25 April 2013

Looking for Veterans of the Normandy Invasion

"Normandy Invasion", photo by Tom Keyser.

As many of you know, my sister Jeannine Edwards works as a sideline reporter and analyst for ESPN. She's been involved in thoroughbred horse racing for over 20 years and will be covering the Derby this year, as always, although NBC is broadcasting the actual race.

She has a special request:

A horse owner I know, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm, has a horse in the Kentucky Derby this year named "Normandy Invasion". Rick is a true Patriot and actually went to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the invasion. He said it gives you chills to see it.

He would like to do something special at the Derby. He's trying to find any surviving vets who were in the Normandy invasion and invite them to Churchill Downs as his guests for the race. He's already been already contacted by 2 guys but would love to have more. This could be a very neat thing.

FYI, Rick almost got out of racing entirely in 2008 when his filly Eight Belles broke both her front legs after finishing 2nd in the Derby. Most tragic thing I've ever seen. It nearly destroyed him; he's a real animal lover. I'd like to help him with this.

If you know anyone who is interested, and preferably lives in the Kentucky area (although others considered), please contact Rick Porter directly at rporter@foxhillfarmstable.com The Derby is May 4.

Rick Porter, photo by Anne M. Eberhardt.

Update, 4 May: Watch the Veterans meet Normandy Invasion at Churchill Downs.


Anonymous said...

Just an FYI - Derby is May 4.

Great idea - kudos to Rick Porter. And Normandy Invasion is a very nice horse.

MaryAnn said...

Thank you - I've corrected the post.

Eric Montgomery said...

Dear Mr. Porter, (Sent via Email)

My name is Eric Montgomery and I am the WWII Veterans Coordinator for the D-Day event in Conneaut Ohio. A friend of mine posted some information about "Normandy Invasion" on facebook and that you were looking for additional Normandy Veterans to perhaps attend the Kentucky Derby as your honored guests.

I have associations and friendships with over 20+ Normandy Veterans and may be able to assist you greatly in your efforts to honor them and your prized Thoroughbred which bares the name of our nation's Greatest Crusade. Listed below are some of them.

Jack Read, a very good friend of mine served on Rescue Flotilla 1, a Coast Guard outfit in 60 83 foot wooden hull cutters, picked up survivors in the water on all 5 landing beaches.

John Sudyk, 187th Field Artillery came ashore on Omaha Beach, June 6/7. His wife Billie worked in an armaments factory in Cleveland making, believe it or not, artillery rounds.

Bill Wilch, 29th Infantry Division came ashore during the landing on June 6th.

Richard Onines - 6th Naval Beach Battalion, Signalman, Omaha Beach

Arden Earll, 29th Infantry Division - Heavy Weapons Mortarman came ashore on D-Day

Ray Woods - USS O'Brian - DD-725 - Radarman - Captained by Outerbridge - Same Commander on the USS Ward with sunk Japanese Midget Sub on Dec 7th. Led 45 LCI's at 7:50 to Utah - Headed over to Omaha Beach and was the 1st Destroyer to go to water's edge to take out German Gun Emplacements. These destroyers saved the Omaha landing from failure.

Anthony "Tony" Balch - Royal Navy - HMS Respite - Battleship - Joined the Royal Navy at 14 years of age and was in the waters off of Sword/Gold Beach. He lives in Canada.

I have many many more too numerous to mention for the sake of time given the race is just a week away and time is short.

My association with D-Day is personal having lost a great uncle, Amin Isbir, on Omaha Beach. He was a part of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion, a little known naval unit. I know the majority of the 6th's surviving veterans personally. In 2009 I gathered enough evidence to have Amin's head stone replaced in Normandy with the correct date of his death, June 6th, not June 8th as recorded for nearly 65 years in error. In 2012, I was the keynote speaker on the 68th Anniversary of D-Day at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford Virginia. I've been the veterans coordinator for the Conneaut event since I began the Veterans program there in 2011.

Like you, I too have a love for animals and in my case it is donkeys. I don't own any but 2 years ago I became friends with two special 4 legged friends named Jack and Granny. My bond to donkeys and their mannerisms was forever sealed. What a gift to know such animals. I am sure you agree it is a special bond.

The best way to reach me is by phone, ###-###-4591 or ###-###-6665. The men I listed above are mobile enough to travel and most live in either western PA or in Ohio. This evening I am having dinner with Jack Reed. Please contact me or have a member of your staff reach me so I may best assist you as best as possible.

My best and good luck!
Eric Montgomery

Anonymous said...

I also know of a couple WWII Fighter pilots who flew on DDay. Please contact me at JLoree22@msn.com for their contact information.

Jackie Flannery

MaryAnn said...

That's terrific, Eric! Good luck!

Jackie - Please email Rick Porter directly. We're just spreading the word, but are not the organizers. Thanks!

MaryAnn said...

...and thanks for all you do, Eric! Your great uncle was a true American Hero.

Anonymous said...


My father served aboard the O'Brien during The Vietnam War, as a radarman for 4 years. I knew about Capt. Outerbridge and destroyers saving the day at Omaha Beach but never knew that the O'Brien was the first to move to the waters edge. I'm always looking for history of the O'Brien, could you tell me where you got this information, it is fascinating. You can email me at diff4608@verizon.net. Thank you, Mike Diffendall

Eric Montgomery said...

Mike, I will send you an email about reaching out to Ray Woods. He has a book which Mr. Porter was handed today. Both Ray and Bill Wilch are in Louisville for the race tomorrow! I am so happy for them and the other two veterans with them. God bless America!

MaryAnn said...

I'm so excited to see these Veterans at the Derby today!