D-Day anniversary brings memories to museum

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On Thursday -- June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day -- the Museum will recognize this landmark anniversary with refreshments and a special guest from 10 a.m. to noon. World War II veteran Burke Landry will be on hand with some of his memorabilia. We hope to see YOU in the Museum June 6.

I won’t tell you much about Landry because I want you to meet him in person. He was not involved in D-Day on June 6, 1944; he was not inducted into the Navy until the following October 12. He served on the USS Intrepid, a fleet aircraft carrier, and those were prime targets for the Japanese. One attack occurred on Easter Sunday, 1945, when our forces, including the Intrepid, were invading Okinawa. Two kamikaze pilots aimed for the ship, but one was shot down before inflicting damage. The other hit the ship. It penetrated the flight deck and struck the hangar deck where the bomb exploded, killing 9 of Burke’s fellow sailors. I won’t tell more about Landry; you need to come to the Museum, 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, June 6! Parents, it will be a good learning experience for youngsters!

Now, back to D-Day. It’s an anniversary worth noting; it changed the course of World War II. It is called the beginning of the end of war in Europe. More than 5,000 ships and landing craft carried troops and supplies, and more than 11,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support. 156,000 American, British, and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy Region, in the largest military operation by sea in history. They faced heavy resistance, especially on Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 casualties. I found no exact overall casualty count, but more than 4,000 Allied troops died on those beaches that day. Thousands more were wounded or missing. D-Day launched a whole campaign to liberate Europe from Nazi domination. After landing on Normandy beaches, Allied forces fought their way all through France, Belgium, Holland, and into Germany.

Records of local veterans are far from comprehensive. The Museum has a yearbook-looking publication entitled “The Men and Women in World War II from Madison County”. It is a treasure, but I know for a fact some were left out. Perhaps it only included those who enlisted here.

That book lists separately those who died in World War II and from Madisonville, and I’ve noted if the book says where they died, as being Truman Cannon (Germany), Robert L. Casey, Jr. (the New Hebrides), Cecil Fickey (Italy), Robert Fickey (New Guinea), Oliver Gannaway (Corregidor), Braxton Conley Goree (France), Clarence C. Hamilton (North Africa), David Lloyd George (England), Truman Kimbro (Belgium), Patrick McGuirt (shot down/MIA/Pacific), Oliver G. O’Bryant (Corregidor), Ray F. Ozell (France), Howard Stone (the Philippines), and Vernell Washington (Germany). Noticeably absent from that list is Everett Crouch, mentioned weeks ago as one of our Madison County men killed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, as a member of a paratroop assault unit. Since he was left out of the book, no telling who else was missed.

Memorial Day and D-Day made me think how our poorly our military personnel have been treated. I started reading, and I read and I read. I cannot write as much as I read, but here are some facts that I feel like should be shared.

Babe (Ellis O., Sr.) Windham (1923-2010) was a Madison County serviceman in WWII. Born in Bundic community (west of North Zulch, north of Hwy 21), he enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor and served 1941-1945. He had two ships shot out from under him. The first, the heavy cruiser USS Salt Lake City, escorted the USS Hornet that launched daredevil pilot Jimmy Doolittle and others like him to bomb Japan in the first retaliatory strike after Pearl Harbor. After the Salt Lake City was severely damaged, Babe served on the USS Bismarck Sea, which was the last aircraft carrier lost in enemy action in World War II. When that ship went down under attack, Windham and his mates spent hours in the water and were strafed by gunfire from a Japanese fighter plane. Many of his fellow crewmen were killed. Along with thirteen battle stars, Mr. Windham received a Purple Heart for valor.

Fred and Myrtle Cannon’s family was hit hard by World War II. You will notice we share the same last name; Fred and my father were cousins. The couple had 12 children, nine sons and three daughters, and the three oldest boys, Edward, W.M., and Truman, served in WWII. Myrtle died in November before the war began, so Fred bore the worry of a parent alone. Both Edward and W.M. served in the Army in Europe, and both received the Rifle Medal and AP Theater Ribbon. Truman served in Europe and got the Rifle Award and Purple Heart. His father was notified by telegram that Truman had suffered a gunshot wound to his stomach while serving on the front lines in Germany and lived only a few days. He was buried in Holland until the war ended; then his casket was shipped to the States and then by train to North Zulch. It was then taken to their home place, set up draped with a flag, and friends and neighbors paid their respects. Of course, the ceremony at Park Cemetery included a 21-gun salute and the haunting strains of taps. He died April 11 before the Germans surrendered in Europe on May 8. Truman was only 19.

Kirk and Mattie Bullard sent a daughter and three sons to the war and were blessed to get them all home alive! As a Marine, daughter Glen Iris served in California. Arthur, Joe, and Sherman were in the Army. Joe was wounded in action and was a prisoner of war in Germany for 22 months. Arthur and Sherman both served in the Asiatic-Pacific theater. When the Army got wind that Sherman had post office experience before the war, it made good use of it. They sent him to Okinawa where he established the first base post office on that island, and he was there when the Japanese surrendered on V-J (Victory over Japan) Day. You can bet mail from home was valued by servicemen!

Folks, I’m not the only one who can write, who has been told stories, or who has memories! We missed out on lots of veterans’ memories, but IF YOU RECALL stories that veterans shared with you, PLEASE get them on paper or on a computer file! No one is going to grade your work, but we WILL treasure it.

Finally, I’d like to send special wishes to two of our Madison County Historical Commission members, Harold Gene and Pat Wells! He will celebrate his 90th birthday on June 14, and the next day they have their 68th wedding anniversary! Thanks to Mr. Wells, the Museum has a unique display, a piece of the first pipeline ever laid in the United, and it is made of WOOD! It was laid in 1859 from the Drake Well, in Titusville, PA, to the John D. Rockefeller Kerosene Refinery eight or nine miles away. When it was dismantled, the Director of Pipeline Safety & Regulations for the United States gifted Mr. Wells with a chunk of it, and Mr. Wells saw fit to put it in the Museum here. If you have not seen it, you should!

Madison County Museum is located at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX 77864 and is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Curator Jane Day Reynolds would love for you to visit!

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