Cathedral of the Pines remembers D-Day

Cathedral of the Pines Trustee Greg Walsh welcomes attendees to the observance.

Cathedral of the Pines Trustee Greg Walsh welcomes attendees to the observance. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Paul Vincent gives a talk on the events leading up to the World War II invasion of Normandy.

Paul Vincent gives a talk on the events leading up to the World War II invasion of Normandy. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Veterans line up for a photograph during the Cathedral of the Pines Memorial Day event Thursday.

Veterans line up for a photograph during the Cathedral of the Pines Memorial Day event Thursday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Members of the Rindge Veterans Association post the colors.

Members of the Rindge Veterans Association post the colors. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Paul Vincent gives a talk on the events leading up to the World War II invasion of Normandy during the Memorial Day event at the Cathedral of the Pines on Thursday.

Paul Vincent gives a talk on the events leading up to the World War II invasion of Normandy during the Memorial Day event at the Cathedral of the Pines on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Army veteran Craig Clark, a member of the Rindge Veterans Association, brings up the rear  of the color guard.

Army veteran Craig Clark, a member of the Rindge Veterans Association, brings up the rear of the color guard. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

World War II veteran Richard Hamilton of Brattleboro, Vt., was honored on Thursday, and the ceremony was dedicated in his honor.

World War II veteran Richard Hamilton of Brattleboro, Vt., was honored on Thursday, and the ceremony was dedicated in his honor. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-04-2024 12:03 PM

Modified: 06-05-2024 3:36 PM


On Thursday, in honor of the 80th anniversary of D-Day – the invasion of Normandy – the Cathedral of the Pines hosted a Memorial Day observance and presentation on the events leading up to the historic event.

Paul Vincent, a former professor of Keene State College known for his study of World War II, presented the events leading up to the historic day, touching on the tensions leading up to the invasion, the anticipation from both sides and how the entire operation was nearly scuttled by bad weather.

Operation Overlord

Vincent said, at the time, everyone knew that an invasion was inevitable.

“Virtually everyone in Europe understood an invasion was coming. The question was where, and when,” Vincent said. 

The “where” was essentially between two potential landing points – Normandy, or the Pas-de-Calais. Germany was anticipating the landing to be Pas-de-Calais, mainly due to the English Channel being the thinnest there – a mere 20 miles from Dover, England – and its proximity to Germany.

While Adolf Hitler did suspect Normandy as the landing ground, he was eventually convinced the Pas-de-Calais was the spot, both by his own commanders and through trickery, as the Allied forces created dummy headquarters, complete with inflatable and cardboard tanks and other vehicles, and put Gen. George S. Patton in charge.

“The Germans believed no invasion would happen without Patton at the head,” Vincent said. “The question of where had been successfully disguised.”

Troops began mobilizing, and the “big show” was set to begin on June 5. However, it almost didn’t happen that way, not due to any failure of planning, but due to the uncontrollable forces of the weather. A major weather system was moving in, expected to land on June 3. The force included three American division, two British divisions and one Canadian division, two American airborne divisions and one British airborne division.

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Vincent said bad weather would have been disastrous for several reasons, mainly because the landing force needed very specific conditions in order to move forward – a low tide, which must coincide with dawn, and at least a half moon for the airborne division. The next time conditions would match would be June 19, and if delayed then, forces would have to wait another month, cutting into the summer campaigning season significantly.

“This was an absolute nightmare situation for [Gen. Dwight] Eisenhower,” Vincent said.

A close watch on the weather conditions began, and eventually the report came down – a projected 36-hour break in the weather was anticipated, though it was expected to begin storming again after that.

Vincent said it was a “gamble of astronomical proportions” to move forward despite the dicey weather predictions, but the call was made, and D-Day moved forward on June 6.

Honoring Hamilton

The Cathedral of the Pines Memorial Day service was dedicated to Richard Hamilton, a World War II Air Force veteran from Brattleboro, Vt., who was in attendance Thursday, and stood to be recognized.

Hamilton, who is 100 years old, has a particular connection to the Cathedral of the Pines. The World War II museum in the lower levels of the cathedral’s Hilltop House includes a large model of a B-17 bomber he gifted to the museum. The type of plane isn’t incidental – Hamilton was a radio operator on a B-17, named “Destiny Child” during World War II. The plane was shot down on July 20, 1944, during its ninth mission. 

Five of the nine crew aboard survived, including Hamilton, and he spent nine months in the Stalag Luft IV prison before he was able to return home on July 8, 1945.

Upon his return to the United States, Hamilton married his wife, Joyce White, and raised four daughters, all four of whom were in attendance with him during Thursday’s ceremony. He and Joyce ran a restaurant on Hogback Mountain on Route 2 in Marlboro, Vt., for many years. 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244  or asaari@ledgertran script.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.