SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Every day of the past 68 years, Hazel George has thought of her brother, an Army paratrooper in World War II, and wondered how he spent the last few hours of his life before he and his comrades were ambushed in Normandy, France, on D-Day.
The 89-year-old resident of Eden Terrace, a Spartanburg assisted-living facility, got a few of her questions answered recently in a two-page handwritten letter from a man whose family owns the French apple orchard where the paratroopers, members of Company A, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, landed on June 6, 1944.
George’s niece, Doris Dickerson, who lives in Texas near where George lived years ago in Shreveport, La., and Deberry, Texas, forwarded her aunt the letter that she received from a member of a Shreveport Baptist church. Thierry Ferey, a dairy farmer in Normandy, France, had penned the letter in hopes of reaching family members of Sgt. Leonard A. Davis, George’s brother.
“On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, my family lived on (an) old manor farm not far from where I live now,” the letter reads. “During D Day’s morning, a little group of these American paratroopers arrived on this manor. …These men were lost, they were landed far from their objective, they were from ‘A’ Company. … (The paratroopers) tried to find a way to join the friendly lines, but half a yard from the manor, they fell in a German ambush, several were killed there in this little apple orchard and others …were wounded and taken prisoner of war and were driven to our church, which was a German command post.” Ferey writes that Davis was one of the “marvellous men who arrived here and who contributed a lot for the success of this big military operation.”
Ferey, who has researched D-Day events, said in the letter he was compelled to reach out to relatives of Davis, and others in the 101st, because the “young Americans gave their precious lives, gave their hearts for this Free World. Sgt. Davis never came back alive … and I and the Normandy people could imagine the big sadness and big pain that happened in his family.”
George and her brother, whom she called “Snooky,” were a little less than two years apart and extremely close. He purchased her high school ring and a treasured watch engraved with her name. She fondly remembers his outgoing, loving personality and said he was a “Momma’s boy.” Her mother, who had five children who fought in the war, never completely recovered after learning of his death, she said.
“I remember my mother crying, saying she wondered if her baby suffered,” George said. “If my mother could have received this letter, could you imagine what she would say? It would have given her peace, like it has given me – after all of these years. I still have so many questions, but this letter is God’s work.”
George, widow of a retired minister, said at the time of Davis’ disappearance, the Army notified the family that Davis was missing in action. Four years later, they learned he had been killed. During that time, Davis had been buried in the Ferey family apple orchard. His family, however, had his remains returned to a family plot in Belmont Cemetery in DeBerry, Texas, in May 1948, records show.
Davis was not married and had no children, at least in part, his sister said, because he had not found a woman whom he cared for as much as his mother.
“He always said, ‘When I find a girl as good as my mother, I’ll marry her,’ “ George said. “Everybody loved him. He just had that way about him – to reach out to people.”
George has one other living sibling, a brother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She said her three children and other relatives, as well as other residents and staff of Eden Terrace, have been amazed the letter reached her.
“I was just floored, and I bet I’ve read it 10 times. And each time, I pick up on something different,” George said. She plans to respond to Ferey’s letter.
“I don’t know if some members of the Davis family is still living in DeBerry but I think that (it) will be a good idea to tell them that somebody of Normandy, France, wrote this letter in memory of Sgt. Leonard Davis,” Ferey writes.
“Forever, he will stay, for us, an ‘Angel From The Sky.’ And I’m sure that if he ever came here, 68 years ago, I won’t, probably, be here today.
God bless you all. God bless America,” Ferey writes.