Operation Dragoon veterans finally honored
August 13, 2009
<b>WASHINGTON, D.C.</b>- The 3rd Infantry Division has a proud history of protecting America and its citizens. While their history is well-known around the world, there is one piece of their history that is forgotten.
In 1944, Allied forces were in a stalemate in the hedgerow country after breaking out of Normandy Beach. The battle was not going the Allies' way and they could have been driven back to the beach. Operation Dragoon was the amphibious invasion in the south of France that linked up with the units breaking out of Normandy. The operation fortified the Allied presence in France and began the eventual defeat of the Axis powers in Europe. The Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, Outpost 5845, Europe, honored the veterans of that campaign with a ceremony, Aug. 5 at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.
"This is about you, the veterans," said Monica Stoy, president of Outpost 5845, Europe. "From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely thank you. The veterans of Operation Dragoon have never been (given) the recognition they deserve. Our ceremony is to say 'thank you' and to draw recognition for your accomplishments."
Whitney Mullen, a veteran of World War II with the 3rd ID during Dragoon, said they covered 1,000 miles and they walked close to half of it. The veteran remembered that he fought and marched during the bitter cold, and that he realized he did not like Vienna Sausages, primarily because during one meal, that was the main course, and he had too much.
Mullen's sacrifices were not without recognition. Eleyn Chretien the deputy mayor of VeSoul, France, came to honor the veterans. His town was one of the first liberated by 3rd ID during Operation Dragoon. He said the veterans paid a heavy sacrifice for his home country and urged the younger generation to remember the sacrifices of previous generations.
"The Third Infantry Division freed Vesoul," he said. "For us, it's very important to celebrate this moment. All of Vesoul knows how important this operation was. The American Army is the reason for Vesoul's liberation."
He went on to express who he represents and how grateful he is for their service.
"It's very important to show veterans who can't go to Europe that we have not forgotten this moment," he said. My presence is the presence of my people."
Chrieten also spoke of the legacy of their service and the dedication to freedom.
"Time is the enemy of memory. We must commemorate this event every year so we don't forget the veterans and their sacrifice. My generation has not known any war. So it is our duty to celebrate what the veterans have accomplished for us."
"I want the veterans to know we have not forgotten the veterans and their fight to free France. They will be in our hearts and minds."
After the ceremony, 3rd ID honored presented honors at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a wreath-laying. The veterans also honored one of 3rd IDs most prominent Soldiers, Lt. Audie Murphy, by visiting his gravesite at Arlington.
The highlight after the ceremony had the veterans of 3rd ID honoring their own comrades.
General Patrick Donahue, Deputy Commanding General, Maneuvers for the 3rd ID, led a party to lay a wreath on the 3rd ID Monument at the cemetery. The monument is the only one dedicated to a single unit. The plaque hails the 3rd IDs accomplishments, including 24 campaigns spanning World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
Brigadier General Donahue spoke of how impressed he was with 3rd IDs accomplishments during the war. The unit conducted four amphibious assaults in two years, including Operation Dragoon. During Dragoon, the division pursued Axis forces over 400 miles in only 30 days. He thanked them for their accomplishments.
"We are celebrating and commemorating your accomplishments here today," Brig. Gen, Donahue added. "I'm here as proof that the Army values and remembers what you did."