Carentan, France – Soldiers from the armies of the United States, France and Germany alongside French officials pay their respects to World War II veterans at the memorial June 3, 2022 in Carentan, France, in what was once a cabbage field.
Cabbage Patch Square, eight miles inland from Utah Beach and behind what were once enemy lines, is where, 78 years ago, American paratroopers began the bloody, close-quarters battle to liberate the city of Carentan.
The Cabbage Patch takes its name from the fields where the German occupiers allowed the French population to grow food to survive. On June 11, 1944, those same humble fields bore the fruit of a future victory.
This year marks 80 years of the 101st Airborne Division, first activated on August 16, 1942. In June 1944, the division was not yet 2 years old, but the Screaming Eagles found themselves in the skies of Normandy, preparing to fight to the death for the free world, in a country they had never visited and for a people they had never met.
Jean-Pierre LHonneur, Mayor of Carentan, hosted the event.
Addressing veterans who attended the ceremony, LHonneur said, “You know the value of peace and your presence reminds us of the price you and your comrades in arms had to pay 78 years ago for the restore.
During the ceremony, the French government awarded two veterans the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor for merit.
Reid Clanton, 98, was one of two veterans to receive the French Legion of Honor at the ceremony. On May 20, just three weeks before the 78 D-Day commemorations, Maj. Gen. William Prendergast, Deputy Commanding General, Army North, presided over a ceremony in San Antonio, Texas, to award Clanton the star. bronze and other military service awards in recognition of his contributions to combat operations during the war.
Other notable veterans attended the ceremony, including famed Screaming Eagles Vinny Speranza and Tom Rice.
“Allow me to greet in particular Mr. Tom Rice, a friend from Carentan-les-Marais whose parachute jump illuminated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in front of cameras around the world,” Lhonneur said.
In his remarks to soldiers, veterans, city officials and civilians, Major General JP McGee, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, said the Allied soldiers who landed in the cabbage were not alone in their efforts to liberate Carentan, but were aided by the support of the local people of Normandy and by members of the French resistance – “forever cementing the ties between this part of France and the 101st Airborne Division”.
During the ceremony, participants took several opportunities to recognize the veterans, aged 97 to 101, who traveled to France with a standing ovation and a round of applause.
Despite the accolades, McGee reminded those gathered that anyone can take the spirit of those WWII Screaming Eagles – the spirit of taking on any challenge and winning – and apply it in their everyday life.
“The soldiers of the 101st Airborne weren’t superheroes,” McGee said. “They were ordinary people who took on the challenges of their time and fought in the cabbage fields of the Normandy countryside. They rose to this challenge with courage and a tremendous will to win and helped restore freedom and liberty.
The translation of the inscription on the Hancock Field monument reads:
June 11, 1944
“It was from here that it began in the Cabbage Patch, the decisive assault by the 502nd Regiment, paratroopers of the 101st Airborne, disrupted the Germans allowing the liberation of Carentan.”