SIMPSON: One by sea, one by land, one cause

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson

Unusual events that happen in life occasionally trigger new unexpected responses and sometimes they come from total strangers.

Falling on a police firearms range, breaking a knee, and being confined in a rehab facility brought a response from a previously unknown, retired FBI agent who served in Hartford, Connecticut from 1962-1988.

Mike Walsh, a special agent I never met, called on Feb. 12 saying he read some of my background in an email and saw reference to my World War II military service with the 45 Infantry and my participation in the invasion of southern France in August of 1944. Mike's father was drafted in World War II and served in the Navy, assigned to a mine sweeper, UMS 226.

In doing research on this ship, Mike was lucky enough while in Washington, D.C., to locate and study actual copies of the War Diary and Action Report for YMS 226. He followed the day-by-day journey of the ship. Mike's studies reflected that on Aug. 15 his dad's ship began a sweep for mines in the Gulf of Tropez where the 45th Infantry began initial landings in southern France. His dad and my fellow soldiers and I were engaged together in a beach assault, even though we did not know one another. Mike wanted to share this information and talk personally with someone who was in battle with his father, a Seaman First Class. Mike was excited to share information about an event that took place more than 67 years ago. Mike's dad was 35 years old when drafted and his ship had a crew of 32 men. Being the oldest on board, his dad was called "Pop" by his fellow crewmen.

At the time, I doubt either Mike's father or I realized we were part of 2,250 ships and 325,000 troops landing in southern France in support of the invasion of Normandy. It was very interesting to meet Mike Walsh in this way and to hear his story of a connection between his father and me in one of the historic events of World War II.

This telephone conversation proved to me that Mike Walsh loved his father and spent a great deal of personal time studying to learn more about his dad's service to his country. Mike sought to understand better his father's sacrifices and pride in his naval service.

It was obvious to me Mike successfully learned a great deal about his father's military service and wanted to share it with others who were there at the invasion of southern France.

I'm pleased that Mike found me to be such a person and appreciate his sharing this information.

Walsh and Simpson. One by sea and one by land. Two young Americans, strangers, yet among the many young Americans serving on foreign shores.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.