WWII RANGER ASSOCIATION BANQUET - JUNE 6, 1994
6:30 p.m. - At the Hotel DuGuesclin in Grandcamp, the poisson and the agneau are ready to be whisked to the table. The guests, nursing aperitifs and downing dainty hors d'oeuvres, impatiently glance at their watches, then at the doorway. Two busloads of Rangers have yet to show up.
|Earlier that afternoon, all three buses and a trail of cars set out for the ceremonies at Omaha Beach. Eighteen heads of state or government will be present. Normandy is in a state of siege. The main highway is closed. The only route to Omaha is by a tangling maze of detours along narrow backroads, twisting and twining through hedgerow country. 17,000 soldiers and 11,000 members of the gendarmerie nationale and local police stand watch in the 40 mile zone between the landing beaches. Helicopters sweep the skies. Every crossroad is a checkpoint. To proceed, a special laissez-passer is required. It is the BADGE, bestowed only upon invited guests. Still, many will be turned back. Those who are allowed to continue, advance to the next roadblock, then to the next, and the next. ..... One bus of Rangers balks and returns to Grandcamp. They will wait for their companions at the banquet that the WWII Rangers Association has organized for their French hosts.|
|At 7 p.m., a second bus returns. Having succeeded in reaching the parking lot behind Omaha Beach, the Rangers on board decide to return rather than wait out the lengthy security checks. Alone, bus number three perseveres. 7:30.. 7:45..... Finally, at 8 p.m., the men of bus three and their families troop in, tired and hungry, but thrilled, having witnessed the last ceremonies commemorating D-Day, at the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach (left). As the banquet gets underway, Len Lomell (below, right) and Richard Hathaway (below, center), President of WWII Rangers Association, thank their French hosts as Cricqueville Mayor Louis Ledevin (below, left) looks on.|
|Richard Rankin (left) recounts his harrowing tale of rescue by a French farmer on June 7, 1944. Rankin's small band of A Company 2nd Battalion Rangers was making its way up the Vierville Road to relieve Rangers holding out on the Pointe du Hoc. At the Chateau de Cricqueville, German troops, waiting in ambush, opened fire. Wounded, Rankin and 4 of his comrades retreated to St. Pierre du Mont. Maurice Lenormand spotted the wounded Rangers under an apple tree in his orchard and rushed to their aid. In spite of the danger, Mr. Lenormand carried the soldiers in his horse-drawn cart back to the American forces at Vierville.|
|Richard Rankin presents a plaque to Mme Houyvet, granddaughter of Mr. Lenormand, now deceased, with husband Marcel (middle), mayor of St. Pierre du Mont, by her side. The inscription reads: "This plaque is presented in grateful memory of Maurice Lenormand for his heroic work on June 7, 1944 in evacuating wounded US Rangers during the assault on Point du Hoc. During the assault 5 Rangers were wounded. M. Maurice Lenormand came forward and evacuated the wounded to Omaha Beach at Vierville using his horse and cart. He was told that if the Germans saw him helping the Rangers, his life would be in great danger. But he insisted and for this the Rangers are grateful."|