Delawareans mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day

After serving his country for four years and five months, Pfc. George Conrad Beebe of Lincoln, Delaware, the son of James Archie and Grace Lee (Young) Beebe, was killed in action on this day in 1944.

Cpl. William Verderamo of Wilmington, son of Carmen and Rose Marie (DiGugliemo) Verderamo, was also killed in action during that fateful attack in Normandy, leaving behind a grieving widow, Mary Margaret (Bryner) Verderamo.

These are just a couple of the Delawareans who gave their lives that day along with more than 4,400 others from the United States alone who are being remembered today on the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.

The names of Delawareans who lost their lives during World War II were memorialized in a memorandum compiled by the Public Archives Commission of the state of Delaware just a few years after the “Great Crusade,” as General Dwight D. Eisenhower called D-Day.

Delaware’s heroes also include Pvt. Houston Long of Millsboro, son of Lester and Ethel (Hudson) Long, who was killed in action in Normandy weeks later on June 22 as troops continued to deal with the aftermath of D-Day.

James Wallace Davis, Jr. of Smyrna, son of James Wallace and Rena (Jones) Davis, was also killed in action in Normandy. He left behind his wife, Ethel (Shane) Davis, after serving the country for two years and 11 months.

But when it comes to remembering D-Day, nothing will compare to standing on the beach where the landing took place, Dover resident Robert Neylans said.

As events all over the world were planned to remember the 75th anniversary, Mr. Neylans, his wife Carol, and his brother and sister-in-law, David and Connie Neylans of Salt Lake City, Utah, planned their own trip to visit the famous beach.
While standing on the beaches and sitting in a foxhole once occupied by soldiers on the attack, Mr. Neylans said he thought of the younger generations who didn’t have to watch news of the event roll in or hear of losing a loved one in D-Day.
“The thing that strikes me is that the current generation is not aware of the events that took place that day, and rightly so,” the Air Force veteran said.

The Neylans in Normandy, France.

His brother David, who went on the trip with Mr. Neylans, is an Army veteran.

“We all thought, my wife, my brother’s wife, we all said we went through a generation that we understood the importance of one event preceding another. We don’t want people controlling other countrymen’s lives.
“By standing on those beaches, it just makes you sit and think, ‘By God, these were teenagers coming up on this beach getting slaughtered. And teenagers probably need to be aware what other teenagers did for them,’” Mr. Neylans added.

During their visit overseas, the military family toured Belgium, France and England. Spending several days on the Normandy beaches was one of the highlights.

“During a two-and-a-half-week tour of Belgium, France and England, we walked in solemn history,” he told the Delaware State News in a letter.

“That walk included several days visiting the five Normandy landing beaches, standing on the bluffs of Pointe du Hoc, and entering numerous villages that were associated with savage fighting between allied forces and German defenders. We also toured the regions of the Battle of the Bulge which included Bastogne. A humbling experience, to say the least. I must speak of this memorable time, because as my Brother David would say, ‘It was a new religious experience.’”

When planning their own trip, the Neylans’ purposefully avoided the D-Day anniversary because they knew the area would be crowded. In fact, more than 300 D-Day veterans showed up for the ceremony in Normandy, along with leadership from each country involved in the attack.

Although anniversaries can come and go, Mr. Neylans urged the community to do one task, saying in his letter, “For all who are familiar with the events of June 6, 1944, please convey to the new generation the importance of that day that began the move to secure our freedoms from tyranny.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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