Greenwich Commemorates 75th Anniversary of D-Day
By Richard Kaufman
Seventy-five years ago in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare took place.
D-Day, or Operation Overlord, was launched across the English Channel to the shores of five beaches — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Led by the United States, Great Britain and Canada, more than 156,000 troops landed on the beaches that day, and in the months to come eventually fought across Europe, successfully liberating millions of people against the tyranny of Nazi Fascism, and ending the brutal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
Last Thursday, the Town of Greenwich gathered in front of Town Hall to commemorate the anniversary of the turning point of World War II, and to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“All the intrepid soldiers that landed in France knew well that D-Day may be their last day on earth, but they did it anyway, and 27,000 of them died,” said Peter Le Beau, Commander for the American Legion Post 29. “The stakes could not have been greater, for if Operation Overlord was to fail, a distinct possibility given Germany’s military superiority in France, the war could have been prolonged for years or worse.”
Le Beau noted that the loss of life on D-Day alone was horrific, as the Allied Forces suffered roughly 10,000 casualties. Thousands more died in the war before Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.
“[The defeat of Germany, Japan and Italy] served as a dire warning to dictators throughout the world, that democracy and freedom will be fiercely defended whenever and wherever our precious liberties are threatened,” Le Beau added. “It’s incumbent upon each of us to make sure that our children and their children know and appreciate the enormous cost paid by thousands of Americans who gave that last full measure of devotion in order to secure the blessings of freedoms we enjoy today as Americans.”
First Selectman, Peter Tesei, said Greenwich was not immune to the casualties of war. He pointed out that Greenwich lost over 160 patriots by the time the war ended.
Tesei recalled the words of President Ronald Reagan, who addressed D-Day veterans in Normandy 35 years ago on the 40th anniversary of the invasion.
“What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation, and risked your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all of the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer” Tesei said, quoting Reagan. “It was faith and belief, and It was loyalty and love. The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right. Faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge, and pray to God we have not lost it, that there is a profound world difference in the use of force for liberation, and the use of force for conquest.”
William Fullilove, 94, a D-Day survivor and veteran of the Royal British Navy, was the keynote speaker, and talked about his service in the 1940’s.
Fullilove, who now lives in Greenwich, was born in South London on Sept. 23, 1924. Like most young British students back then, Fullilove completed his schooling at age 14 in 1938. The next year, Hitler invaded Poland, and Great Britain declared war on Germany.
Too old to be evacuated to the British countryside, and too young to join the military, Fullilove served in what was called the “Home Guard”, which was an armed citizen militia that supported the British Army during the war.
When he turned 18, Fullilove joined the Royal Navy, where he would serve for four years.
Fullilove was on board a vessel called an LST, or Landing Ship Tank. However, he said, the boat had another name to those who served on it: Large Slow Target.
Fullilove took part in operations in Italy, before eventually assembling in the English Channel near the Island of Wight to prepare for D-Day. Fullilove then helped shuttle Canadian forces to Juno Beach, where the Canadians boarded smaller vessels called Rhino Boats, which could access deeper onto the beach.
“We had not experienced any German fire coming from the shore. Most of the activity we experienced came from the air,” Fullilove said, noting that they made several trips across the English Channel.
Fullilove also helped carry wounded soldiers from Normandy back to England on several occasions. He received a standing ovation from the roughly 50 people in attendance after his remarks.
The ceremony also featured the Greenwich Police Department Color Guard, rifle salutes from the Byram Veterans Honor Guard, and the playing of Echo Taps from Greenwich High School students, Chris Fiore and Nathan King.
Fullilove and Tesei placed a ceremonial wreath at the flagpoles in front of Town Hall.
More photos from the ceremony: