Monday, June 13, 2011


My father-in-law fought in the Pacific during the Second World War, piloting landing craft like this one, recently restored and on display at the First Division Museum at Cantigny:

Here's a heart-stopping view of Normandy, France, from a similar craft on D-Day:

These boats, we learned, even had assigned seating: Flame Thrower Team, Demolition Team, Wire Cutting Team, Browning Automatic Rifle Team, Bazooka Team. Lieut. (jg) Al Johnpeter.

This boat likely was used in the D-Day invasion of France. In peacetime, it became a barge used by French fishermen. Sixty-seven years later, it's been restored and is one of maybe 12 left of the 22,000 used in the war.

My father-in-law, like most veterans, rarely spoke of his experiences. Letters he wrote home are filled with news of the oppressive heat, his longing for a cold glass of buttermilk and waiting for a watch from his parents. We have learned from the records of the U.S.S. Wayne that he piloted a landing craft in seven separate engagments. So, we felt the need to see and understand just a little, just for a moment.

Cantigny (the g is silent, mes amis) is the home of Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. As a commander in the 1st Infantry Division during the First World War, he renamed his estate Cantigny in honor of the first American victory. Now the grounds and museum, located in Wheaton, IL, are a memorial to and research center for the "Big Red One," as the division is named.

The gardens are absolutely lovely.


Carol said...

Your account really makes it personal. I just said a little prayer of thanks to Lt. Al Johnpeter for his service.

Sarah said...

Thanks for this wonderful story Sue. I know Dad would have appreciate it also. XXOO

Naperville Now said...

Although I suspect he would shake his head at spending money to renovate the landing craft. He was strategic in his investments.

Sharon said...

Well done mon amie.