Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jerry and Paul "Frenchy" Lamoureux

When Jerry's wife Rita was dying in November of 1983 Jerry and I spent along time late one night. The conversation drifted to the topic of being a Marine in World War 2. I learned somethings that night. Life lessons from a guy that I never expected to learn them from. I thought he was a simple accountant. Was I ever wrong. Yeah someone slap me in the back of the head now!

We touched on his experience from time to time. The conversations have expanded over the years. I'm still learning.

Back around 2004 his granddaughter, Avery Palardy, was given a project on WW2 by her teacher. The task, was that if you had a relative that had served in WW2 to interview and bring them in to class. The idea was to document and allow the students to learn about WW2.

In conversation one afternoon Jerry was pretty excited about the project and pulled me aside.

"Hey I was at the school and there were three other veterans there. We all started asking about each other. One guy was in the Navy, another in the Army Air corps and another in the Army. The guy in the Army and I started shooting the sh@#( we are g-rated here). I said I was in the Marines and he said he was a paratrooper. Easy Company, 2nd, Battalion 506th, 101st AIRBORNE." I replied " NO SH#%!"

Turns out he was Paul "Frenchy" Lamoureux of North Smithfield, RI. Frenchy was Dick Winters interpreter in Normandy or so the story goes. Frenchy parachuted into Ste Mere Eglise early on 6 June 1944. He was in Lt. Dick Winters "stick" jumping from the same C-47.

For you historians in the audience D-Day 6 June 1944 is always associated with the Invasion of Normandy. However On 15 June 1944 the 2nd MARDIV, 4th MARDIV and the US Army 27th Infantry Division invaded Saipan. The invasion fleet left England on 5 June. On the other side of the world, the invasion fleet was leaving Pearl Harbor for Saipan the same day.

Jerry and Frenchy became pretty fast friends in a short time. Each had become battle hardened in combat and tempered over the years building families and moving forward. Both came from large families. Jerry one of nine and Frenchy from a family of 13.

Jerry and Frenchy came of age in a time when this country was at war all over the world. In the words of a Special Forces NCO that I know; " ...those guys were in back when we actually won wars!" Truly the only way home was through Berlin and Tokyo.

Documents read "Duration of the war plus six months." Pretty straight forward.

They came back home, settled in and raised families. Both of their wives were named Rita.

Jerry and Frenchy never talked about the war to family. Merely saying that the other guys were heroes. The ones that never came home.

Frenchy has a son named Jerry and a daughter named Susan.

I learned of Frenchy passing away and called Jerry at home and broke the news. He was stunned. He spoke to me later in the day and had called Frenchy's phone. It tripped over to his son. His son confirmed that his father had passed away.

Jerry and I have spoken about the passing of Frenchy.

One of my friends sons graduated from West Point and was assigned to the 101st Airborne. He was being sent to Iraq. I asked Jerry to see if Frenchy would sign a Copy of Band of Brothers, by Stephen Ambrose. Frenchy had agreed to do it, but passed away before it could be accomplished.

I will say this, cherish the moments and the time you have with these vets. They are from an era where men and women did things and didn't complain. Great things. They fought in a dark time. They turned back the tide of tyranny. If you can learn anything from guys like Jerry and Frenchy, it is to draw strength from their hard fought lessons. In times were the guys to the left and right were the only thing that mattered. Those guys didn't always make it that two to three feet to cover. No rhyme or reason who got hit and who didn't.

Jerry always says he was lucky. He got home and raised a great family with a wonderful wife.

A common theme that I hear from vets of WW2 is the same thing. " The real heroes never came home." Each of them all tend to get that far away quiet look.

Here is to Jerry and Frenchy. Guys like them and guys that want to be like them.

OOrah and Curahee.

The audio recordings of the school reports by Jerry's grandchildren Avery, William, and Meghan can be found here:

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