507th Parachute Infantry Regiment Memorial
Location and info
It was here along the banks off the Merderet River during the early hours of June 6, 1944, that the troopers of the US 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment landed to begin their part in the liberation of Europe.
From the area around Amfreville, south to the bridges at La Fiere and Chef du Pont and on to Graignes, the 507th with other elements of the 82nd Airborne frustrated all attempts by the German 91st Airlanding Division and the 6th Parachute Regiment to reinforce the German defenses at Utah Beach while simultaneously assuring that the bridges at La Fiere and Chef du Pont remained intact, allowing them to be used by US sea borne landing forces.
No organized German force crossed the Merderet from west to east within the 507th's area of responsibility from D-Day to D-Day +3.
This monument is dedicated to the proud, courageous, and tenacious men and officers of the 507th, many of whom lie in peace in Normandy still.
Part of the memorial garden pays tribute to 507th soldier Joe Gandara and the story of his Medal of Honor.
Private Second Class Joe Gandara was born to Mexican parents on 25th April 1924 in California.
He joined the United States Army in Los Angeles on 20th February 1943 and was enlisted with service number 39561681.
On 6th June 1944 he belonged to D (Dog) company of the 2nd Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached to the 82nd Airborne Division.
In his C47 Dakota, Joe Gandara, standing, and with camouflaged face like all his comrades tried to cope with the turbulence of the aircraft caused by German flak shots, and apprehension at the imminent approach of his jump into combat.
They all waited, for the lamp situated by the side door to change to green authorizing his jump into the darkness below in drop zone T in Amfreville. Afterwards and following many adventures, his unit regrouped and established itself in a part of the lightly wooded area between the communes of Gourbesville and
Amfreville. On 8th June their commanders gave the order to move to bring them closer and to reinforce men of the 507th PIR who were isolated north-west of La Fiere to the west of the Merderet River.
Colonel George V Millett, commander of the 507th decided that this movement would be made at night. During this transfer the detachment became the target of numerous enemy ambushes which impeded their progress and delayed their advance.
On 9th June as the men approached the hamlet of La Pesquerie, they suddenly came under heavy enemy fire.
The barrage of fire was impenetrable and pinned them to the ground. In the middle of this chaos, parachutist Joe Gandara armed with his 30 calibre machine gun suddenly left his cover and darted, defying the whistling and clattering bullets and firing ferociously at the enemy positions. He put three enemy machine gun posts out of action. A few moments later he was targeted by a sniper and fatally wounded.
For his exceptional courage and sacrifice Joe Gandara was at the time posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
However, following a law enacted in 2002, the United States Congress and The Pentagon examined a great number of documents of American veterans of Jewish and Hispanic origins who had served during the Second World War in Europe, Korea and Vietnam.
These veterans had not at that time been recognised by the American nation by reason of their religious or ethnic origins.
The outcome of this examination was that 7 of 24 soldiers identified to receive the highest distinction of the American army by President Barack Obama, had served during World War 2.
One amongst them was Private Joe Gandara. His Medal of Honor was presented in the name of Congress by the President of the United States of America to his niece Miriam Theresa Adams on 18th March 2014 at The White House in Washington.
Joe Gandara is at rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.