One last tour of Normandy

I received this from Dick Winters this morning, and I thought I would share it.  Dick is a member of the 506th Infantry Regiment Association (Airborne – Air Assault – Air Mobile) and I have the distinct honor of being one also.

By Samantha Bates
The East Oregonian

NoreneWorld War II veteran Jim Norene went to visit the beaches of Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day.

The Heppner man will not be coming home.

Norene left his home with determination to visit the battlefields he fought on during World War II. On Friday night, after visiting the cemetery one last time, he died in his sleep.

"He had to go back one last time," said Tracie Bunch, Norene's daughter.

"This last year, he's been living for this," said Mike, her husband. "It was something he was going to do. It was something he had to do."

President Obama featured Norene's story in his speech marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied forces' move that signaled the beginning of the end of World War II.

Norene had been gravely ill with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Mike said. Just before he left, Norene prepared with extra units of blood and platelets. As Mike put it, "they topped him off the day before he left."

Despite his wavering condition, Norene went to Europe anyway. Mike and Tracie said there was no way to stop him. Tracie even offered to go with him, but this trip was something Norene had to do on his own.

"He was going to do it," Mike said.

Norene served in the Army from 1942 to 1945, and was part of the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper in G Company, said Kaye Gomes. Her husband Jerry Gomes is secretary and treasurer for the 101st Airborne Division Association's Oregon chapter.

He fought in Normandy, Holland and Bastogne where troops, after liberating the Belgium city, were attacked by German forces and surrounded. When asked to surrender, a general called back in what became a historic quote with, "Nuts!" General Patton later broke the deadlock.

Gomes said Norene had a quote he would often say about his service:

"I had two-and-a-half combat jumps: D-Day, Holland and off the tailgate of a deuce-and-a-half in Bastogne."

A "deuce-and-a-half," Gomes explained, is a big truck. They weren't able to parachute into Bastogne.

Mike said Norene has been back to Europe before and this makes his third trip. He was unsure if Norene had visited battlefields before. He said Norene visited Bastogne a few days before he died.

Norene spoke little of his time in the war for most of his life, Mike said, but opened up about it during the past decade.
After the war, Norene came to Heppner in 1954 to open a veterinary office. Mike said everyone in town knew him simply as, "Doc." He retired in 1995.

Mike said Norene was a busy man, working on many hobbies in his life and mastering them all.

"He did a little bit of everything," Mike said, listing silver jewelry, bronzes, wood carving and making gunstocks. "He was always doing something."

Mike described Norene as a "reserved man with a very dry sense of humor" and "very modest, very modest."
The Bunches, and their grown daughter, are his only family, Mike said. He and Tracie also live in Heppner.


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James A. Restucci is the author of this blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Internal License.

3 Responses to One last tour of Normandy

  1. jimr says:

    Dick is a great guy, and he epitomizes what I think a hero should be. He is looked up to by men and kids alike. Now if you ask him, he will tell you he is no hero, that the guys who he left “over there” are the true heroes; however as old as he is, he still travels regularly and visits with current members of the 101st and their families at military hospitals across the nation. I get updates from him and others in the 506th Infantry Regiment Association pretty much on a weekly basis! More power to him, and those like him! CURRAHEE!

  2. TVNews says:

    Good read.

  3. EagleWatch says:

    Nice story, Jim … thanks for sharing it!

    I’ve been a Dick Winter fan for some time (I can’t remember the first time I came across his story), and it’s always good to see/hear from him.

    Thanks again.