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Posted on Aug 17, 2007 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

In the Footsteps of Heroes

By Chad Weisensel

Day 4. Monday May14th:

After breakfast we headed towards Portsmouth and Southwick House. Southwick House was home to SHAEF or Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. This building was the nerve center for the D-Day invasion. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander for the Allied invasion made the most difficult decision of the war in this building. Ike as we all know him at this point, had to make a decision on when to unleash all the Allied power on to the French coast, all the deception plans had worked and the Germans still thought that the landing would happen at Pas-de-Calais not Normandy. Ike needed a break in the weather, he had already postponed the invasion and did not want to do it again. Postponing it would have meant waiting weeks before all the variables were back in favor of the Allies. It also meant that the secret could have got out and it gave Hitler more time to prepare his defenses. Royal Air Force Weatherman Staggs gave Ike the news he needed, there would be a break in the weather on June 6th but not all of the other weatherman felt that way, Ike believed in Staggs. Ike was surrounded by many of the Allied Generals like, Montgomery and Admiral Ramsey, he asked all the other men in the room what they thought. Some said let’s go, some wanted to wait. After thinking about it Ike gave the order " Okay, let’s go" and in 30 seconds everyone had left the room and Ike went from the most powerful man in the world to man with no power at all. So this begins what we all know now as D-Day.


We are lucky enough to stand in the very building in which Ike gave the order, the original map of the invasion is still on the wall as well as many paintings and photos of the Generals who spent much of there time here. To stand in the same spots that great men like Dwight Eisenhower stood is truly awe inspiring.

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After leaving Southwick House we then headed to the D-Day Museum. Here we spent time walking around this wonderful Museum that is home to some of the greatest embroidery called Overlord Embroidery. Overlord is the name of the Allied operation to invade France. The embroidery itself is amazing, it is over 83 meters long showing some of the greatest memories of the D-Day invasion. Inside the Museum there are some very nice dioramas as well as plenty of authentic equipment and a great souvenir shop. It is on the coast of England that was also one of the areas in which many men shipped off from on D-Day.

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We then drove to Poole to take the Brittany Ferry across the English Channel. On the trip across the channel we enjoyed beautiful weather, calm seas and good food. As a few of us sat on top of this giant transport ship you couldn’t help but think what the air above looked like during the Battle of Britain or what the sea looked like as all the transport ships, cruisers, mine sweepers and battleships looked like as they headed for the coast of France. The trip across was about 5 hours, plenty of time for everyone to sit down over a couple of adult beverages and get to know each other. We arrived at the Port of Cherbourg at around 9:30 pm, we had to go through French customs at this point, only problem was nobody was there, this would cause us many problems later in the tour! So we drove into France and headed for our first Chateau in Quineville France. Outside of this hotel was a trench system and some fortifications. The Chateau was built in the 18th century. We all found it odd to not have fans in the bathroom and no shower curtains.

Day 5. Tuesday- May 15th St-Mere-Eglise, Brecourt Manor, Utah beach, Carentan and Pt Du Hoc.

Today was the day in which we finally got to see some battlefields and everyone was excited. First stop was St- Mere- Eglise where many men of the 101st landed. If you know the story of D-Day the Allied troopers were dropped all over the French Countryside, they had to form little groups of fighting men and carry out their objectives. In some regards this helped confuse the German Military. If you have ever seen the movie The Longest Day you will remember the very famous scene in which a trooper John Steel (played by Red Buttons) gets hung up on top of the church. To this day there is still a mannequin of a paratrooper complete with all has gear hanging from the church, the fine people of St-Mere-Eglise have not forgotten. We made our way over to the church and had a chance to listen to Bill Wingett give his recollections of his drop on D-Day. He did not land in St-Mere-Eglise, he landed in water over his head and lost some of his gear. He actually met up with men of the 82nd Airborne and spent the rest of D-Day with them. He met up with his men on the June 7th or D+1. We visited the Airborne Museum in St-Mere-Eglise, once again they had plenty of great dioramas, artifacts and more.

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After St-Mere-Eglise we set out for the Stick 66 Crash site. Those familiar with the Band of Brothers series will recall that on D-Day Dick Winters became the leader of Easy Company while they looked for Thomas Meehan. Meehan took over as commander of Easy Company after Sobel was reassigned by Colonel Sink. Here we honored Thomas Meehan and the men killed here on this day, we also saw some raw emotion from our Veteran Bill Wingett, he lost many friends during the war and for us this was our first chance to see the passion and love for these men he still has. Bill placed flowers at the marker, took a step back and saluted his lost friends. Nobody had a dry eye at this moment. We also were able to test a set of hedgerows here as well. This was some of the thickest vegetation I have ever felt. I could barely budge the section I was tugging on. You can certainly see why so many tanks got hung up on these hedgerows.


Next was where Easy Company was given their first test, Brecourt Manor. Due to the long standing friendship of the people of Stephen Ambrose Tours and the family who own the manor we were able to walk into the field and see the attack route. This is still farm land and our great host had put the cattle into a different pasture for us to get a close up view. During the D-Day invasion the men on Utah beach were being shelled by cannons somewhere in the French Countryside. Dick Winters and Easy Company were assigned the job of taking out these four cannon. Without going into to many details, Dick took a handful of men, while using basic tactics taught during his training and took the cannon. He and his men took three of the four 105MM cannon, Ronald Speirs of Dog Company arrived to support the attack and effectively took the 4th gun. Just to clarify a few things as well, there is not an elaborate trench system here, only small drainage ditches that are 2-3 feet deep. It is certainly deep enough for good cover but not like it is portrayed in the film.

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For his actions Dick Winters was recommended by Colonel Sink to win the Congrssional Medal of Honor but due to some Army regulations that only allow one Medal of Honor per campaign per Division he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. According to one of our tour guides Jake Powers, Dick Winters has no hard feelings about it and considers it one of his most cherished achievements. Today, the textbook attack is still taught at West Point.

After Brecourt Manor we made our way to Utah Beach, one of the 5 Allied invasion Beaches. It was again very cold, rainy and windy on the beach but we braved the conditions, to be honest there could have been a hurricane and we still would have made our way to the beach. Here I grabbed some sand and rocks as mementoes. I had also grabbed rocks from St- Mere- Eglise and Brecourt Manor. We also took a tour of the Utah Beach Museum, these Museums are starting to put a hole in my wallet. So many things to buy. Another fine Museum filled with some really great art, some of which I own myself.

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The city of Carentan was next. We walked along the exact route that Easy Company took to attack the city and kick the Germans out. Jake gave us the description of where the enemy machine gun nests were in the building, the field of fire they had was incredible. There are some buildings still standing and you can see the bullet holes in some of them, a reminder of the battle that took place here 60+ years ago. Here also is where Forrest Guth took some very memorable photos.


We were in for our first special treat today, we made our way to Pt Du Hoc. While Easy Company had nothing to do with Pt Du Hoc we were lucky enough to be able to see this very important battle site. No WW2 tour is complete without mentioning the Rangers who scaled this cliff on the morning of June 6th 1944. The bomb craters are still there, memories of the bombing and shelling that the Allies put on the German defenders. There were a lot of bunkers still standing, complete with giant holes from the massive shells that hit them in 1944. I stood out at the top of the point and just looked out at the channel, trying not to let my emotions get the best of me.

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  1. Hi, this is a great page and i was in the same museum: bastogne Historical Center
    it was the greatest museum ever!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hello Chad glad you enjoyed your tour! I,m the Brit who has Harold Webb’s helmet,(to jog your memory) That your veteran kindly added his name to, He
    was a good man and i bet very entertaining company, Also in ,y collection is the jeep cap and shoulder eagle belonging to Ed pepping one of the medics
    from BoB bye for now Chris Freeman.

  3. Hello, this site is exactly what I have been searching for. I share your passion for these heroes and especially their campaigns. I know that Stephen Ambrose passed away, however, are these tours still going on or are people on their own when they visit these sites. Our WWII veterans are getting up there and I am not sure if they are still a part of the tours. In any event, thank you for publishing these wonderful comments and pics as well.


  4. Kathy please contact me on the forums. My name is Chad and I am under the name creeping death. Thanks for your interest and I can answer all your questions.

  5. I am trying to find out if my Grandfather is in the jake Power’s book about the 101st airborne in Normandy. My grandfather is now deceased but I do know that we was there that day and part of that unit. Can anyone help me check and validate and let me know if my Grandfather is in the book before i spend this kinbd of money on it that I really don’t have at this time. Thanks
    I can be emailed at Thanks

  6. Chad,

    What a great briefing you gave, thank you! My wife and I want to go on this tour this May, but we were wondering if anyone has been on the tour this past year 2009?? I talked to the folks at Stephen Ambrose tours and was told that they may not have an Easy Co veteran going this May, and they have Ron dong the tour by himself. So I wonder if the tour woudl still be a good thing?
    Thank you for any feedback.

  7. Hi Chad,

    Do you have an email address or better yet, a phone number where I can reach you to discuss a band of brothers trip? I heard from you some time ago but the email address that you used wouldn’t let me contact you again.