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Edward Garland Dillon

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Edward DillionU.S.Flag   Edward G. Dillon was born October 7, 1917 in Saltillo, Hopkins County, Texas. He was the fifth child of Gussie Penn Wheeler and Farest Esta Dillon. Shortly after his mother's death when Edward was about seven years old, he moved with his family to McAdoo, Texas where he attended the McAdoo School.

Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Edward, along with one of his cousins, volunteered for service of his country as the United States entered World War II. Ater basic training he was soon on his way to England to await the invasion of France. Assigned to a tank battalion, Edward did not take part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The Combat Chronicles of the 5th Armored Division reports as follows:

On August 16, 1944 Edward Dillon gave his life for his country and was buried on Omaha Beach in the American Cemetery, St. Laurent—Colleville, France.

Lovingly submitted by Edith A. Griffin

Omaha Beach in the American Military Cemetery
Plot A, Row 11, Grave 38

"PRIVATE RYAN" AND ME
by Lanell Allen

      Edward Dillon wasn't part of the initial landing on Omaha Beach in June, 1944, but as I watched the movie "Saving Private Ryan," I was thinking about my uncle. Two of my uncles were in Europe in 1944: Edward and Lloyd Dillon. Lloyd came home, but Edward didn't. He died in the tank he was driving in France on August 16, 1944. My grandfather had a choice to have his son's body brought home for burial, or to request that the Army bury him in France. He was buried on Omaha Beach in the American Military Cemetery there.
      My older sister, Edith, visited the cemetery in the early 1960s. I remember our family being together when she told our mother about the visit after she, her husband and children returned from a tour of duty with the U.S. Army occupation forces in Germany.
     "The cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place," Edith recounted. "The grass is thick like a green carpet." I was about 11 years old, but I never forgot the way Edith described for mother the place where her brother was buried. I wanted to go there some day, to see that green grass -- like a thick carpet.
     I never knew Edward. He died before I was born. Mother had written many letters to Edward and Lloyd, and she could still quote their serial numbers. These were the things that flashed through my mind while watching the Normandy invasion scene in "Saving Private Ryan."
     Edith, remembers the day Edward left for the Army. They lived in rural west Texas, in Dickens County, about 50 miles east of Lubbock. Transportation at that time was not as easy as it is today. Edith watched as Edward walked down that long dirt road with his suitcase in his hand, toward Highway 82 where he could catch a bus.
     My sister Anita remembers the day they were notified that Edward had been killed. She remembers the looks on their faces -- papa and my mother. She didn't have words to describe what she saw. The faces said there would be no more writing letters. No more waiting for him to come home. No more wondering where he was and what he was doing . . . or was he okay.
     My sister Betty named her son Edward.
     I don't have memories of my own for that day, but I remember what my mother said when she talked about him, and I shared my sister's memories of their brief time with him.
     Before Edward and Lloyd shipped out for Europe, they had been separated for months. They shared only about 24 hours together when they found themselves at the same Army Post once. Too soon they would be separated again. Mother could only imagine what they talked about that night.
     A few weeks after seeing the movie, I was listening to the radio on the way to work. There was an advertisement for a tour of France called the "Saving Private Ryan" tour. One of the stops was to be the cemetery where Edward was buried. I knew instantly that this was my trip. I called the travel agency, then Edith. She was caught off guard, but by the end of the day it was a "go." Her children were excited for her. They had been to the cemetery too, and had childhood memories of growing up in Germany and of their trip to France. Was this really happening? The trip was seven weeks away. Just enough time to get a passport.

November 20, 1998
     As far as we know, Edith and her family were the only family to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Edward's grave. Now I was joining that small, privileged group. According to the guide, the Normandy American Cemetery comprises "172.5 acres and is one of 14 permanent American World War II military cemeteries constructed on foreign soil by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Nearby, on D+1 (June 7, 1944), the first temporary American World War II cemetery in France was established by the Army's Graves Registration Service."
     "After the war, when the temporary cemeteries were disestablished by the Army, the remains of American military dead whose next-of-kin requested permanent interment overseas were moved to one of the 14 permanent cemetery sites. There they were interred in the distinctive grave patterns proposed by the cemetery's architect and approved by the Commission."
     "Interred are the remains of 9,386 servicemen and women, 307 of which are Unknowns, i.e., those which could not be identified. Each grave is marked with a white marble headstone, a Star of David for those of Jewish faith, and a Latin cross for all others. The precisely aligned headstones against the immaculately maintained emerald green lawn convey an unforgettable feeling of peace and serenity," the Guide concludes.
     Edith remembered where Edward's grave is. Plot A, Row 11, Grave 38. She found it right away. He is very near the Memorial so we could still hear the chimes on the memorial clock as they struck twelve noon when we found the cross with his name on it. Then the chimes began to play "America the Beautiful". This was, in fact, American soil, since France has granted the United States a special, perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery.
   It was unlikely that we would find a place to buy flowers. Edith had told us all those years ago that only fresh cut flowers and flags were allowed, so I brought with me two small flags: A United States flag and a Texas flag.
     It was a glorious day on the English Channel -- summer in November! The trees, the roses, the grass -- everything was beautiful and peaceful. The ground was saturated with water from recent heavy rains, but the sky was a brilliant blue that day. Not a cloud in sight. I knelt on one knee to place the flags where I wanted them, and as I did, it was so wet my knee began to sink into the ground. The flags were crossed at the base of Edward's headstone -- a brilliant white marble cross. It reads: Edward G. Dillon, TEC 5 95 FA BN 5 ARM/D DIV, Texas, Aug 16, 1944. On the back, near the ground was his serial number: 18074247.
     To his left was the grave of an "unknown soldier." The stone reads: "Here rests in honored glory a fallen comrade, known but to God."
     We were at the cemetery for just one hour. As we hurriedly walked across the grounds to the chapel, looking back, we couldn't distinguish Edward's cross, but we could see the tiny flags.
     At the parapet overlooking the beach we saw where the landing took place. The American soldiers landed, died and were buried on this beach. To the right of the parapet are the remains of two German gun batteries, which did so much damage on that day.
     We left the cemetery after one unforgettable hour, yet in that hour we experienced so much. It was the longest and most memorable hour of our trip.


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