WW2 veteran on our tour

Update from a special Band of Brothers Tour - Part 1

Mr. Appel in the Normandy American Cemetery at statue of the “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” (Photo: Author’s own)

Mr. Appel in the Normandy American Cemetery at statue of the “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” (Photo: Author’s own)

We feel honored and privileged by the participation of World War II veteran, Mr. Jack Appel on one of our recent 11-day Band of Brothers Tours. We would like to tell you about his life story and his experiences on this tour. Mr. Appel was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1923 in a Jewish family. He is 98 years old now. For his efforts during his military career, he became a Knight of the French Legion of Honor in 2008. At the age of 19, he was in his first year of law school at the New York University when he was drafted on December 23, 1942. He entered basic training in January 1943. A month later, due to an epidemic at Camp Crowder, he contracted cerebral and spinal meningitis, fell into a coma, and spent 56 days in hospital in critical condition. He almost died and, as a result, became deaf on his left ear. Despite his meningitis, he was not discharged from the Army. He and his fellow soldiers were shipped out from Brooklyn to Glasgow, Scotland on board of the troop ship Fair Isle in October 1943.

Mr. Appel during WWII

(Photo: Forever Young Veterans - Facebook) Mr. Appel during WWII

He served there with the 17th Signal Operation Battalion of U.S. First Army under the leadership of General Omar Bradley. He was assigned to the Signal Corps because he worked as a night telephone operator while going to college. The Battalion’s main task was the operation of communications for the First Army Headquarters. He and his “B” Company was in England on D-Day as part of a contingent left there in case the landings failed. He landed in Normandy four weeks after D-Day on Omaha Beach. Their camp was set up in Sainte-Mère-Église, which was liberated by the 82nd Airborne Division. During the Allied breakthrough at the end of July, they followed the front in the direction of Saint-Lô, “The Capital of Ruins” and ended up at the gardens of Versailles near Paris at the end of August. We will continue his story in the newsletter coming up next week. Let’s now have a look at some of the highlights of his journey with us from the respective parts of the tour.

Mr. Appel in the company of young boys at Pointe du Hoc (Photo: Author’s own)
Mr. Appel in the company of young boys at Pointe du Hoc (Photo: Author’s own)

Our group visited all the five D-Day landing beaches in Normandy. Mr. Appel was greeted and thanked for his service by the locals and tourists on all sites. Many asked for his autograph. He was present at the flag lowering ceremony in the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach and maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Mr. Appel attending the flag lowering ceremony in the Normandy American Cemetery (Photo: Author’s own)

In the cemetery, he visited the grave of Benjamin Garadetsky. He wanted to pay his respects to him due to the likeness of their stories. When preparing for his military service, Mr. Appel was advised by several people not to put Jewish as his religion because he would be shot if taken prisoner by the Germans. Thus, he put Catholic as his religion. Private Benjamin Garadetsky was a Jewish soldier who served with the 2nd “Hell on Wheels” Armored Division and was killed in a German bombing in August 1944. He was mistakenly buried under a Latin Cross instead of a Star of David at the Normandy American Cemetery. As part of the initiative called Operation Benjamin, his marker was changed eventually in a ceremony in 2018. This project aims to find Jewish soldiers at American military cemeteries who were buried under markers incorrectly representing their religion.

Mr. Appel at the grave of Private Benjamin Garadetsky in the Normandy American Cemetery (Photo: Author’s own)
Mr. Appel at the grave of Private Benjamin Garadetsky in the Normandy American Cemetery (Photo: Author’s own)

On Utah Beach, he was warmly welcomed by the owner of the famous Le Roosevelt Cafe. He signed the bar of the café which is reserved for autographs of veterans.

Mr. Appel signing the bar of Le Roosevelt Cafe on Utah Beach (Photo: Author’s own)

Just by pure chance, he met a 104-year-old French veteran, Mr. Jean Turco, over breakfast at the hotel in Normandy. Like Mr. Appel, he is also a Knight of the French Legion of Honor which he received for his military service and his role as a politician in the French National Assembly. The two veterans even had dinner together where they exchanged stories from the war.

Mr. Appel with French veteran Mr. Jean Turco and our Tour Director (Photo: Author’s own)

Stay tuned for the second part of our update from Mr. Appel’s journey. If you want to travel on the same type of tour Mr. Appel did, join us on our 9-day economic or 11-day all-inclusive Band of Brothers tours. Book your seats as soon as possible because the most popular ones will get fully booked soon. If you have any questions about our tours, feel free to contact our travel consultants.

Mr. Appel in front of our bus (Photo: Author’s own)
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"This tour was so moving, I was brought to tears"Band of Brothers Tour, 2022
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