Saturday, June 27, 2009


My grandfather was Lt. Col Edwin J. Ostberg. During WWII, he served as the 1st Battalion commander of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

I have always wanted to retrace his steps during the war, and this was going to be the year.

After spending several days in Paris, we rented a black Volkswagen Passat and drove the 200 kilometers out to Normandy, France.

Every year, in early June, people travel from across the globe to celebrate the success of the D-Day invasion. This year was somewhat special since it was the 65th anniversary.

Leading up to June 6th, many of the smaller towns have their own celebrations and commemorations. The Disney Land of these small towns in Sainte-Mère-Église. It was one of the first towns to be liberated in the allied invasion. Tourism now supports much of Sainte-Mère-Église’s economy, and it is filled with many small museums and World War II-related antique shops.

The village was a pivotal point in Operation Overlord, because it sits on one of the main routes to the Normandy landing beaches. It was imperative that the town be taken quickly, and held, to prevent the Germans from counter attacking once the invasion had begun.

The great responsibility of holding this town was left to the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions of the US army.

One of Sainte-Mère-Église’s main attractions is its centrally located church. It sits in the middle of a large town square. Paratrooper John Steele made the church famous when his parachute got tangled up on the church spire. German soldiers still occupied the town, so he hung there all night pretending to be dead until his men could cut him down. In memory of that story, a dummy paratrooper still hangs from the church spire.

The town center erupts with celebration each June and the air is filled with laughter and liquor fueled singing. At least one out of every two people walking the streets was dressed in period uniforms.

I don’t have too many pictures from this town, since my left hand was often occupied by a grilled sausage and my right hand with a French beer.

One of the great things I experienced here was the C-47 plane that circled the town. Every now and then the pilot would unexpectedly fly right over the town about 200 feet off the ground. You could never see it coming, and as a result I was only able to get this picture on a banked approach.

When a plane that size flies right over your head, it is really an amazing experience. During my entire trip to retrace my grandfather’s footsteps, and all of the commemorative services that I attended, I found that I rarely got emotional. However, every time that giant plane buzzed us my eyes would fill with tears.

Next stop … La Fière Bridge and Chef du Pont.

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Blogger Xavier Van Daele said...

Dear sir, My name is Xavier Van Daele. I'm Belgium. I'm very interesting by the history of your Grand Father. Please, check my website:
And check my email address on this website. Thank you. Xavier

4:38 AM  

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