Col. Joe Nesbitt: D-Day’s 60th anniversary recreates Normandy Beach landing

June 30, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesAn opportunity to pay back World War II veterans for their contributions led an Army colonel to take part in the D-Day commemorative jump at Normandy Beach in France.Col. Joe Grafe Nesbitt, a former resident of Santa Paula and the son of banker Joe Nesbitt, was among more than 400 jumpers who took part in the June 6 event marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the military action that led to the liberation of Paris and WWII victory.A resident of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the D-Day anniversary was Col. Nesbitt’s 55th jump.“ ‘Hey, do you want to jump? Hey, I’ll go!’ ” is how Col. Nesbitt, a 29-year Army veteran, wound up with other American enlisted personnel jumping on the D-Day anniversary.“It was a great jump, an opportunity to reenact something that happened 60 years ago,” he noted. “Of course they weren’t shooting at us and it wasn’t at night.”D-Day 1944 took about six months of preparation, including hiring an actor to portray Britain’s General Sir Bernard Montgomery to confuse the Nazi’s, broadcasting fake secret messages meant to be intercepted and funneling supplies to the French Resistance. After grueling training exercises about 156,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers arrived in waves and charged across 60 miles of beachfront. Some arrived by sea and others by air in an assault that saw the Americans landing at Omaha and Utah beaches, the code names for their invasion zones. As the soldiers fought battle ships dangerously close to shore fired in support of the liberation forces.
Many lives were lost in the action that led to Paris, then Berlin and the war’s end.Thousands of American, British, Canadian and French veterans were among those on the beach at Normandy for the D-Day anniversary.“When my parachute opened there were about 80 of us in the sky who could actually hear the people in the landing zone cheer, about 10,000 people down there watching and cheering. It was something I never had the opportunity to hear before,” said Col. Nesbitt.A veteran of Grenada, Desert Shield, Desert Storm and a year’s duty in Afghanistan, Col. Nesbitt’s D-Day jump also allowed the jumpers to visit with those who had stormed the beaches by sea or air 60 years to the day that the turning point of the war in Europe occurred.“We were able to talk to quite a few of the veterans after the jump and that was pretty exciting too. . .the jump gave me the opportunity to pay back something to the veterans that gave so much to winning World War II. The jump was just my little part,” in honoring those of The Greatest Generation who stormed the beaches or parachuted into action 60 years before, not realizing that their actions would win World War II.

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