World War II Dunkirk & D-Day Archive
My dad was a commander of a flotilla of minesweepers during the Second World War. He was assigned to sweep before the American landings in Normandy, and he was rewarded with the United States Legion of Merit, which specifically cites that action.
And his Distinguished Service Cross was also for the action in Normandy.
It is a little unusual to find a Legion of Merit awarded to an Allied serviceman. There were a number of them awarded to Soviet officers, and every once in a while you find one to a British or Commonwealth serviceman. And what we have is the medal, which you have so very nicely framed here, and his citation. And then from his own government, the Distinguished Service Cross. But before we find him at Normandy, before they are entering the European continent from the north, there was also a rather dramatic exit from the continent a few years earlier that he was involved with. Can you tell us about that?
When Dunkirk occurred, the Navy identified him as somebody who had knowledge of the local waters. They assigned him to take the Gorleston lifeboat over to Dunkirk to take part in the evacuation. The briefing took place in caves in the chalk cliffs under Dover Castle. And if you go there today, you can see a copy of this map sitting on the blackboard there for visitors to see. My father took these notes down from his briefing, and this is essentially instructions of how to get to Dunkirk and how to get back. This piece here is written orders from his commander.
That's an interesting enough piece, I'd like to read it. "You are to ferry troops across from the one-and-a-half mile stretch of the beach immediately east of Dunkirk to other vessels lying off. Great care must be taken to avoid running ashore in such a way that when loaded, the boat will not be able to shove off." This was a monumentally significant event in the history of World War II and the history of the British Isles. If not for the dramatic evacuation of the B.E.F. from the Continent back to the island, it's very likely that the Germans could have won the war right then and there. And it is interesting that there were so many small craft involved in this. It wasn't just simply military vessels. It was pretty much anything that could float and carry someone. Well, it's an amazing story, and a wonderful archive. The fact that the Legion of Merit has the citation, which traces it to your father, and the Distinguished Service Cross is in the grouping, where we know who earned it and what they did, really drives the value. In this case, the value for the entire grouping at retail today would be somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000.
Great. I'm not going to sell it. (chuckles) It's going to stay in the family, but thank you.
Historical value and monetary value really walk two separate paths. The bulk of that figure that I gave you is wrapped up in these medals, because that's where the collectors' market is. Where the historical value is, where the humanitarian value is in this, is the material related to Dunkirk.
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