friday)

0830-1200     Historical Seminar Session 2

1200-1330     Lunch (no host)

1330-1700     Historical Seminar Session 3

1700-1830     Dinner (no host)

1830-2030     Operation Dragoon historical/documentary films

6 August (Saturday)

0900-1000     Commemorative Ceremony Memorial Amphitheater (Mil: ASU, Civ: Business Attire)

1015-1100     Wreath laying ceremonies – Tomb of the Unknowns, 3rd Infantry Division Monument, Audie Murphy gravesite

1130-1730     Lunch (no host) and free time

1730-2000     Banquet (Mil: Dress, Civ: Business Attire)

7 August (Sunday)

0900-1100     Concluding historical seminar/closing remarks

Special Honored Guests: Mr. Robert D. Maxwell, 3rd Infantry Division Medal of Honor Recipient in WWII and Operation Dragoon veteran and Mayor Michel Tonon, Mayor of Salon-de-Provence, France. More about T5 Maxwell and his Medal of Honor next week.

You can also email CPT Monika Stoy for further information.




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