10 testimonies of WWII American veterans who fought in Normandy [fr]

Recently, we had the great opportunity to talk with 10 WWII American veterans who lives in Florida.
We asked them four questions focusing on their action during the Second World War. Their answers are sometimes difficult, often said with humor and always moving.

Our questions:
  • What was their image of France before war and before they enlisted in the US army?
  • Why did they enlist in the army?
  • What is their vision of France nowadays and if it changed through time?
  • If they do speak about this episode of their life with their family or relatives,
  • And if yes, if they did communicate about WWII right away or if they did need time to do so.

Award Ceremony in Holly Hill, march 14, 2014 - JPEG

March 14, 2014 - Ceremony in Holly Hill, during which George Guertin, Philip Cartisano, John Welch, Edward Safford, William Van Luyn and William Mc Dermott were awarded the Legion of Honor by the Republic of France.
  • George Guertin:

Mr. George A. GUERTIN was born on July 16th, 1923, in Magog, Canada. He joined the U.S. Army in May 1943.
As a Corporal in the Battery A of the 633rd Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Mr. Guertin has participated in the Liberation of Normandy, the Liberation of Northern France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of the Rhineland.
For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the European African Middle Eastern Theatre Campaign Ribbon, the Good Conduct medal and the WWII Victory medal.
France bestowed upon him the insignia of Knight in the order of the Legion of Honor at the Daytona Beach/Holly Hill ceremony on March 14th, 2014.

George Guertin “Before the war, when I thought about France I had a great image of it.
As I speak French I was even more attracted by the country. Nowadays, I still have the same vision but I’m too old to travel.
I think my travel time is over now!
I enlisted in the army as war broke out, it wasn’t really my choice. I had to go.
I still think about the D-day and talk about it, for example at the ceremony. I often think that I’ve never been back from it.”

  • Philip Cartisano:

Mr. Philip CARTISANO was born on August 22nd, 1924 in New York City, New York. He joined the U.S. Army in January 1943.
As a Private in the 565th Ordinance Company, Mr. Cartisano has participated in the Liberation of Normandy, the Liberation of Northern France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of the Rhineland.
The American government presented him with several awards such as the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal the American Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
He was awarded the French Legion of Honor at Daytona Beach/Holly Hill ceremony on March 14th, 2014.

Philip Cartisano : “I’ve lived in Europe for about 50 years so I love France as much as I love Europe. There are beautiful valleys and very nice people.
During the war, I started to learn French. I met my wife in Switzerland and we lived in Geneva and then in Lausanne. But then I had to go back to the US because I have 2 children there.
I still love France and its language.

About the transmission of memory of these times, it’s still difficult for me to talk about it. There are some horrible episodes that I’m trying to forget. I did need time to speak about it.
I mean, I was 17 when I get enlisted, it was my first experience out of home, I was so young.”

  • John Welch:

Mr. John M. WELCH was born on May 19th, 1919, in Searcy, Arkansas. He joined the U.S. Army in August 1942. As a First Lieutenant in the 4th Infantry Division, Mr. Welch has distinguished himself by his determination and courage, participating in the Liberation of Normandy, where he landed on Utah Beach on the D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of the Rhineland, and the Liberation of Northern France.
For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the European African Middle Eastern Service Theatre Ribbon with five bronze stars and arrowhead, the Bronze Star Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Combat Infantry Badge.

He was awarded the French Legion of Honor at Daytona Beach/Holly Hill’s ceremony on March 14th, 2014.

John Welch: “I had a very friendly vision of France, and even more now that I have this beautiful medal you gave me!
When I was enlisted I was finishing College, I had no choice.

For a long time I didn’t want to talk about what I had lived. It bothered me. I went to hospital after war, I didn’t want to talk about what I saw or what I’ve done.
During 5 or 6 years I didn’t say a word; I wanted to have a normal civil life.
Now, time has changed and I may speak about war with my family but that’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

  • Edward Safford:

Mr. Edward SAFFORD was born on January 11, 1923, in Grosvenor Corners, New Jersey.
He joined the U.S. Army in January 1943.
As a Technical Sergeant in the 2519th Army Air Force, Mr. Safford has participated in the Liberation of Normandy, the Liberation of Northern France, the Battle of Rhineland and the Liberation of Southern France.
The American government presented him with several awards such as European African Middle Eastern Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
France had the honor to bestow upon him the medal of the Legion of Honor at Daytona Beach/Holly Hill ceremony on March 14th, 2014.

Edward Safford: “Back in time I loved France, I dreamed of it when I was young.
When war started I was in high school but I didn’t enlist: I was drafted.
It was war and I had to go!
I went through medical exams but my left eye was bad. But I wanted to go! I said to them: “ok I had a bad vision on one eye but that I’m young and willing to go to war”. So I did pass! Finally, it was really a choice of mine.

Yes, I do speak about war to my 4 children.

Three or four years ago, I wrote a small book with experiences from the war to transmit memories to my grandsons and my family. But in it, I only wrote “funny” stuffs, I mean some anecdotes, but I did not put on paper the terrible ones.

I’ve been in Europe for a year and a half. When war ended there, General Mc Arthur was ready to invade Japan and we were sent to the Philippines with the Marines. But when the atomic bomb exploded Japan surrendered.
I still do like France so much. I’d like to go back there in another situation.”

  • William Van Luyn:

Mr. William J. VAN LUYN was born on May 22nd, 1925, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He joined the U.S. Army in September 1943.

As a Technician 5th Grade in the Company B of the 1303rd Engineer Regiment, Mr. Van Luyn has distinguished himself by his determination and courage, participating in the Liberation of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of the Rhineland and the Liberation of Northern France.

For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the European African Middle Eastern Theatre Service Ribbon with five battle stars, the Combat Rifleman Badge, the Good Conduct Medal and the WWII Victory Ribbon.
He was awarded the French Legion of Honor at Daytona Beach/Holly Hill ceremony on March 14th, 2014.

William Van Luyn : “Back in time, I loved France.
As far as I’m concerned, I was in the US Navy.
It was my choice to go to the navy, I was 17.
I often speak about it with my family. I think it’s better to talk than remain silent. I almost think about this episode of my life every day.
I realize I’m lucky to be a survivor.

Nowadays, I do like France and its people. I love Paris and especially Disneyland!”

  • William Mc Dermott:

Mr. William V. McDERMOTT was born on February 15th 1926, in Larksville, Pennsylvania. He joined the U.S. Navy in February 1944. As a Seamen 1st Class, Mr. McDermott has distinguished himself by his determination and courage, participating in the Liberation of Normandy, where his ship landed troops on Omaha beach on the D-Day, and the Liberation of Southern France.

For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the WWII Victory medal, the European Theatre Ribbon with two stars and the Purple Heart.

He received the French Legion of Honor at Daytona Beach/Holly Hill ceremony on March 14th, 2014.

William Mc Dermott: “When I was a teenager, I was very impressed by the sacrifices France had to make, and all the volunteers.
I think that American history didn’t give enough credit to volunteers. I have a great respect for France and its values.

Nowadays, I like even more France. You gave us the Statue of Liberty which is a strong symbol for us.
I enlisted in the US army when I was 18 as a volunteer. I went to an Officer Training School.

For the Commemoration I went to France with my family in Paris. We also went to the beaches. I remembered everything. I never hesitate to speak about this event; it’s the biggest event of my whole life.

  • Jacob Feldman:

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Jacob Feldman at the Award ceremony on May 2nd, 2014 on the USS New-York (Broward Navy Days 2014).



Mr. Jacob FELDMAN was born on July 3rd, 1922, in Detroit, Michigan. He joined the U.S. Army in December 1942.
As a Sergeant in the 9th Air Force, 438th Troop Carrier Group, Mr. Feldman has participated in the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of the Rhineland, the Liberation of Southern France and the Liberation of Normandy where his squadron participated in the air invasion on the D-Day.
For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze star and two silver stars, the WWII Victory Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, and three Overseas Bars.

Jacob Feldman received the medal of the Legion of Honor aboard the USS New-York during the Fleet Week Broward Navy Days on May 2nd, 2014.

Jacob Feldman: “I was 20 when I was enlisted. I only knew France through History and I did love Lafayette.
I thought and I think it is a beautiful country.

It was my choice to go. WWII was in progress and it was necessary to defend your country [France]. The difference between enlist yourself or being drafted is that when you enlist you can choose the branch of the service you want.

I do think that France is a great country. During WWII, I had relatives in France who were Jewish and French people helped them to hide from the Germans.
I think that’s a thing that pushed me to go to war.
When I came back from Europe, I told my family about the war. I came home wounded but not that seriously.
There is a lot to say about the war.
I kept a satin purse and a crochet gloves from France as memories. I have a lot of anecdotes from this episode of my life and I spoke about it right away.”

  • Gerald Goodman:

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Mr. Gerald Goodman and his family at the Award ceremony on May 2nd, 2014, during which France had the honor to recognize him.



Mr. Gerald GOODMAN was born on September 11th, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York. He joined the U.S. Navy in January 1944.
As a Fireman First Class on the USS LST 510, Mr. Goodman has participated in the Liberation of Normandy where his ship landed on Omaha Beach on the D-Day.
For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the American Theatre Medal, the European Theater Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.

On May 2nd, 2014, Gerald Goodman received the medal of the French Legion of Honor aboard the USS New-York during the Fleet Week Broward Navy Days.

Gerald Goodman: “I was 18 when I went to war. I only knew Europe through History and I had a good opinion of it.
My uncle was in the Navy during WWI and that’s why I decided to enlist in the US army at that time.

The war was terrible and that’s why I didn’t speak about it. I just don’t like to talk about this episode. When I get home from war, I was an alcoholic.
My beloved mother was the one who saved me from that. Now I got a wife and 4 children.”

  • Salvatore Palacino:

Mr. Salvatore M. PALACINO was born on February 18th, 1924, in Middletown, Connecticut. He joined the U.S. Navy in July 1943. As a Petty Officer 3rd Class on the USS LST-516, Mr. Palacino has distinguished himself by his determination and courage, participating in the Liberation of Normandy.

For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the European Theatre Service Medal with one star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Presidential Citation and the WWII Victory Medal.

Salvatore Palacino received the French highest recognition on June 13, 2013.

Salvatore Palacino: “I was in highschool when I was drafted. I studied French for 2 years. All I knew was that France was oppressed by the Germans.

At that time, Mussolini, Hitler and Japan controlled ¾ of the world…
Now France is like my second cousin!
I have a part of my family living in France. France is a friendly country for me.
When I got back home, I did not speak of the war for 6 years.

I thank God every day for being alive. My entire unit died, I was the only survivor.
Over 4 years at the army, I fought during 3 years, and I can tell you that when you get back, you don’t have the same way of thinking as before.

Now, I speak to everyone that wants to hear about how the war was.
People need to know what it was about
.

  • Donald Chamberlain:

Mr. Donald CHAMBERLAIN was born on August 4th, 1924 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
He joined the U.S. Army in July 1943.
As a Private First Class in the 1107th Army Air Forces Base Unit, Mr. Chamberlain has distinguished himself by his determination and courage, participating in the Liberation of Normandy, the liberation of Northern France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Rhineland.
For his outstanding achievements, the American government presented him with several awards such as the European African Middle Eastern Ribbon with six Bronze Stars, the Bronze Star medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster, two Overseas Bars, and the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster.

Donald Chamberlain will be soon receiving the insignia of Knight in the order of the Legion of Honor in Nokomis, FL.

Donald Chamberlain: “When the war broke out, I was a high school graduate.
I viewed France as a friendly country, with friendly people. I studied France in history class, and enjoyed its history.
I believe France was one of the first countries to fight for liberty, which made an impression on me.

I was drafted out of high school, I had actually wanted to join the air force, but the army got to me first.

I first formed my opinion of France after having been wounded and hospitalized. I had been shot, but could still see the Eiffel Tower through my hospital room window. I saw a country that loved its freedom.

To me, I saw France as an easy-going country. I’ve wanted to travel, and am working on my health so I can return. I’m working very hard, in the swimming pool and things, to get myself ready to travel across France!
When the war was over, I ended up in the Air Force for a short time in France.

When I returned to the U.S., I was first in Ft. Lauderdale. Initially, I didn’t speak much of that time. I felt it was out of service. I didn’t feel that I needed to talk about it.
I have spoken more of it recently. I’m the oldest in my family, and they’ve taken an interest in my life. They’re interested in the stories I have to tell. I feel that I’ve lived an impressive life, and want to share my memories with them.

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The team of this consulate extends a warm thank to George Guertin, Philip Cartisano, John Welch, Edward Safford, William Van Luyn, William Mc Dermott, Donald Chamberlain, Jacob Feldman, Gerald Goodman and Salvatore Palacino for having answered to its questions.

Dernière modification : 20/10/2015

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