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Omaha Beach: Honor and Sacrifice
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the green 29th Infantry Division faced some of the most brutal fighting on Omaha Beach. In June of 2014, a handful of remaining members of the 29th Infantry Division made a final trip back to Normandy to recognize the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The World War II Foundation was along as these veterans shared their stories and looked over the bluffs of Omaha Beach one last time. The aging veterans also visited the Normandy-American cemetery to say their final goodbyes to their friends who never left Omaha Beach alive on June 6, 1944. Local villages and towns also honored the men of D-Day with dozens of celebrations around Normandy.
We follow 94 year old 82nd Airborne veteran James “Maggie” Megellas from Wisconsin to Europe where he fought in some of the most savage battles of World War II. “Maggie” is the most decorated officer in the history of the famed 82nd Airborne Division. Airing on American Public Television.
Above and Beyond
The Incredible Escape of Jewish-American B-17 Pilot Bruce Sundlun from Nazi-Occupied Europe in World War II.
During overseas active duty beginning in June 1943 Bruce Sundlun, a Jewish-American college student, served as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in the England-based 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force at Grafton-Underwood Air Base.
Sundlun’s plane, the Damn Yankee, was shot down over Nazi-occupied Jabbeke, Belgium on 1 December 1943 after being damaged by flak and attacked by German fighter planes following the bombing of Solingen, Germany, on the “Yankee’s” 13th mission over Europe. Five of his crew were killed, four others captured by the Germans.
Above and Beyond is Bruce Sundlun’s amazing escape from occupied Europe in World War II, filmed on location in Belgium and narrated by Sundlun’s own daughter, Kara, who travelled back to the village of Jabbeke in Belgium, to re-trace her father’s footsteps in World War II.
American St. Nick
The occupying Germans had been forced out of Wiltz, Luxembourg by advancing American troops. It had been almost five years since the townspeople of Wiltz had been able to celebrate their annual tradition of Saint Nicolas Day. The Nazi’s had outlawed the annual Christmas-related celebration when they occupied Luxembourg in 1940.
Even though American GIs had liberated them in late 1944, the citizens and especially the children of Wiltz, a town in the hills bordering the dark and foreboding Ardennes forest, had no resources left in which to mark their very special holiday. That’s when a group of soldiers of the battle-weary 28th Infantry Division got together and brought back hope and joy back to a small town that hadn’t had anything to smile about in almost five years.
One GI, Corporal Richard Brookins, played the role of Saint Nick, costume and all. His sleigh, a U.S. Army jeep. Brookins and the men of the 28th passed out candy and baked goods to the children of Wiltz. Songs were sung. It was a wonderful day for the free citizens of the town and for the American soldiers who wouldn’t be home for Christmas in 1944. Ten days following the party, this part of Luxembourg erupted as the Battle of the Bulge began.
Richard Brookins and the rest of the 28th Division pulled out and never gave their time in Wiltz a second thought. Following the war, the people of Wiltz vowed to never forgot the kindness and generosity of Brookins and his fellow American soldiers who brought back St. Nicolas Day to Wiltz on December 6th, 1944.
Beginning in 1947, the annual St. Nicholas day became the American St. Nick celebration, complete with someone dressed as Saint Nick in a jeep re-tracing the exact route Dick Brookins took in 1944.
A shocked Richard Brookins knew nothing about the annual American Saint Nick celebration in his honor until 1977 when he was invited back to re-create his role. Thousands of people turned out to welcome him. He had become a hero. The American St. Nick is a World War II Christmas story that spans seven decades and continues to this day.
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