Tom Blakey, Museum volunteer and D-Day veteran
New Orleans, July 27, 2014.
Always quick with a greeting, Tom Blakey is one of about 20 WWII veterans who volunteers at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans
This first-hand interaction is invaluable for the visitors.
Tom Blakey at Camp Mackall,
North Carolina in 1943.
(Courtesy of the National Archives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum)
Tom Blakey in France
riding a German motorcycle
Tom Blakey, was born in Nacogdoches, Texas but his WWII service took him far from his hometown. He jumped into Normandy on D-Day as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. He landed in a church cemetery and made his way to a small but strategic bridge at La Fiere just west of Ste. Mere Eglise. There he was a part of the "costliest small-unit action in the history of the US Army." Their task: to capture a bridge over the Merderet River and hold it against any German tanks or infantry aiming to cross it and get to the Normandy beaches. Tom Blakey and his comrades captured the bridge and then held off wave after wave of German tanks and troops. Before relief arrived on June 9, there were 529 paratroopers wounded and 60 killed. Several friends Blakey had made at paratrooper school didn't survive that action or later operations such as the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied push into the Netherlands.
Though bullets tore holes in some of his clothes, Tom Blakey made it.
After the Normandy Campaign, Blakey participated in Operation Market Garden in Holland and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During the Bulge he was pulled off the front lines to serve as an aide to Lt. Gen. Lewis Brereton of the 1st Allied Airborne Army, where he was stationed in Paris for the remainder of the war. Tom has been a loyal volunteer of The National WWII Museum for 14 years and in 2007, he received the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest award to any person, civilian or military.
Tom Blakey, facing the camera, in St. Marcouf, Normandy, France.
Thomas Jefferson "Tom" Blakey has died at his New Orleans home on January 15, 2015, he was 94.
Always Remember - Never Forget