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D-Day 75th Anniversary - Honoring Those Who Served
Old 06-04-2019, 09:57 AM   #1
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D-Day 75th Anniversary - Honoring Those Who Served

My great uncle, Henri (Henry) L. Laussucq (French/American 1882-1975) served in occupied Paris where he helped the French Resistance prepare for D-Day. He arrived four months before the Normandy landing and at age 62 he was the oldest OSS agent in the field. Henri was a French national, born and raised in Brittany. Having emigrated to the U.S. as a young man, he eventually became an American citizen and was a patriot, holding a deep abiding love for both the U.S and his native France.

Unbeknownst to everyone that knew him, my great Uncle Henri, apart from being an artist, led a secret and highly adventurist life as a spy for the United States. Four months before D-Day he was put ashore in Normandy via British submarine into Nazi occupied France by the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), the forerunner of the present-day Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Given the code name "Aramis" or swordsman, Henri was sent to Paris with Virginia Hall Goillot, a Philadelphia socialite. Recognized today as America's greatest female spy, she had many aliases, including "Marie Monin", "Germaine", "Diane", "Marie of Lyon", "Camille" and 'Nicolas." The Gestapo nicknamed her "Artemis" (Greek goddess of the hunt) and considered her "the most dangerous of all Allied spies". She is reported to have killed 150 German soldiers and captured more then 500 while she sabotaged Nazi communications and transportation. Henri and Ms. Hall worked in Paris with the French Resistance to prepare for the Normandy area landing and the liberation of that city. Both of strong wills, they parted ways with her operations moving to the suburbs and his staying in Paris. (Their relationship is mentioned in the book, "Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy" by Judith L. Pearson.) While there is little public documentation of Henri's exploits, his receiving a Silver Star for heroism (the first civilian to receive the award) and private introduction to President Truman by Major General Donovan suggests they were daring and significant. According to President Truman's daily diary, he met privately with Uncle Henri on 13 September 1945.

The OSS files of Henri Laussucq along with those of many other OSS spies were not declassified until 1980, 5 years after his death. My great uncle kept the secrets of his service to the nation to himself, only telling those who asked what he did during the war, “I was a painter”. About 10 years ago, I was able to obtain several microfiche copies of Henri’s declassified OSS files from a Brit who was carefully archiving the work of hundreds of OSS agents from WWII – sadly, many had been captured and killed. A reading of Henri’s files – though incomplete - provided insight into his work with the OSS during his time in Paris just months before the invasion. Henri and Ms. Hall worked under the very noses of the German high command and the Gestapo, playing an endless game of cat and mouse with them during a time of extremely heightened security. The Gestapo had a price on the head of Virginia Hall. On at least several documented occasions, both Henri and Ms. Hall narrowly escaped detection and capture.

DW & I recently concluded 3-1/2 months of travel in Europe with a visit to Paris in early May and walked many of the same streets as my great uncle did during those 4 months prior to the Normandy invasion. We walked over the same bridge on the Seine that Henri painted - as his OSS cover was that of a Parisian artist. We walked the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe in his honor as Henri’s top-secret clearance at the time did not permit him to join allied troops in their much-publicized triumphant march after the liberation of Paris.

The work of hundreds of these OSS agents during WWII has hardly received the sort of notoriety that is typically reserved for the heroism bestowed upon conventional soldiers. The fact that these spies, while in service to their countries wore no uniform, had no rank, carried no rifles and were without the protections granted by the Geneva Conventions placed themselves at incredible risk. Too many of these brave individuals died horrific deaths at the hands of their Nazi captors and you won’t find their names and ranks engraved upon white headstones in the hallowed cemeteries around Normandy. These clandestine agents have earned their place of honor and though some of them, like my uncle, were secretly decorated for their heroism and quietly went about their lives until they passed away, all of those brave men and women of the OSS deserve the same public acknowledgement and recognition during this week’s 75th anniversary of D-Day as others who served in uniform.

Merci beaucoup oncle Henri. Tu étais un héros!
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Old 06-04-2019, 10:10 AM   #2
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Here's a great story of D-Day by a survivor of Omaha Beach, told by Sam Elliot:

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All hail our clandestine warriors
Old 06-04-2019, 10:59 AM   #3
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All hail our clandestine warriors

How awesome is that? I had ancestors who drove tanks and flew planes, but none admitted to working in The Cold.

Real spy work isn't nearly as fun as Hogan's Heroes, nor as smooth as James Bond, but it was vital. I will raise a toast at dinner on Thursday to Uncle Henri on behalf of free people everywhere.
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:01 AM   #4
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Leonard Lomell was recognized by historian Stephen Ambrose as the single individual — other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — most responsible for the success of D-Day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Lomell
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Old 06-04-2019, 01:17 PM   #5
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How awesome is that? I had ancestors who drove tanks and flew planes, but none admitted to working in The Cold.

Real spy work isn't nearly as fun as Hogan's Heroes, nor as smooth as James Bond, but it was vital. I will raise a toast at dinner on Thursday to Uncle Henri on behalf of free people everywhere.
Interestingly enough, none of us knew about Henri's work with the OSS until many years later, after he had passed away. He also worked as an artist designing recruitment posters for the military and that is what likely led to his being recruited by the OSS. It wasn't until another family member who was doing genealogy work on the family tree (back in the 1980's) that his service in the OSS was discovered. It was after the publishing of Pearson's book, The Wolves At The Door, that I did some detective work of my own and managed to stumble upon the British gentleman who was taking on the job of archiving declassified files of OSS agents in WWII. In addition to sending me the microfiche records, we had a lengthy telephone conversation and he was able to fill in some details for me that were missing from Henri's records. It was based on information that he had gleaned from other sources during the course of his archival work.

There is one anecdote that Pearson recounts in her book of Henri, along with 2 other members of the French Resistance who were holed up in a Paris hotel, holding off German soldiers. Henri and his cohorts were in possession of Vichy French police files that were apparently vital to the successful liberation of Paris. In reading about this particular account, and others related in Henri's declassified OSS records, I had to remind myself that my great Uncle was 62 years old at the time that he was involved in this stuff.

I suppose it's a good thing that Henri Laussucq didn't take Early Retirement!
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Old 06-04-2019, 01:35 PM   #6
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Thanks for the great stories, candrew. Truly someone to be very proud of.
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Old 06-04-2019, 01:42 PM   #7
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My dad hit the beaches in the 2nd wave on D-Day, served under Patton whom he loved. He helped liberate Buchenwald concentration camp.



He returned home, raised a family and never talked about his service at all.Only in my late teens would he answer questions. He told me he never thought he'd come home alive and that was ok because his love of his country.


They were a special group of men and he was my hero.
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Old 06-04-2019, 03:13 PM   #8
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Great story ! My father was in WWII , it was something he talked about often but we didn't really pay enough attention . My father lost his left leg combat in Belgium so he always wore a wooden leg . When he passed the pastor read his last rites and all the good he did . He had two special medals the pastor briefly mentioned . When all was over I asked the pastor what were the medals for He said my father was in the battle of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge . My father was a badass and we never really knew it . By the way he had 3 purple hearts . The pastor said that WWII vets always had several purple hearts . I remember my dad worked 27 years in a foundry on a artificial leg . He never once thought of himself as handicapped.
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Old 06-04-2019, 03:19 PM   #9
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There probably were many special people in the previous wars that you never hear about. Your uncle was one of them.

My Dad was in the Navy in WWII on a minesweeper in the south Pacific for two years. He never thought he was going to come home. Said the Jap Zeros used the small minesweepers for target practice and sighting in their guns before they went after the bigger ships.
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Old 06-04-2019, 04:07 PM   #10
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Great story, thank all who have served prior and now. How many of your granddaddy’s came to Solomons island Maryland USNATB for their training...... it’s my home now
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Old 06-04-2019, 06:41 PM   #11
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Great stories. Makes me realize how little I actually know about D-Day.

Can anyone recommend a good documentary, something on Netflix or Youtube, or other streaming source (we also have Sling)?

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Old 06-04-2019, 07:58 PM   #12
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Great stories. Makes me realize how little I actually know about D-Day.

Can anyone recommend a good documentary, something on Netflix or Youtube, or other streaming source (we also have Sling)?

-ERD50
If you have Amazon Prime, D-Day 360 is a very good documentary available for streaming.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:03 PM   #13
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I remember my dad worked 27 years in a foundry on a artificial leg . He never once thought of himself as handicapped.
I'm sure that the horrors your Dad must have witnessed on the Normandy beaches - buddies of his being blown to pieces right and left - made him feel as though he was luckiest guy on earth just to get out of there alive.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:35 PM   #14
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My dad would tell the story of how he lost his leg . They were digging foxholes and all you could hear were boom , boom . He said the next thing he knew he flew up in the air and turned his head and saw a leg and blacked out . Six men were hit by the damage from that tank shell , he said two died . My dad was not perfect or educated but now I look back he had a certain class about him that education could not have given to him . Once a year they would play an old B&W movie at our theatre about war veterans returning from WWII without limbs . We went once and all the time I was there it was like this is not about my Dad .. . Dad did not park in handicapped parking till he was 65 . His leg was gone above the knee , till the day he died he was still walking.
Famous question was always Dad did you shoot any Germans , He would change the subject and tell a funny story about when he was in the army. .
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Old 06-05-2019, 06:11 AM   #15
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I remember reading a paperback in high school, can't find the title, about a faceless cadaver who washed ashore with a briefcase filled with fake plans of a invasion from the Mediterranean side. Supposedly, the Germans moved troops in that direction in order to defend the southern border only to be invaded at Normandy. I don't know if it was fact or fiction.

I recently read a story about an 18 yo youth who was part of a landing craft crew. Riding on a plywood boat with a steel door, he and the 30 troops heard the German machine gun bullets hitting the door over the noise of the diesel engines, twisting and turning, avoiding mines. When given the order to drop the door, he went numb, as they all knew the outcome; it took three orders for him to drop the door. All the troops on his craft were killed or severely wounded. He then started pulling the wounded back aboard, praying, figuring he would be hit. The door on the landing craft was laden with bodies that he couldn't get the door closed, and had to move them again realizing they couldn't move on their own. He made over ten trips that day...
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Old 06-05-2019, 06:24 AM   #16
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I remember reading a paperback in high school, can't find the title, about a faceless cadaver who washed ashore with a briefcase filled with fake plans of a invasion from the Mediterranean side. Supposedly, the Germans moved troops in that direction in order to defend the southern border only to be invaded at Normandy. I don't know if it was fact or fiction.
The book title you are referring to is probably "The Man Who Never Was" It is a true story and details what was known as "Operation Mincemeat" a ruse on the part of the British designed to disguise the invasion of Sicily and instead convince the enemy that said invasion would take place in Greece. British intelligence obtained the body of a dead homeless guy, dressed him as an officer of the Royal Marines, placed personal items, id's etc. on him and set his body afloat near the Southern coast of Spain where it was discovered by the Germans. The ruse was effective enough to convince German high command to relocate some of their combat troops to Greece.
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:10 AM   #17
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My dad was involved with D-Day as an everyday Army foot soldier. Well actually I think he was assigned to a "half track" for part of the war so I guess that's a lot better than walking all the time. During his 2 and 1/2 years in the "European Theater", he was awarded both the bronze and silver stars. When he passed away a few years ago, I found both the medals along with the original documentation describing the events that won him the medals. As his son, it was very interesting reading. Of course he had his share of war stories but I guess the most amazing thing (to me anyway) was that he was never seriously injured during his tour of duty.

I once asked him "how long was a tour of duty" for a foot solider in WWII. He told me at the time, it was understood that it was for the duration of the war.

Hearing his stories made me realize just how much our military sacrifices for us and the freedoms we have today.
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:28 AM   #18
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Great stories!

ETA - DW's uncle served in WWII. Hardly anyone knows that he did, or where. He never wants to talk about it. Seems to be a similar trait among WWII vets. If it wasn't for those who put their lives on the line, we wouldn't be living the great lives that we enjoy today.
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Old 06-05-2019, 12:29 PM   #19
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One of my grandfathers was killed in the Blitz. The other was in the American army in France and Germany. Something must have happened to him there, because when he came home at the end of the war, he could not integrate back into society or his family. He ended up living as a hermit in Mexico. I met him exactly once, for a day. He was in his mid 40s then, but looked much, much older and sort of haunted. He died soon after. Who knows what he endured over there to make him that way.

My great uncles also served in the US Army during the war. They came home and lived normally. I never once heard them talk about their time in the war.
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Old 06-05-2019, 01:30 PM   #20
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Great stories. Thanks for posting. I come from a fairly military-heavy family.

Both of my grandfathers served in the army during WWII, neither stormed the beaches on D day. My great uncle was a combat engineer whose job was to kill Nazis by blowing up pill boxes with satchel charges. He was a complete badass. Had a load of medals he earned stashed away in a drawer somewhere. My wife's grandfather stormed the beaches of Normandy. My father served in the Air Force, no combat tours. I am currently a Captain in the Army National Guard with three overseas tours, including two combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. My oldest two sons (14 and 16) are talking about joining the military too.
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