You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely….The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” ~General Dwight D. Eisenhower giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944.
Sixty-Three years ago, 43 Norwich University alumni were fighting or preparing to fight as part of the first combined allied actions in France. On this day, Major Bill McNamara, NU ’36, Lieutenant Thurber Raymond, NU ’41, and Lt. Colonel Carroll Stowell, NU ’40, of the 1st Infantry, Major Jim Ballard, NU ’39, and Lieutenant George Briggs, NU ’32, of the 29th Infantry, Captain Arthur Harrington, NU ’40, of the 5th Special Engineer Brigade, Lieutenant Eugenio Bonafin, NU ’43, of the 87th Chemical Mortar Battalion, Lieutenant Thomas Fulham, NU ’47, and Lieutenant Robert Harrington, NU ’47, of the 4th Infantry Division, Lieutenant Lawrence Elman, NU ’43 and Lieutenant Fredrick Meinken, NU ’47, of the 4th Cavalry Regiment and Private Richard Austin, NU ’44 of the 101st Airborne. In the air, Lieutenant David Steward, NU ’47, Captain Jim McCarthy, NU ‘40, Lieutenant Sherman Crocker, NU ‘44, and Sergeant William Crawthorne, NU ’47, and possibly Sergeant Edward T. Yeller, NU ‘49, of the 9th Air Force, Lieutenant Edwyn Florcyk, NU ‘44, rgeant Mitchell Esoian, NU ‘49, Sergeant George Edwin Guidi, NU ‘49 and Sergeant Robert Wieler, NU ‘49 of the 8th Air Force, were all in Normandy at this time.
It’s a bit late, but here’s the conclusion to my paper:
While the locations of a number of alumni during the invasion can be determined by way of their units, there are several other alumni who are known to have participated in the invasion, but their whereabouts cannot be accounted for because of insufficient or conflicting information. The first of these is Wesley Goddard, NU ’33, who, according to the Norwich University Record, commanded field artillery during the invasion, and there is some indication that he served in the 18th Field Artillery Battalion. However, there is conflicting information regarding this unit, and it is not known exactly what Major Goddard was doing during the invasion. Similarly, alumnus Philip Bracket was also confirmed to have been in Normandy, given his award of the Normandy ribbon indicated in his alumni file at Norwich. He was a dentist in the US Army, but it is unknown what unit he was part of, or what his rank was. Lieutenant Colonel Storer Humphrey, NU ‘28, also in the medical field, was found to be listed in three separate units, the 100th General Hospital, 91st Evacuation Hospital and 160 Station, some of these having been in Normandy. As a brain surgeon, it is possible that he was called to duty during the invasion, as there were thousands of men injured throughout the invasion. In addition to these three men, there were a number of other Norwich alumni who were in Normandy at this time, but it is not known whether they participated in the invasion, or were replacements for casualties in their units. Further research could most likely clear this up.
The Normandy invasion spelled the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. From the breakout from Normandy at St. Lo, the allied forces went on to free Paris, the rest of France, Belgium, and Holland before moving on towards Germany. While they were rebuffed at times, they reached Germany by the end of 1944, and on May 7th of the following year, the last German forces surrendered. The war in Europe was over, and in August of 1945, the Second World War concluded.
Norwich University alumni would maintain close ties to the University through their letters to the Norwich University Record, as well as with each other, remaining in contact with one another or coming across each other during their leaves and chance meetings.
By examining the role of its alumni who participated in the war, it is clear that Norwich University alumni played a multifaceted and significant role in the Invasion of Normandy, serving in a variety of units throughout the invasion. Their experiences can be viewed as a microcosm for the rest of the Normandy Invasion. They exhibited bravery and courage, as several of the Norwich alumni would be cited for such with the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and in one case, after Normandy, the Medal of Honor. It is fairly clear that the training that they received at Norwich University prepared them for a role in their work at Normandy, as 75% of the Norwich Alumni would serve in the invasion as officers. This demonstrates that Norwich University alumni were largely in a command role through the invasion, and through their leadership, most likely helped ensure the success of the invasion on their unit levels, although in some cases, it is likely that the leadership of Norwich alumni helped spell the success of the US forces.
A letter from Lt. Colonel Carroll Stowell, NU ‘30, perhaps best summarizes the role that Norwich University played in the minds of the Norwich Alumni:
Rose in rank during the two and one-half years I was in the first from 2nd Lt. to Major. During that period the battalion was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations. Have always felt that my Norwich background and trained were factors in my being assigned to the First Engineers and in the contributions that I was able to make to the successes of the unit.