GENESEO — It was 73 years ago when thousands of men invaded the beaches of Normandy on the infamous D-Day.
The National Warplane Museum held a sentimental journey on Tuesday to remember the sacrifice of all our men on June 6, 1944. America’s Sweethearts from New York City came to sing songs of the era and put smiles on veterans faces.
The lunch and concert was put on to talk about the trip made to Normandy on the Whiskey-7 three years ago for the 70-year-anniversary.
The C-47 took off with pilots Vietnam Veteran John Lindsay and Craig Wadsworth back to France for the big anniversary. Along for the ride were several passengers, and some veterans who enjoyed being part of the Liberty Jump.
Wadsworth talked about the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who embarked on this great crusade to bring destruction to the enemy machine.
“When we arrived at at Normandy and saw the remains left behind it brought the whole thing to life,” he said. “I never experienced anything like that before. The thing that surprised me the most was seeing the graves. It was very moving to see those rows of names on those graves. People told stories of their loved ones lost. It is three years later and I still think of it with a heavy heart.”
This trip to Normandy on the actual D-Day plane herself was a dream many of the pilots had, and Gary Mitchell, who has passed away, made this come true for everyone.
Lindsay gave a touching story about how flying over there with his son, Stuart, was a very big thing for him.
“Hundreds of people were waiting to see and tour the plane when we got there,” he said. “We flew over the graves on Memorial Day.”
The Whiskey-7 flew to Scotland, over Paris, and on her way to Normandy.
“My son has made a career in the military service too, and he was the first to do the jump,” Lindsay said. “It was a great story of two combat veterans, a dad and son, as dad flew the plane, and the son jumped out the back.”
The Whiskey-7 visited all of the beaches; Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. There were lots of photoshoots with the C-47, and the people visiting were so honored to see this 70-year-old veteran back on the shores of Normandy.
“We went to the American cemetery over there, and saw the graves of the young men who served,” Lindsay said. “I can tell you at that moment all of the people of France were celebrating. They have never forgotten D-Day and what America did for them. It was a huge event. We had beautiful weather the whole trip.”
Lindsay said when they arrived back at home there was a huge crowd waiting for them.
“Whiskey-7 is a 70-year-old veteran. She never missed a beat the whole time,” he said. “We put 85 hours on her, and flew for over a month. The airplane had a mission of her own. This was the biggest experience of my life. It was lovely over the ocean when we were the only ones out there. I am here to tell you I flew across the ocean many times, but it was nothing like that. This airplane survived D-Day. Whiskey-7 is a national treasure.”
America’s Sweethearts singers Kristin Michelle, Marissa Miller, and Bex Odorisio were thrilled to come out for this special event.
“We love to honor all of the veterans,” Michelle said. “We can bring the music they love so much back to them. It makes me happy to bring that memory back. It is great to hear all of their stories.”
National Warplane Museum Volunteer Kevin House said that he was able to visit Normandy in March and it was more than he ever knew.
“You think you know everything about the Invasion of Normandy, but once you are there you find out you don’t know anything,” he said. “I went with a friend who really wanted to visit the beaches.”
Scott Clark loves to reenact the WWII soldier, and was the one who came up with the briefing room in the museum.
“It was pure madness on that day,” he said. “No matter who you talk to about D-Day everyone has the same story. There was a mad dash to get to land. That is one day that will live on in infamy.”
Clark said he would love to be able to go do the D-Day reenactment that takes men all over Normandy, and shows what our soldiers went through.
House said that the French are very good about maintaining our fallen soldiers graves over there.
“We paid the French to maintain the graves in WWI,” he said. “When we stopped paying them in WWII they continued to do it. Even the Nazi’s honored the graves, and promised not to touch them.”
Clark said one of the things about this invasion is that sons and grandsons were walking past the graves of their fathers from WWI.
“This was everything to them over there,” he said. “In America we just said we won the war, but in France it still means so much to them.”
On this day there are 1,000s of people walking around the beaches, cemeteries, and memorials of D-Day and honoring what these brave young men did.
House said it is very beautiful there and everything is pristine.
“It is hard to believe the beaches were once covered in thousands of bodies, and wreckage from the planes,”he said. “You wouldn’t know by going there today. The beaches are all clean, and everything is well maintained over there.”