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Our Third Stop

Our final visit of our long day was at a Canadian War Cemetery here in Normandy. This was our first visit to a cemetery on the trip. Visits to a German cemetery and (I think) a British cemetery is also on the agenda. Of course, a visit to America's Normandy cemetery takes place on our final full day here.

The visit was surprisingly powerful. The British Commonwealth handled burial of their dead in a different manner from the Americans. The families in Canada, for instance, weren't given the option to repatriate their loved ones' remains. Families could, however, have an inscription made on the tombstone of their soldier. Lauren found these inscriptions particularly moving. Here are a few examples.





There were also some other ways in which the grave markers showed care and nodded to the diversity in Canada's armed forces. Most graves were in English, but quite a few were in French. At first I thought it would just be in English or French given the soldier's unit. How…
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The Fruits of Our Research

Our research today yielded nothing profound regarding Bill's life and service. Mostly, it confirmed things we already knew, adding the color of context to some details. For instance, we have a firmer timeline of where he was and when. But the document you see photographed above, one of the final things we found, might be the most meaningful item. It's the company's history, typed out late in the war, or even after the war had ended (date was uncertain). It concludes with these words: "Only one man who came overseas with Company 'E' originally is still with the organization, but all those who are or have ever been apart [sic] of it, have a right to be proud."

Only one remained.

Was that a surprise? Not really. I had seen reference to that somewhere in our research, and thought there was a chance it was hyperbole. This find would suggest it is fact.

Bill's unit had seen a lot. Part of the 1st Infantry Division, the unit left from Scotland for North Af…

Fun Finds at Today's Archives

Volunteers at Archives II set aside specific boxes through which Lauren could look for clues as to Bill's life in the Army. Certainly this saved a lot of time, not just the time it takes to find what boxes to look in, but time for the boxes to come back down.

And that saved time allowed us to focus on some fascinating gems in the boxes. Here are a few very interesting items we discovered.



Lauren's favorite artifact was a captured German map with American typing and writing. It outlined the German mortar positions and strong points overlooking Omaha Beach. I wish I had gotten the camera around in time.

In a regimental history of Bill's unit we came across evidence that both Eisenhower and Montgomery visited the division. It's a shame we couldn't find a picture of either event. Given enough time, I'm sure we could have done so.

We spent the morning looking at photographic records, the afternoon with text records. I really could have spent all morning poring thro…

Bill

I am at the point of this blog where I really can't proceed with telling you about Bill, the soldier Lauren is researching. We spent the day at the National Archives facility in College Park, a facility known as Archives II. The very last document we found is the one that told us the least new information. You'll find it above. If you look closely, you'll see a "1" entered in the row for Company E and the column for KIA - Officers. That number represents First Lieutenant Edmund William Duckworth. From what we know, he was most commonly known as Bill to his family and friends.

Lauren's research has uncovered a great many details about Bill's life and service, and I'll quickly summarize it here. Later this summer, Lauren will author a website that will be much more comprehensive. I'm offering a biographical sketch here to acquaint you with the fallen hero Lauren will be eulogizing on Tuesday.

Bill grew up in Lancaster County, PA. He graduated from …

Arlington

The group visited Arlington today. We had a tour guide who made it a point to walk us through the cemetery to graves that each offered stories about Normandy that we might not have otherwise known. Our trip there lasted about three hours, and I'm appreciative of how it gave me a much better sense of how large this cemetery is. Here are the graves we visited as part of the tour.









He cut his normal tour short so as to permit stops at the graves of two grandfathers of our Normandy Institute students.


Of course we went by some graves of other famous figures.



Creepy Poster

This morning's lecture might have been the best classroom session yet. Our presenter, Dr. Christopher Hamner, was guiding us through a presentation about motivations for soldiers. I liked his approach, and the kids did too. He didn't have a script necessarily, but had a lecture that sounded more like a conversation. His Powerpoint slideshow was almost entirely images, with the occasional slide offering questions for us to ponder or big points he was trying to summarize. He invited questions and comments.

When he got to the poster seen above, one of the students said that he found the poster creepy. The classroom erupted. And I can't help but agree with him. There's several suggestive elements to the figures in this poster, and as I shared with one instructor here, I'd blush if I tried to articulate what made it creepy. Therefore, the student's choice of the word "creepy" is good enough for me.

What that student's response did, though, was cue our…

Memorials

The second of our two lectures this morning had me a little concerned. The topic was "Designing Memory: The American War Cemeteries in France." I have an architectural sweet tooth, so I wasn't worried about being bored. But I was worried that the kids might be challenged to hang in on a presentation that was so much about aesthetics.

Was I ever wrong.


First, I have to give credit to the presenter, an art historian who works for the Smithsonian named Kate Lemay. She knew she had to do something to hook the students early, even if it was to randomly call on one student to ask them to read something (like a grave inscription) posted on the screen. It worked, normalizing the idea of the students participating before teachers had a chance to crowd them out. And in Q&A dialogue, she favored the students in who she called to speak.

When the session was finished, I happened to walk out and toward lunch with some of the boys who were in the session. I saw two (one from Hawai…