N ot many communities are lucky enough to have upward of 30 surviving World War II combat veterans, Whitehall is incredibly fortunate in this regard. Not only are these World War II veterans Whitehall residents, many of them are incredibly active members in the community, especially through the American Legion Post 83.
One such veteran is Army Second Division, Henry Gurney, who fought for this country over in Europe and was involved in ‘D-day’ in Normandy, France.
Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a general at the time, led a group of allied forces up the beaches of Normandy, which led to one of the most decisive allied victories of the war. This is the operation that has lived in the history textbooks as ‘D-day.’
June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of ‘D-day’ and Gurney will be returning to Normandy to honor this anniversary.
Gurney, who just last week served as Grand Marshal of Whitehall’s Memorial Day parade explained his reasons for returning to Normandy on the 70th anniversary of one of the most historic battles in not only American history, but World history.
“I usually go down to a service in Virginia, but I’ve been planning on going back over to Normandy for 70 years now” Gurney said, “I figured if I didn’t go this year, I was never going to make it over there”
Gurney, whose accolades include a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and a litany of other awards and medals, will be taking a two week tour of Europe, which will include France, Belgium and Germany.
Although many others may be going on this tour for sightseeing, the brunt of Gurney’s focus will be on returning to Omaha Beach in Normandy.
“There will be a service and remembrance right there on Omaha Beach on the sixth” Gurney stated.
‘D-day’ is now known as one of the most important and famous battles in history, students around the country learn of its importance when covering World War II in history class. However, It appears that “hindsight is 20/20,” because most of the soldiers of the time had no clue that this battle would become the spectacle it is today.
Gurney stated, “Oh no, I had no idea it would become this big.”