At 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. “Overlord” was the largest air, land and sea operation undertaken before or since that fateful day including more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is quoted as saying, “We will accept nothing less than full victory.” The D-Day cost was high — the Allied Forces suffered nearly 10,000 casualties — but more than 100,000 soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.
June 6, 2014 is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. Each year, Americans bow their heads in silence and in memory of those wounded or killed during this momentous day in history. However, for one lady in Columbia, she’s taken it just a little bit farther.
Jeanne Palyok was born in North Carolina and went to France as a baby where she spent her young years with her grandmother and other members of her family. Jeanne worked as a translator for the American embassy for a short stint before deciding to work for the Army.
Jeanne met her husband, an American, while still living in France, and they decided to move back to the United States for their children’s education. Jeanne taught French for 18 years at Dreher High School and took her students on a seven-week trip to France each year. From there, the idea grew exponentially.
Jeanne has organized individual and group tours for many different organizations and has led two groups of veterans to Normandy for the 40th and 50th Anniversary of D-Day as well. “D-Day has been very rewarding. When we did the 40th, the veterans were still so young and were so excited,” Jeanne says. For this special occasion of the 70th Anniversary, Jeanne has organized a 10-day tour, which includes a trip to the American Cemetery in Normandy. “We wish to make this trip a gift to the veterans, who volunteered and fought so bravely, when they were very young, to guarantee the freedom we enjoy today.”
The group leaves on June 1 and will include 20 veterans and their guardians, totaling about 60 people. “It’s a lot. But we are thinking this will be our last trip because the veterans are reaching their late 80s and early 90s. Therefore, we need to make it memorable,” Jeanne says.
There has been much preparation for Jeanne in creating this non-profit organization that makes it possible to transport and accommodate WWII Veterans, most of whom landed on Omaha Beach, for this historical occasion.
For more information on D-Day, the 70th Anniversary, or to donate visit www.overlord70.com.