SPRINGVALE, Me – Although thousands of Franco-American families sent their sons off to the military during World War II, very few sent five brothers, who fought on the Two Fronts of the War, in Europe and in the Pacific. In Springvale, I was invited to speak about one family.
Albert and Blanche L’Heureux of Sanford were Silver Star parents, five times. All five of their sons were at war at the same time, each serving in different places in Europe, the Pacific and other places. Robert and Henry received Purple Hearts for their war wounds in France and Italy. Henry, in particular, was engaged in hand to hand combat at the Battle of Anzio, during the Allied invasion of the beach head.
The Sanford-Springvale Historical Society hosted the presentation. The Society works in conjunction with the Sanford Historical Committee, to collect, preserve, and display artifacts, documents, records, photographs and other materials and objects of historical interest to the town.
Congratulations to Harland Eastman, Claire Auger, Paul Auger and all who are involved in bringing this familiar and historic building to life, with finesse. Indeed, Springvale’s Main Street is enhanced by the Historical Society’s successful preservation project! In the past, it was the Springvale Town Hall and then, when my sons were growing up in Sanford, the building was a wonderful place for kids to go to summer basketball camp. In other words, the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society has taken what’s old and made it new again.
Today, the Sanford Springvale Historical Society is a completely renovated historic addition to the proud history of this special area of York County.
In anticipation of the 250 year celebration of the founding of Sanford and Springvale, the Historical Society is preparing a series of programs to be announced in support of other celebrations and events.
On March 15, I was honored to be the guest speaker at the public program to tell the L’Heureux veterans oral history. They are my husband’s first cousins. In the interviews, conducted several years ago, the four surviving brothers (at the time, Robert, Walter, Arthur and Henry) spoke candidly about their front line World War II experiences. I was able to convey some of what they told me during the one hour Historical Society presentation. A fifth brother, Leo, had died before the interviews were conducted.
A copy of the slides used in this historical presentation are available at this public link here.
Previously, a blog describing the history of the L’Heureux brothers in World War II was posted on the Bangor Daily News bloggers page.
Learning about the Allied invasion of Anzio in January, 1944, was a lesson experienced, with the horror of the battle, told by Henry’s account of the invasion.
With vivid recall, Henry’s description of the landing was horrific. Indeed, the devastation he described in the oral history session was also chronicled in the historical account of the battle, “Anzio: Italy and the Battle for Rome – 1944“, by Lloyd Clark.
“In January 1944, about six months before D-Day, an Allied force of 36,000 soldiers launched one of the first attacks on continental Europe at Anzio, a city located about 35 miles South of Rome, on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The assault was conceived as the first step toward an eventual siege of Rome. Although the Allies captured the beach, the indecisive leadership of General John Lucas and his boss General Mark Clark, failed to break through the Nazi’s formidable defenses and the advance stalled, completely.”
In fact, Henry was among the troops that were corralled by the Germans and held up for months, while the Nazi General Field Marshall Albert Kesselring’s forces defended against the invasion. Miraculously, Henry survived, but nearly all of his comrades, at the time, were killed in the Anzio battle.
During the history interview, the brother Arthur, who served in the Pacific and Philippines said, “We prayed a lot”.
After the war, Henry and Walter enjoyed playing semi-professional sports. Both of the men are recognized in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
Since the interview, only Robert is alive. He attended the historical presentation with his youngest brother, Norman, who had been too young to be drafted during World War II.
All veterans give up their most productive and youthful years to serve with humble pride in our military. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a boastful veteran. This is especially true when describing the five brothers, sons of Albert and Blanche L’Heureux, of Sanford. Their family are among Sanford’s Franco-American humble heroes. Thank you to Robert and Norman L’Heureux, for attending this program.