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Friday, June 6, 2014 - 8:05pm
AMFREVILLE, France — Lt. Col. Charles J. Timmes was the commander of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, when he jumped into Normandy, France, June 6, 1944, not knowing what the next 96 hours would hold for him and his Soldiers.
Upon landing, Timmes was immediately fighting for his life, but not because of an enemy attack. The battalion commander landed in a flooded field and nearly drowned when a strong wind gust filled his parachute and dragged him over 200 yards. After the first gust of wind, a second gust picked him up and dragged him onto a nearby hill, saving his life.
Timmes and his men later rallied together more than a mile away from their original landing point, where they came under attack from enemy forces. After they held off the enemy forces, Timmes only had 150 men, one 57-milimeter canon, two machine guns and no means of communication with higher headquarters. Nazi troops kept up pressure on the paratroopers, but Timmes and his men kept them at bay over for four grueling days of combat.
Finally, 1st Lt. John Marr from Golf Company, with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Pfc. Norman Carter, the company's runner, broke from the battle to make contact with the 82nd Airborne command post, which was several miles away. Upon arriving safely to the command post, Marr and Carter were able to inform the command of their situation. The 325th Glider Infantry Regiment then came to the rescue and attacked the German forces from behind, resulting in the enemy being overpowered and Timmes' U.S. paratroopers winning the fight.
Seventy years later, Timmes and his story are legendary in these parts. The place he landed is now known as Timmes' Orchard, and a memorial site rests nearby to remind the locals of the brave commander who lead his troops through those fateful and seemingly endless nights. The memorial is made up of three standing stones, one each for the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.
A crown gathered there Wednesday, to honor of Timmes and his fellow U.S. veterans with a wreath-laying ceremony. The event was one of several commemorations this week celebrating the 70th Anniversary of D-Day operations conducted by the Allies during World War II, June 5-6, 1944.
"On those standing stones, are honored the paratroopers of the 507th and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments and foot Soldiers of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment because they fought here, surrounded by enemy forces who were superior in numbers and armaments," said Daniel Briard, who gave remarks at the ceremony. "Lt. Col. Timmes was never desperate. Himself and his men never gave up in front of enemy pressure."
One-by-one, each unit's stone received its wreath from a veteran who carefully placed the arrangement in front of the stones. Each representative then stood up and rendered an honorary salute.
One of Timmes' comrades in arms, Ernie Lamson, sat solemnly in the front row staring down at the wreath he laid in front of the grey glossy stone dedicated to the unit in which he had served during the invasion, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Lamson, a paratrooper assigned to Alpha Company, was the company clerk at the time and knew almost everyone in his unit, not only because he took care of their administrative needs, but also because he was training alongside them every week.
During the ceremony, Lamson stood out from the rest of the attendees, wearing bright red 82nd Airborne Division attire decorated with polished jump wings, belt buckle, and more patches, badges and trinkets then most would even try to count. Lamson also wore his original parachute badge he received after completing jump school in 1943, on a bracelet on his left wrist.
The 92-year old veteran was not one of those who jumped on June 6. Lamson broke his femur in a jump landing a few months before the operation. When the medics came to his aid they put him on a stretcher and were ready to carry him off the landing zone when one of the handles on the stretcher broke resulting in further injury and puncturing one of his lungs.
"I always felt cheated because I didn't stay with the guys that I trained with," said Lamson with a somber tone in his voice.
That powerful sentiment of camaraderie is the same one that helped Timmes push his men through their brush with death. Seventy years later, it lingers in Timmes Orchard where the national anthems of the U.S. and France brought tears to the eyes of those in attendance at the memorial site.