Survivors of the Occupation
Danièle Patrix Boucherie
The Girl Who Wore Freedom. Born in Ste. Marie du Mont and the daughter of one of the Free French soldiers, Dany lived through the occupation and liberation and has helped to celebrate and thank America and its WWII Veterans since June 6, 1945.
Husband to Dany for 55 years, Jean-Marie was born in Carentan, France and was 7 when the Allies arrived. The Army established a base of operations in his backyard. Among other memories he shares, he recalls trading his father’s eggs to the soldiers for chocolate and chewing gum.
Born and raised in Carentan, France, Françoise was 14 when the Allies liberated her village. Before the Allies arrived, she recalls her mother mouthing off to a German officer and being sent to a work camp where, thankfully, she soon escaped. Françoise has worked since her youth to help plan commemoration activities for veterans and their friends and family.
Neighbor of the Renaud family in Sainte Mère Eglise, Maurice’s life is also marked by the events of those days following June 6, 1944. Suffering from a tragic loss, he and his family were taken in and cared for by the American troops. Maurice shares his most vulnerable and touching moments from that summer of 1944.
During four long years, Denise and her family struggled through the German occupation on a farm in Turqueville. She recounts her terrifying night of June 6th in which she and her family escape from one disaster after another. Her testimony proving the gratitude she still feels toward those who liberated her and her family.
As the 10 year-old son of Sainte Mère Eglise’s Mayor Alexandre Renaud, Henri-Jean’s life was forever marked as he watched the American paratroopers land around the town square that fateful night of June 5-6, 1944. Over the course of the following months, Henri-Jean was transformed by the interactions with the Super Heroes of his youth, creating bonds that last a lifetime.
Jean de Mondésir
Just a young boy living in Couvains (near Saint Lô), Jean remembers those hellish days and nights after June 6th as he and his family wait to be liberated. Never forgetting those liberators, Jean agrees to host an American veteran, Jim Reid and his wife, Rhoda during a D-Day anniversary years later. These two men instantly become lifelong friends.
WWII Veteran, Mississippi native, “Mr. B” served with the 101st Airborne, 506th, Easy Company, also known as “Band of Brothers.” Mr. B jumped into Normandy in the wee hours of June 6th 1944, again into Holland, and was wounded in the knee at Bastogne. He made it back to Easy Company in time for them to take Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest.” He was one of the 60mm mortar men and served under Sgt. “Wild Bill” Guarnere as well as Major. Richard Winters. In Sept 2017, this production was able to introduce him to Dany so she could thank him, personally, for liberating her village.
Growing up on a farm in Carson City, Michigan, Ceo Bauer attended a one-room school and graduated from Carson City High in 1940. He was drafted into the US Army in January of 1943 and served with the 35th Infantry Division. Ceo next joined the Army Specialized Training Program for basic engineering and in April of 1944 he was assigned to Company I, 377th Infantry Regiment of the 95th Division. This division would later become known as the “Iron Men of Metz” for their liberation and defense of Metz, France. On November 8, 1944, Ceo’s unit crossed the Moselle River and advanced to Bertrange, they faced heavy resistance and it was here that he received his “Millon-Dollar” wound. In spite of heavy resistance, however, the 95th Infantry Division captured the city of Metz by November 22. After spending 17 months recovering in military hospitals, Ceo was honorably discharged and has spent his life making sure that we do not forget our history by sharing his powerful, personal story.
Born to Jewish immigrant parents in 1925, William grew up in the Bronx in the height of the Great Depression. On June 12th, 1943, 6 days after D-Day, William landed on Utah Beach as a member of the 79th Infantry, 315th Regiment, 1st Division, Company D. Only a short while later, on July 4th, he was forcibly taken prisoner by a German tank during heavy combat. While being marched one night, completely surrounded by SS Guards, he escaped. He traveled across France until he was taken by the French Resistance, who hid him in the Freteval Forest with other allied soldiers. In August 1945, American soldiers liberated their camp and William returned to the 79th. They immediately encountered heavy resistance and he was shot twice. He was taken to a field hospital in Czechoslovakia and then moved to a hospital in Bayreuth, Germany until the war ended. In 2018, William returned to Normandy for the first time since the war, where he was presented with the French Legion of Honor. Other than his two grandchildren and escaping the Nazis, it was the greatest moment of his life.
Robert Weber entered the U.S. Army on April 29, 1943 at the age of 18. Mr. Weber served with the 10th Armored Division, Company A of the 54th Armored Infantry Battalion and was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant on April 17, 1945. He fought in France, Luxembourg and Germany and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and Luxembourg Liberation Medal. Mr. Weber taught high school history for 33 years in Blue Island, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
A combat medic with the E Co of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division, Al treated wounded soldiers during the battles of Operation Garden and Bastogne. Incredibly humble and endearing, Al returned to Normandy on several occasions. Having much appreciation for what the French have done to honor Allied soldiers, he honored them back with friendship, forming a mutual alliance.
Bob DeVinney was a member of the 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division. Although Bob entered the war as a replacement during the Battle of the Bulge, he felt undeserved of any amount of honor. He comes to Normandy 74 years later with the French association Veterans Back to Normandy. While in Normandy, Bob discovers what the French have been doing to honor him and all the Allied liberators. He also discovers how much he enjoys sharing his experiences with our future generations.
Native American from the Penobscot Nation, Charles Shay hit shore on the first wave at Omaha Beach as a medic for F Co, 16th IR, 1st Infantry Division. He fought through to Hurtgen Forest where he was taken as a POW until being liberated a month later in April 1945. Charles now lives in Normandy with his French guardian angel, Marie-Pascale, where he is finally and deservedly recognized as a true hero each and every day.
Oscar Robert Freesen, Jr.
Born in 1925 in rural Illinois, Bob spent his childhood in Illinois and Colorado. He attended elementary school in Colorado, 7-8th grade at a one room school house in Illinois and graduated high school in 1943. Bob was drafted immediately after high school, joined the US Army and was trained to be a company clerk and how to identify enemy aircraft. Next, he completed basic training for the infantry at Ft. Maxey in Paris, TX. Bob entered the European Campaign during The Battle of The Bulge, as a member of the 83rd Infantry Division, 331st, Company K and was wounded on April 2, 1945 on the drive to Berlin. He returned to his unit in the summer of 1945 after his recovery and was honorably discharged in 1945. Bob and his late wife Alice had four sons, he has one step daughter, 15 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and has traveled full time in his coach for the last nine years with his wife Deb.
George Mullins was 19 when he advanced on Utah Beach on D-Day with the 101st Airborne. By morning, he was the only man of his 13-member gun section who hadn’t been killed or injured too badly to continue. He went on to fight for the liberation of Carentan, then saw action in Holland and in the fierce battles around Bastogne. During one attack by the Luftwaffe, a huge explosion went off near him. He regained consciousness with the blood of two of his comrades pouring over his face. He’d been saved by their bodies falling over him. He remembers to this day the “smell of death” and the camaraderie of soldiers bonded to each other by fear and a common purpose. “We laughed a lot,” he said. “We died too, but we laughed a lot.”
Tom was sent to the 501 Parachute Infantry Regiment (501 PIR) for basic training at Camp Toccoa, Ga. and then completed the parachute jumping school at Fort Benning. Ga in 1943. After eighteen months of training, he became a member of the newly formed 101st Airborne Division.
Voice Over Cast
Christian’s 35-year entertainment industry career spans stage, screen, and sound booth, as she has been talent, producer, director, casting director, and coach. Christian began her career in the entertainment industry interviewing Senators on Capitol Hill with the TV/Radio department of the Senate, The Senate Republican Conference. She received her BA in Theater and Broadcasting from The Catholic University while working in radio and TV on The Hill. You can find more info at neighborladyvo.com.
Voice of Allen Hopper. Andy Barnett is known primarily for his work as a voice actor and narrator. He has narrated television shows, voiced national commercials, video game characters, and has recorded audiobooks. Aside from voice over work, he has also has trained in improvisational comedy and stage acting and enjoys performing both when time allows. He lives with his wife and four sons spending time between Los Angeles and Kansas City. You can find more info at: andybarnett.com.
Voice of Reporter in Eleanor Kropnicki Story. From an early age, Sharon has worked on stage, in front of the camera and behind a microphone. She has a broad range of acting training from classical, to Meisner Technique, to improvisation (Second City and Improv Olympic) . Her focus is to bring depth, truth and commitment to every performance. You can find more info here: sharonanderlik.com
Liz de Nesnera
Voice of Mrs. Frank E. Lusk. Liz de Nesnera is a full-time bilingual English and French voice actor. She is also a first generation American. Her mother, Olia de Nesnera was raised in France, lived through Occupation in Paris, and was a translator of documents for the Americans at the Nuremberg Trials. Liz grew up speaking only French at home (which has been a boon to her VO career) and is thrilled to have helped bring part of this story to life. Working from her studio in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of NY, Liz brings scripts to life in both languages honoring her heritage and her home. Find out more at HireLiz.com.
Voice of French Woman. Novelist, poet, and voice actor, Madeleine Monette lives in New York City. Her voice work includes documentaries, audio books and other audio-video material for the United Nations; for the Ireland National Museum in Dublin, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, and the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City; for Audible and John Marshall Media audiobooks; and for numerous promotional videos and TV/Radio commercials, etc. She is a SAG-AFTRA member. She is also a member of the Academy of Québec Literature and of the Parliament of Francophone Women Writers. Find out more at madeleinemonette.com.
Rhoda Reid, is the wife of the late Jim Reid, veteran of the 90th Infantry Divison who landed on Utah Beach. Jim requested some of his ashes be scattered on Utah Beach and Rhoda honors his wishes in our film with their dear friends, the DeMondséir family, by her side.
Flo Plana has been a battle field tour guide in Normandy for the past five years. In the off-season, he travels around the United States interviewing WWII veterans for a museum he hopes to build in Normandy so their stories will never be forgotten. Flo’s grandfather was captured by the Germans and placed in a work camp in Germany making amunition. The allies set him free and he walked and hitched hiked back to France. Flo has shown his gratitude for his grandfather’s freedom since he was a young boy and it’s inspired his life’s work. Flo and his wife Jenny have their own tour company and love taking Americans in the footsteps of their WWII veteran family members. You can book a tour here: https://ww2veteransmemories.org/
No one knows more about the tragedies befallen on French civilians than Marie-Pascale. Yet despite her families’ harrowing experiences, Marie-Pascale is eternally grateful to the Allied liberators. She befriended Allied veterans as a young woman and nurtured those relationships in order to pay back her debt to those liberators.
Francine Duchemin Noyon
Born after the war at the Chateau de Granval in the village of Neuville au Plain, where her Dad was the Mayor.
Francine’s parents always maintened bonds of friendship with many veterans and their families over the years. She grew up with great respect for the great men of WWII and wants to keep the memory alive. Several years ago, Bill Tucker, Founding President of the C-47 Club asked Francine to join the Club to promote and carry on the historical legacy of the 82nd Airborne Division. Currently, Francine is the Director of the Board of the C-47 Club in the United States and European Coordinator of the different Chapters in Europe.
Denis van den Brink
Denis van den Brink has has a passionate interest. He is a PR and Communications professional. He has focused on, for over 25 years, the American airborne troops from 1940 to 1945, from the beginnings of the US Airborne, the gradual activation of the first battalions, then regiments and finally the divisions deployed in all theaters of operations throughout the last world war. His careful and through research is both chronological and on an individual level concerning the men and high-ranking paratroop officers who forged the legend. The fighting experienced by the American paratroopers in Normandy, both those of the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne, are often summed up in a few feats of heroism straight from a Hollywood movie. They deserve, however, to be looked at more closely. His book, Heroes of Carentan, aims to do this, casting a human light on the surprising and cruel diversity of individual destinies that were caught up in the battle of Carentan.
A World War II history enthusiast, Eric Belloc specialized in American Airborne troops during the Normandy Battle through
his encounters with historians, witnesses and veterans. Since 2010, Eric has been the curator of the Airborne Museum
in Sainte Mère Eglise.
Fueled by the stories about the war told by his grandfather, Patrick Fissot became a History Professor specializing in World War II and teaches at the Sivard de Beaulieu High School in Carentan. He has written books and articles on the First and Second World Wars. He began collecting military objects over 30 years ago and is the Co-Founder of the Normandy Victory Museum also in Carentan.
Bio coming soon!
Deputy Mayor of Sainte-Mère-Église, Director Manager of the Utah Beach Museum, Owner of Brecourt Manor, Son of Colonel Michel de Vallavieille (owner of Brecourt Manor in 1944). Charles has spent his life gratefully watching over the sacred battlefields of his father’s farm and allowing veterans to visit the hallowed ground in private tours. He presents each returning veteran with a medal of thanks that his father made. He works daily with the town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and the Utah Beach Museum to preserve the memories of D-Day and to thank the veterans that liberated his home and town.
Collector and Re-enactor. Thomas became interested in the history of D-Day at the age of 10 when a friend’s father encouraged him to dress up as a US Army soldier. At 16 he began collecting and reenacting. His goal is to share his knowledge of the war and pay tribute to the men who fought for the liberation of Europe. He considers himself an ambassador of the history of his region and says “it is important not to forget the sacrifices of these men and women so that we can live free today.”
Collector, Re-enactor, and works at the Utah Beach Museum. Flavie became interested in WWII history when she heard her grandparents’ stories about what happened during the war. She has dedicated her life to the study of WWII and thanking the veterans who helped win her country’s freedom. In 2015, Flavie spent 3 months traveling around in the United States to personally thank WWII Veterans and collect their stories.
Theresa Werner and James Martin
Theresa and James are swing dancers from Washington, DC. They have been dancing together for over 7 years and love to entertain our veterans. They volunteer with the “Honor Flight Network” and with the “Spirit of ’45”. When they aren’t volunteering, James is a professional pilot and Theresa is a broadcast journalist.
Valérie Gautier Cardin
President, Veterans Back to Normandy Association. “An errand to run, an encounter, a lost man and the beginning of an adventure.” This is how Valérie describes the way her passion for the veterans of WWII was born. She met her first lost veteran at the age of 15 and helped him reunite with the French family that hid him when he escaped a German prison camp. This veteran introduced them to many more and in 2011 Valerie founded her organization.
Since 2012 she has helped 25 veterans and their families return to France. She works at a middle school where the students raise funds to help bring the veterans over to Normandy. The students, teachers, veterans and families go together to flower the graves of 42 American soldiers who died to give them Liberty.
COL. David Chapman
Colonel, U.S. Army, Sr. Defense Official, U.S. Embassy Paris, France. Col. Chapman’s office helps coordinate and facilitate all plans for the US Military’s participation in the yearly commemoration ceremonies. He will be participating in the 2018 commemoration parachute jumps in honor of his past unit, the 82nd Airborne.
SGT. Taylor, Hunter J, Delta Co.
SGT. Taylor was selected to represent the 101st Airborne Div. in the 2015 D-Day commemoration ceremonies and was in awe of all he saw and did. He believes America needs to understand the depth of love and gratitude the French still carry for the Americans that came to help them. He is currently serving in the Colorado National Guard with the 10th Mountain Division.