D-Day and Remembering Veteran Harry Catchpole

Ellouise - circa 1944
D-Day Today. Two years ago I met a veteran who was there in person and could tell the story. Meeting Harry Catchpole was a very important encounter for me - to know a person who was an eyewitness to history and enjoyed sharing the experience.

This year Harry is no longer "among us"and we cannot reach out to him to bring D-Day alive for us on this important day - but thanks to Andrew Hiller he leaves a story. Andrew is a friend of mine and I admire his skill as an interviewer so I put the two of them together knowing he would catch Harry's story. Unfortunately the station where his voice was recorded has archived his tape and its not available to us right now.
Hoping Andrew has saved it.

In 1944 I was 9 years old and I have such a vivid memory of that day. We lived in a 12 family apartment house in Charlotte, NC. My daddy was in India. Each family in the 'Virginia Apartments" had a family member somewhere overseas and all were hoping this meant that the war in Europe was coming to a close. And that the end of the war in the Pacific would soon follow. There was excitement in their voices as the adults talked about the D-Day invasion while they studied the newspapers. Radios blared out the story from every apartment. It was a hopeful day.

Meeting Harry was an inspiring connection for me because talking with him furthered my belief in asking questions and uncovering history from eyewitnesses - and when that is not possible for me and I come across a story - I pursue letters and other personal documents to capture an unknown first hand story.

That's why I do what I do with bits of women's history - remembering unknown women whose lives  have been forgotten and lost in the shadows of history. For some reason I have wrapped myself in the purpose to tell their stories if I can for as long as I can.

Is there someone in your family who was part of D-Day that you are remembering today?

To honor D-Day and remember Harry I am reviving this blog post I wrote about Harry two years ago.


Harry Catchpole Remembers D-Day and tells us about it 

June 6 this week, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the start of the defining battle in Europe of WWII. Washington reporter for Voice of Russia Andrew Hiller has a very special interview for D-Day.

Hiller's D-Day interview is with Harry Catchpole, an eye-witness American soldier, who in England days before Operation Overloardand in France for the battles that ensued. After being shipped to France from his job in England as a clerk on General Eisenhower's staff he was assigned to the Third Army under General George Patton.

Hiller's interview with Catchpole is a GEM  - - - not-to-be-missed.

Today Harry Catchpole is 101 years old. And he vividly remembers 1944, D-Day - and the days after when he was in France.

He is a US Army veteran who crossed the beach at Normandy in the squishy footsteps of those who landed on June 6. Listen to him tell of having to walk between the "white lines" to avoid the mines on the beach the morning he landed in Normandy. Listening to the former Sergeant describe those days takes you right to the spot - right into that history.

Hiller's interview brings a moment in the past to life.

Harry lives in Athens, GA where he and my sister Kathy McGill (mentioned in the audio) know each other well through the Univ. of Ga Catholic Center.  When I met Harry a year ago and heard him bring those days of 1944 to life I was totally mesmerized. I kept asking him questions - questions which were fueled by a need to grab the real story from someone who was there.

Listening to him I really understood the enormous importance of asking veterans for and listening to their stories. They have the history. They have the truth of the place. They have stories to tell, if they are willing, which we need to hear.

It is even more important to talk with the veterans in our families - to know their stories and to hear them tell us about their experiences. Many people tell me they wish they had asked. I wish I had asked my father more about his overseas service.

When I met Harry I was still working on my Arlington National Cemetary story. Hearing his stories ignited my interest in reaching out across for the breadth of stories at Arlington. I began wandering beyond Jim's and my spot - 7424 Roosevelt Drive.. into a new world.

This pursuit of veteran's stories has brought me now to The Hello Girls, the story I will be telling at the DC Capital Fringe in July in Washington, DC. They are gutsy women who stepped up and volunteered for military service when they were needed for WWI.

Their words make the story. Like Harry, they were there, but because they were women  - few heard their stories. I ask you, how fair is that?

Today listening to the audio tape of Andrew Hiller's conversation with Harry Catchpole I am so grateful Hiller captured him -

Now on D-Day we can all share this history -  on June 6 we can go to France with Harry,  And, thank them all for their Service.

Harry's comments about his recent visit to Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - about the loss of all those killed in WWII - brought me to tears. "What would the world have been like if their possible contributions had not been lost."

Why do we remember June 6? For the WIN - or to remember those who sacrificed their lives that day?

1 comment:

Kathy McGill said...
Harry Catchpole is a truly amazing man. I have been fortunate to know him and share his friendship. Harry has many stories not only WWII II but his life in general. Harry
Grew up in New York City during the Depression years. He had a successful business career and he and his wife , Cecily, traveled the world. Harry is truly a treasure of the century.

No comments: