A Symposium: Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of D-Day at Patriot’s Point!

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June 6, 2014

yorktown
USS Yorktown and USS Laffey, Patriot’s Point, Mt. Pleasant, SC.Patriots Point Institute of History, Science and Technology, “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things”, presented: A Symposium: Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of – D DAY and Breakout from Omaha Beach.

The USS Laffey was there in the waters off the coast of France!

Today, the USS Laffey resides at Patriots Point, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. This symposium, held in the Smokey Stover Theater on board of the USS Yorktown, was filled, standing room only, and with a mixture of film, on stage live presentations in honor of The Bedford Boys, and an open forum discussion with special guests, Aristides Phoutrides, QM1/c, USS Laffey and Johnnie M. Hill, Staff Sergeant, US Army 5th rangers.

As you arrived, there sitting on the dock next to the USS Yorktown, was the jeep that General Patton rode into  Berlin, setting the scene.  Young men from the Citadel volunteered their time to support this symposium!

jeep-for-the-web

June 6.1944, was a day that will go down in history as one of the most important events in the world today!   Operation Overload Task Force was a combined operation, sea and air, by the Allied Forces.

As the symposium began, the screen opened up with a demonstration of the “World at War – who, when & what” and then a short film on the build up.

The USS Laffey,  the only one of the destroyers remaining of the 5,000 fleet that lead the defensive escort services, residing now next to the USS Yorktown, Mt.Pleasant, South Carolina.

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Kevin Grybowski, Education Director, with Aristides Phoutrides and Johnnie Hill during open forum discussion.

Quartermaster Aristides Phoutrides served on the USS Laffey and  as a young Navy  sailor, received the teletype message the night before, and was instructed to take it to the ship’s captain.!

Tonight we heard from him on stage, as he recounted the training the crew had in Scotland in preparation, and of their encampment there:  a “castle”.   He smiled when he remembered when the crew with binoculars once came upon a  couple enjoying the beach moonlight!  Often smiling.

Johnnie M. Hill, sat with Aristides and Keith Grybowski, Education Director, in an open discussion about their experiences.  While you may have seen the movie, “Saving Private Ryan”, and seen some of the battle scenes, Johnnie was there on the ground with the US Army 5th!  And as they landed, we heard him recount of loud noise that came from the guns from the destroyers shooting over their heads and at the German lines.  He was one of 150,000 troops that landed within in a 50-mile fortified French coastline in an effort to defeat Nazi Germany.

On stafe with Mac Burnette, Executive Director of the Patriots Point Development Authority
On stage with Mac Burnette, Executive Director of the Patriots Point Development Authority, reenactors.

Most moving, was the re-enactment of the story “The Bedford Boys”.  This little town in Virginia had a group of young men enlist in the National Guard, got paid all of $4.00 for weekend drill, and they ended up the first to deploy for this mission and land on Omaha beach.  This group of young men did not return home, and in the book written by Alex Kershaw, tells of the stories of this small town and the families who lost their sons.

This symposium closed with the special guests taking a seat on the flight deck for short interviews, photos and autographs, allowing the attendees to share their gratitude also.  Not sure if thanks is enough, or standing in respect when they enter or leave a room and clapping.

When asked what advise or message you each would have for the youth of today?  Each Aristides and Johnny, concurred with a message that often we hear spoken:  “Freedom is important to our nation and the world, and often it’s not free.  Serve your nation”.

Aristides Phoutrides, QM1/c. USS Laffey with Linda Dennis, A Backpack Journalist
Aristides Phoutrides, QM1/c. USS Laffey with Linda Dennis, A Backpack Journalist