By Dave Ongie, News Editor
This week the eyes of the world fall once again on the Normandy region of France where the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion is being observed.
On June 6, 1944, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest seaborne invasion in human history, striking the first blow in a push that eventually led to victory in the Western Front. It was estimated that at least 10,000 Allied troops gave their lives to gain a foothold in France, and the bravery and selflessness displayed on that day remains a beacon for all those who champion the cause of freedom.
With each passing year, there are less World War II veterans alive to recount their experiences during that fateful campaign. In an effort to keep their stories alive, hundreds of reenactors are on hand in Normandy to recreate key battles that helped the Allies turn the tide and win the war. Among them will be Jeff Campbell, an Elizabethton man who has been a business owner in Johnson City for over 30 years.
“I feel very honored to be able to represent those soldiers,” said Campbell, who will join The Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop Living History Group in a recreation of the Crisbecq Attack. “What a privilege it is.”
Campbell and his wife Patty have been involved in reenactments for about four and a half years. Campbell started out as a Civil War reenactor before branching out to the WWII era.
Last year during a recent trip to Kent, England, Campbell connected with The Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop Living History Group, which is comprised of British men who portray U.S. GIs. Lee Bowden, the leader of the group, invited Campbell to take part in the reenactment of the Crisbecq Attack during next week’s observance of the D-Day invasion.
During the attack on the Crisbecq Battery, Allied troops worked to capture the battery and silence the guns that threatened men and materials on Utah Beach.
“On June 6, as they secured the beachhead, that gun emplacement was the first target that they needed to knock out,” said Campbell, who will be portraying a Corporal in the 4th Infantry Division of the United States Army during the reenactment.
Campbell has done his homework and has taken painstaking steps to ensure his uniform and gear are as accurate as possible. He estimates that at least 75 percent of the gear he will be using is vintage 1940s equipment. He said he feels a deep responsibility to the men who fought in the battle to keep their stories alive and tell those stories in an accurate manner.
“You’re on a big stage, so you want to be sure you portray those soldiers correctly and portray them as accurately as you can,” Campbell said. “That’s the whole reason for being involved is to try to honor those men.”