HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – As “Taps” played and shots rang out, 70 years of questions were finally laid to rest as a monument was dedicated in honor of seven paratroopers who were killed on D-Day in Normandy, France.
“Murdered on, during D-Day, after dropping in with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regimen,” Paul Jordan, who has researched their deaths, said.
For years, the families of these paratroopers did not know how their loved ones had died.
Private Elsworth Heck, a graduate of Huntington High and a football star, was one of those paratroopers.
His sister Lois and her husband Bill Galyean were at the dedication, and Galyean said he has researched what happened after he found out that people in Hemevez, France held ceremonies to remember the sacrifice of the paratroopers.
Those paratroopers, Galyean and Jordan said, were executed by German troops near Hemevez. A French farmer found their bodies and said each one had been shot in the back of the head.
“Went all this time without knowing about it and it's time that this story was told,” Jordan said.
Heck’s body was the only one brought back to the U.S. to be buried, at the request of his mother. The others, Jordan said, are buried at an American cemetery in Normandy.
“But she died before we knew this was a massacre and not died in normal combat,” Galyean said of his mother-in-law.
After finding out that those paratroopers were honored in France, Galyean wanted a memorial in the U.S. as well.
“They've never been recognized in the United States,” Galyean said. “The French recognized our own troops. Shouldn't we recognize them too?”
With the exception of one other family, Galyean said, the families of the slain paratroopers still do not know what happened that day.
“I think it brings everything to closure,” Galyean said. “Our next effort probably is going to try to determine how we can get the same information to the other families.”