The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on August 15, 2004 · Page 6
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 6

Bloomington, Illinois
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Page 6
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A6 The Pantagraph Sunday, August 15, 2004 'Forgotten D-Day' veterans to be honored By Jocelyn Gecker ASSOCIATED PRESS PARIS Historians call it The Forgotten D-Day. But aging veterans like John Shirley vividly recall Aug. 15, 1944, when they stepped ashore on the French Riviera and delivered an uppercut to Hitler's diminishing army. , "Maybe it was a sideline to the big fights up north, but it was a very important invasion," said Shirley, 79, speaking from his home in Livermore, Calif. Tourists soaking up the Riviera sun this weekend will had to make room for Shirley and hundreds of other aging war veterans descending on the Provence region of southern France to commemorate Operation Dragoon and be honored by the French nation they liberated. "The Normandy landings were a spectacular operation that everyone knows about, and we commemorate it with enormous fanfare," said French historian Andre Kaspi. "Then, there are the Provence landings that are more or less forgotten, but nonetheless essential." Operation Dragoon, and the DrDay landings in Normandy 70 days earlier, caught France's German occupiers in a pincer. Though smaller than D-Day in scale and Allied losses, Dragoon brought about 350,000 Allied soldiers ashore along a 50-mile stretch between Toulon and Cannes. 'Compared with the D-Day an- If I 4 Associated Press file photo Thousands of U.S. 3rd Division troops waited to board Landing Ships Tanks on an unidentified beach in Italy in preparation for Operation Dragoon in this Aug. 10, 1944, file photo. France will pay tribute to World War II veterans of Operation Dragoon, the forgotten D-Day, today. Operation Dragoon landings came 70 days after the D-Day landings in Normandy and were smaller in scale and Allied losses than the famed attack on June 6, 1944. niversary hoopla in June attended by President Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others the commemorations Saturday and today are distinctly low key. La Motte, the first village liberated in Operation Dragoon, hosted a ceremony Saturday at which nine British veterans were to be decorated with the Legion of Honor, France's most prestigious decoration. Later Saturday nine American veterans were to receive the Legion of Honor from French Defense Minister Michele Al-liot-Marie at the Rhone American Cemetery in nearby When you need help... 1 $100 to start uncontested $400 cost FREE CONSULTATION ATTORN FY FRANK HOFFMAN f 827-7667 4 Find the right car for you. 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Affordable Senior Housing Spacious I & 2 Bedroom and Studios Available A Variety of New Activities Order Meals from Our Convenient Daily Menu Come to our Adelaide Apartments Open House and see what's new in Senior Living. AdelaideApartments INDEPENDENT LIVING 505 North Adelaide Street Normal, 1L 61761 (309)452-0743 "This is my last hurrah. I'm sure of it. I don't want to wait another 10 years." George Burks veteran Draguignan. It overlooks the graves of 861 soldiers who fell during the landings and in the weeks that followed. The bodies of 1,600 other Americans were repatriated. Today President Jacques Chirac will be aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, anchored off Toulon, hosting leaders of 16 African nations that were French possessions in World War II and which provided soldiers for the Allies. Also present will be several hundred veterans including Shirley The former staff sergeant is leading a dozen American veterans, mostly in their 80s, on a package bus tour that some say will be their last trip to the battlefield. One of them is 84-year-old George Burks. "This is my last hurrah. I'm sure of it. I don't want to wait another 10 years," said the former first lieutenant before leaving Englewood, N.J., for France for his first trip back since 1944. He, like Shirley, fought with the 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. Operation Dragoon was to have coincided with D-Day but there were no landing craft to spare. Winston Churchill, the wartime British prime minister, had fiercely resisted the operation, preferring to focus Allied strength in the north. The Americans prevailed, arguing for a pincer movement. French troops had played only a minor role in D-Day, and Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French forces, was eager for them to have a big part in liberating the important port cities of Toulon and Marseille! Half of Operation Dragoon's invasion force was French. When the invasion finally was unleashed, thousands of paratroopers, mostly American and British, bore the brunt, preceding the amphibious opera' tion in drops north of the coast The night of Aug. 14, 1944, was foggy and many fell short and drowned at sea. I History books and many veterans recall thin German resistance to the invasion, but the chaos of battle has prevented a definitive count of Allied deaths. The French Defense Ministry says 1,300 Allied soldiers died in the first two days.. Evergreen Place Licensed Residential ,V,V Assisted Living JftT (Jj s 801 Gregory St. Normal 451-9355 1 1 -A, - C - yj FOR 60 MO LXiyj(SG Drivers wanted: m OA FOR 60 MO. A W04299 0 finananc through VW Credit. 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