75 years after D-Day, Grand Island remembers native son who sacrificed to save his platoon
He was a member of the famed 82nd Airborne, which participated in the invasion of Normandy that began on June 6, 1944. Commencement of Operation Overlord became better known as D-Day. Grand Island native Charles DeGlopper would lose his life three days later, willingly putting himself in the line of fire to help his platoon, pinned down in a ditch, escape that position.
The United States and its allies, including Great Britain and Canada, landed on the beaches of France to begin the liberation of Nazi German-held Western Europe.
Three days later, on June 9, 1944, DeGlopper was with Company C, 325th Glider Infantry, looking to secure a bridgehead across the Merderet River in France. His platoon was cut off and under enemy fire while pinned down in a ditch. He voluntarily offered to help them escape by firing toward Nazi German forces and made his way into the road, in plain sight of the enemy, and continued to fire until he was fatally gunned down. His platoon was able to leave their position and take one which helped them win the bridgehead.
He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, which is included among a collection of images and relics displayed inside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9249, a post named in his memory.
The post's traditionally busiest day of the year is July 4. Given its location on Grand Island Boulevard along the town's annual Independence Day parade route, the DeGlopper Post becomes the place to go for both longtime residents and expats who have returned to Grand Island for the holiday.
"He's a hometown hero, of course. They've also done exposes on him on TV, at this time of the year and Veterans Day about what he did," said Don Tranter, who was among a handful of patrons visiting the Post on June 5. "He's a well-known person, especially on Grand Island."
A town park is also named in his memory. The triangular-shaped park has been a fixture at the intersection of Baseline Road and Grand Island Boulevard for decades but is now undergoing an expansion.
"There's going to be a wall there with veterans' names. There's going to be pavers," said Tranter. "I'm going to have my name on it. You buy pavers for the walkway, with your name and your rank and what branch of service you were in. It's going to be a really great thing. If you go over and look at it, you'll see how it's coming to fruition right now, even though it's not going to be completed until next year."
WBFO attempted to interview surviving relatives, including a nephew. One relative declined to be interviewed for this story while the other WBFO attempted to contact could not be reached by deadline.
Charles DeGlopper is buried on Grand Island but a memorial to him is also erected in France near the site where he died.
"There's a town there where they celebrate him every year, for what he did over there," Tranter said.