75th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon
Southern France 2020
To say that the Association’s 75th Anniversary trip to Southern France was a trip of a lifetime is an understatement. To walk in the footsteps of “The Lost Battalion of WWII”, and see for ourselves the places that many of us had only seen in pics, or heard about in stories, was almost overwhelming. We were involved in many great ceremonies in remembrance of all of our heroes that fought in Southern France, and through the Association, the 551st PIB was included officially in many of those ceremonies, as we laid many wreaths. We ate and shared stories in many of the places our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and great grandfathers did. The Association bivouacked in Draguignan. We even had lunch at the Battalion Hq and aid station at Saint Martin-Vesubie, as well as at Chateau Valbourges – where the 551st PIB first landed in Southern France. We even rode around the drop zone in a WWII era jeep. The Association also visited the beautiful port city of Nice and had drinks at the Negresco Hotel, where the 551st ate K-rations on silver platters, according to Aref Orfalea.
We were all overwhelmed to experience the places our heroes served after answering the call of our country during WWII. Each one of us came away with a greater appreciation of the conditions, heat and humidity for that grueling march to Draguignan, the isolation and difficult terrain in the Alps and the beauty of Southern France. The trip could not have went any better. Our thoughts were also on our survivors while there, Ernest Scango, Ralph Nichols, John Bellefontaine, Lloyd Willis, and Roland Barhyte…SALUTE! The trip could not have been any better, much gratitude to Cheryl Dillard Staurulakis (our Association President) and her amazing sister, Michelle Dillard Resnick Howl for their efforts. Also, much gratitude to all of those that played a role, to include Frederic Sanchez, Eric Renoux, WWII ADT, Valbourges, Saint Martin-Vesubie, Hotel du Parc – Draguignan, the amazing reenactors sharing their passion and many others – thank you all so much…