104-year-old Bristolian among cohort visiting Normandy for 80th anniversary of D-Day

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 5/30/24

Next week will mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. This Friday, American Airlines and several philanthropic partners will be flying 70 of these men, including Bristol's Arthur Medeiros, to France for a very special series of events.

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104-year-old Bristolian among cohort visiting Normandy for 80th anniversary of D-Day


On June 6, 1944, Allied forces embarked on a mission that would become the largest amphibious invasion in military history. The operation, codename “Overlord,” delivered five naval assault divisions to the beaches of Normandy, France, turning the tide of World War II and leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

On that day, about 10,000 lost their lives there. By the end of the month, the Allied invasion force would number more than 850,000.

Next week will mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. This Friday, American Airlines and several philanthropic partners will be flying 70 of these men and women to France on a donated charter flight to honor them for their service and sacrifice.

"We’re honored to play a part in helping this group of heroic veterans return to Normandy," said David Seymour, American’s Chief Operating Officer and a veteran of the U.S. Army. “This special journey is not only an expression of our gratitude for these heroes and the sacrifices they made for our freedom, but we hope to help shine a light on their extraordinary stories and preserve their legacies for generations to come."

Arthur Medeiros of Bristol, who just turned 104 years old on May 10, will be one of the 70. Born in Fall River, Medeiros forged his parents’ signatures and enlisted in the military. He played the trombone in the U.S. Army band in Panama for six weeks until the service found out that his parents didn’t consent to his enlistment, and he was sent home. He worked on his family’s farm until 1942, when he was drafted. Although he thought he would play in the Army band again, he deployed overseas with D Company, 1st Battalion, 309th Regiment, 78th Division, where he traded his trombone for a .50-caliber machine gun.

He arrived in Southampton, England, but was soon shipped to Le Havre, France, ultimately participating in several missions including the Battle of Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. Wounded three times, he was eventually awarded three Purple Hearts. Medeiros achieved the rank of sergeant by the time he was discharged in October 1945.

“He never talked much about the war,” said his grandson Ryan McCaughey, who will accompany his grandfather to France. “I knew he was at the Battle of the Bulge but he didn’t mention that he was part of the second wave to land on Omaha Beach.”

The Journey will begin today, May 30 at the American Airlines headquarters in Dallas Ft. Worth, where the veterans will be honored at a World War II-themed kickoff dinner, complete with entertainment by a 1940s big band and a performance by the Victory Belles of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. The event will be attended by celebrities including Miss USA and Gary Sinise, whose foundation is a co-sponsor. Dinner will be prepared by celebrity chef Robert Irvine.

The group will fly on a chartered Boeing 787 to Paris the next day. There, the veterans will partake in a wreath-laying ceremony at Suresnes American Cemetery, cruise the Seine, visit the Eiffel Tower and participate in le Ravivage de la Flamme, a daily ceremony that honors fallen French service members at the Arc de Triomphe.

They will then head to the Normandy region for commemorative events, concerts, ceremonies and museum tours. Activities include wreath-laying ceremonies on Omaha and Utah Beaches, lunch at a historic chateau that once served as the headquarters for a German division, a visit to Pointe du Hoc and a parade for the veterans through the streets of Sainte-Mère-Église. The trip will culminate with a ceremony at the American Battle Monument Commission’s Normandy American Cemetery, where nearly 9,400 Americans are laid to rest, and Presidents Biden and Macron are scheduled to attend.

For this special journey, 66 World War II veterans from across the United States will be accompanied by two Rosie the Riveters, a British Army doctor whose Army husband was part of the Normandy mission, and a Holocaust

survivor who never saw his parents again after they were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The veterans going on the trip range from 96 to 107 years old, with an average age of 100.8 years old.

Six Medal of Honor recipients will also join the trip. These men received the highest award for valor in action for their service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, but will join the World War II veterans to honor them for their
service and sacrifice. A joint choir, composed of over 50 cadets and midshipmen from our nation’s military service academies will also be in attendance. In addition to performing along the way, each of these future military officers will be assigned to a veteran. Their mission is to hear their stories firsthand, learn from them and pass those stories on to the next generation of military leaders.

Along with American Airlines, this historic trip is sponsored by partners including TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Robert Irvine Foundation and Old Glory Honor Flight.

Reached early in the week, Medeiros was very much looking forward to the trip to Paris, and revisiting Omaha Beach, though he thinks that the thing he is most looking forward to is visiting the American cemetery, where five dear friends are buried. All these years later, he remains in touch with many of their family members. He’s grateful for the opportunity to travel in such good hands.

“They are taking great care of us,” he said of the American Airlines operations staff.

McCaughey is excited as well, and very grateful for the opportunity to spend this time with his grandfather.

“When we did the honor flight to D.C. ten years ago, he was the oldest veteran on that trip,” said McCaughey. “He’s excited, which makes me really excited. He is a big part of my life and I love spending time with him.”
Visit www.aa.com/dday80 for trip updates.

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