Remembering a fallen soldier

This was a military plan to force Germany out of France.

To assist this huge operation, our military planned to invade southern France. The landing would go ashore on the Mediterranean coast near Cannes.

Before the Allies could launch their huge attack, they had to assemble enough men and materials on the continent.

After seizing the landing beaches, the troops pushed inland to seize Cherbourg and other useful ports.

The capture of Cherbourg had confirmed the expectation that the Germans would destroy the major harbors before allowing them to fall to the Allies.

The Allies needed large ports to sustain the coming offensive. Thus was born Operation Anvil, later renamed Operation Dragoon by Winston Churchill because he said he “had been dragooned into it.”

It was originally intended to precede the main effort in Normandy, but it was delayed because of a shortage of landing craft.

Allied planners had expected to have the port of Antwerp open; however, Montgomery was unable to open the seaward access to Antwerp, thus blocking the use of Antwerp.

With its seaward access blocked, the port of Antwerp was useless as a source of supplies.

Meanwhile, Marseilles and Toulon received massive tonnage until December when Antwerp opened.

Nevertheless, Churchill came to see the landing on Aug. 15, 1944. Almost 90,000 men were put ashore by sea and air.

As Allied ground forces pushed deep into Southern France, casualties started to mount requiring the construction of proper cemeteries.

As part of our tour 20 years ago, my wife and I visited the beautiful Epinal Military Cemetery and the grave of a young man, James Gallagher of Pennsylvania. Most of the grave sites contained known soldiers, but some were unknown.

On August 15, a little over two months after the landings in Normandy, Allied Forces launched this southern France assault. Within two weeks, Marseilles and Toulon ports had been liberated by U.S. forces.

In less than one month, U.S. troops from southern France had advanced 400 miles and made contact with those from Normandy on Sept. 11, 1944.

The 48-acre Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial is one of 14 permanent WWII American military cemeteries erected on foreign soil by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

The 5,255 American military dead buried in the Epinal Cemetery lost their lives in the fighting across Central France.

A very proper ceremony was conducted at Epinal in 1958 to select a casket containing the unknown remains of an American soldier killed in action in the Epinal area.

The casket was then transported to the Arlington National Cemetery.

The grave described in this article was an identified grave. Family and friends were never located.

Hugh Garver, 91, served our country in World War II. He resides in Altoona.


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