Sunday, January 03, 2021

For ever Lucas County on the Normandy coast, too

Back in 2017, the Lucas Countyan paid virtual visits to American cemeteries in France where two of the 26 young Lucas Countyans who gave up their lives during World War I are buried --- Pvt. Fred A. Culbertson at Oise-Aisne, Seringes-et-Nesles, and Pvt. Oshea J. Strain, at St. Mihiel, Thiaucourt.

If you're interested in reading those posts, I'll point you toward "For ever Lucas County at the Oise-Aisne Cemetery" and  "With Oshea Strain at St. Mihiel American Cemetery."

It seemed important then, and still does, to remember those who over the course of nearly 250 years have invested their lives in the future of these relatively young United States, a nation still struggling to decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

So today I though we'd visit the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer where the remains of (or memorials to) three young Lucas Countyans ensure that there always will be a small patch of Iowa in this historic region of northern France.

Situated on a clifftop overlooking Omaha Beach, one of five landing beaches of the allied Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, the 172-acre cemetery contains the remains of 9,388 U.S. military personnel, most of whom died during the invasion or in the bitter contest waged thereafter until mid-August as the Allies battled German forces to break out of Normandy, then free France and liberate Europe. The names of 1,557 more personnel whose remains were lost, many in the English Channel, during Operation Overlord are inscribed on panels in the Garden of the Missing. 

The cemetery, on the site of a temporary American Cemetery established on June 8, 1944, is one of 14 around the world meticulously maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.


The first of the three Lucas Countyans to fall was U.S. Army PFC Jefferson A. Osenbaugh, 26. A native of Otter Creek Township, he was a son of Charles R. and Effie L. Osenbaugh, born Dec. 26, 1917, and inducted on March 24, 1942

PFC Osenbaugh was assigned to Headquarters Co., 1st Battalion, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division, when he was killed in action in Normandy on June 11, 1944. Awarded the Purple Heart Medal posthumously, he is buried in Plot C, Row 10, Grave 42.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Richard L. Patterson, 24, of Chariton, was the son of Carrie (Becker) Witherell/Ellis and Creed Patterson and the father of Patricia Elaine. Born 30 May 1920, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during July 1940 and was assigned with a U.S. Army engineering unit to the Canada-Alaska Highway Project for a year, then deployed overseas in October 1943.

Sgt. Patterson, assigned to the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion, was lost in the English Channel on June 19, 1944, when the LST he was aboard, bound from England to the French coast, was struck by a German mine. Awarded the Purple Heart Medal posthumously, he is commemorated on Tablets of the Mission in the cemetery. 

U.S. Army Corporal Raymond D. Morrison, 23, of Cedar Township, was a son of John Wesley and Mary F. (Dean) Morrison, born 29 October 1920 in Cedar Township, inducted 15 October 1941.

Corporal Morrison, assigned to the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was killed in action near St. Lo, France, on July 15 1944. Awarded the Purple Heart Medal posthumously, he is buried in Plot A, Row 3, Grave 36.


The cost of the Normandy campaign in terms of human life was staggering. From D-day through August 21, the Allies landed more than two million men in northern France and suffered more than 226,386 casualties: 72,911 killed/missing and 153,475 wounded. German losses included more than 240,000 casualties and 200,000 captured. Between 13,000 and 20,000 French civilians died, and many more were seriously wounded.

(Top image credited to Bjarki Sigursveensson, Wikimedia Commons; reflecting pool/memorial image, to Leon Petrosyen/Wikimedia Commons)

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