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A remembrance of D-Day and beyond

The Rev. Canon George Chassey landed at Omaha Beach on June 14, 1944. He lives in West Columbia.
The Rev. Canon George Chassey landed at Omaha Beach on June 14, 1944. He lives in West Columbia.
photo by author

Much has been written in thee last couple of weeks about the 70th anniversary of D-Day. But that was only the beginning. Troops continued to land after that date. One of those who landed afterwards was George Chassey of West Columbia who landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 8, June 14,1944, 70 years ago today.

By the time he landed, "the fighting was inland. We spent our first night in an apple orchard in foxholes dug by Germans." Chassey was a Crew Chief in the 353rd Fighter Squadron, 354th fighter Group. Their aircraft was a P-51 Mustang. As a Crew Chief, Chassey was in Charge of maintenance and upkeep of the aircraft.

In April,1945, Chassey was in Ohrdruf, Germany and saw a concentration camp. "the bodies were stacked up like cordwood. It was the 'Wilderness of Sin'. It was inconceivable that humans could do that to other humans. I walked in the presence of evil."

By the time Chassey arrived at the camp, what few survivors there were had been evacuated by infantry troops."All I saw was dead people, a gallows and a funeral pyre." Chassey said the Commanding General of the American troops ordered local townspeople to the camp to see the destruction and to help bury the dead.

After, and as a result of, the war, Chassey became a priest in the Episcopal Church. He was the Canon to the Ordinary, or chief assistant to Bishop William Beckham of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina who served from 1979-1994.

On this 70th anniversary of his landing in France, Chassey said he remembered going to France for the 60th anniversary in 2004 and "seeing the graves of those who made it possible for us to defeat this embodiment of evil. People in this day and age don't know how close we came to the destruction of Western Civilization. Europe could have been governed by Hitler types"

On April 27, Chassey was the guest speaker at a Holocaust Remembrance Service at Beth Shalom Synagogue. In his remarks, he siad, "I walked in the presence of evil. It was an experience which I did not realize would change my life. It was a strong contributing factor that led me to the last 50+ years as a Priest in the Episcopal Church. What we remember here this day is from another era, another century, Let us remember evil does not fade away. It lurks in many shadows. There are many forms that can enslave the human soul."

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