Stamford commemorates 80th anniversary of D-Day, critical involvement in WWII

The community gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Stamford to reflect on June 6, 1944.

Marissa Alter

Jun 6, 2024, 10:02 PM

Updated 18 days ago


On the 80th anniversary of D-Day, about 20 people gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Stamford to reflect on June 6, 1944—a time when war was raging in Europe and Adolf Hitler controlled most of it.
“Freedom and democracy were under assault around the world,” stated Philip Alan Gerard, of VFW Post 9617. “But on that day, hope had landed on the beaches of Normandy when 73,000 Americans joined the Allied forces to carry out one of the greatest military missions of all time, a mission that would become known as D-Day.”
It was an operation that has deep ties to Stamford.
“The population in Stamford during World War II was 60,000. Of the 60,000, over 10,000 served in the military. That's an incredible number—one in six,” explained author Tony Pavia, a retired American history teacher and former principal of Stamford High School, Trinity Catholic High School and New Canaan High School.
Pavia, who now primarily lives in Florida, wrote “An American Town Goes to War,” which tells Stamford's stories of service during that time. Pavia interviewed over 70 local veterans involved in all aspects of World War II for the book, which came out in 1995.
“People of Stamford, particularly on this day 80 years ago, were critically involved in every aspect of re-liberating Europe,” Pavia told News 12. “D-Day was really the beginning of the end for the Third Reich, for the Axis powers. It was really the beginning of the fall and the decline of Hitler’s war machine.”
Excerpts from Pavia’s book were read at Thursday's ceremony as the group recognized some of Stamford's bravest. They included Eddie Page, a member of the 82nd Airborne 507th Parachute Infantry, whose first combat jump took place on D-Day, and John Jay Ginter Jr., a member of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron.
“John Jay Ginter flew two missions that day—dropped paratroopers the first time and then dropped supplies the second time,” Pavia said, adding that Ginter’s plane is enshrined in a D-Day museum in France.
The ceremony also mentioned Walter Westcott, who was assigned to the Naval Amphibious Force and was aboard a Landing Ship Tank on D-Day, and Mickey Donahue, a promising boxer who entered the Army and was seriously hurt during the invasion of Normandy.
“I think too many people tend to forget what was done at that period of time, how many sacrifices were made to give us the freedoms we enjoy today and what's still being done today to give us our ability to live like we live,” said Stephen Fischer, of the Stamford Veterans Council, about the importance of the ceremony. “Every year is significant because every year we get further and further away and soon there won't be anybody left from that era.”
It's a sentiment Pavia agrees with.
“These are special people, and we're losing them at a sadly alarming rate. And with them, we're losing the first-hand knowledge of what really happened,” Pavia stated. “It is not an overstatement to say that this generation saved civilization. They did.”

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