Monday, August 29, 2011

High school history project coincidence

Back in April, 2011 I got an unexpected email from my 10th grade history teacher. She is now the librarian working at a different high school. A teacher there asked if she could find a copy of a book. It turns out the book they were after is my own Longshore Soldiers. Ms. Graney was surprised to see her former student's name as the author.

The history class was researching Pennsylvania men who had died during the Normandy invasion. One student chose Willard U. Begel of Lehighton, who had served in the 519th Port Battalion. I sent them a book, talked to the teacher and student over the phone, and sent them some photos. You can see the results of their research in their website, which just went live.

Willard Begel was in my grandfather's 304th Port Company. The 22-yr-old GI was killed during a June 15th bombing by German aircraft on Utah Beach. A 1st Engineer Special Brigade document references the attack (see image at left). Dave Weaver, another member of the 304th, knew Begel and had bunked with him in Boston. Weaver added more detail to the incident, saying that Begel and another GI were hit while taking cover in their foxhole. His body was laid to rest in Normandy American Cemetery (see photo below). A road at Utah beach was named after him, with several markers permanently posted in his honor (see bottom photo).

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