Most of you did not know that June 6-7 was also the annual
Museum Ships On-the-Air weekend. There were 85 museum ships worldwide (most are in USA) that participated.
Our radio room was staffed during each day by Amateur Radio operators from the Evansville area, but evenings and mornings were left up to me. While talking to Amateur Radio operators worldwide is part of it, we do keep an ear open for Museum Ships for ship-to-ship contact.
This is specifically what I was doing last Saturday night,
using CW (morse code), the ships main means of communication during the WW2 years. (and still a very viable mode today)
I had just contacted an Icebreaker in Stockholm, Sweden
and afterward I heard an individual French Amateur Radio station calling for anyone. F3NB (callsign) is a person I have heard for years and I thought I would interrupt my searching for ships and call him since it was a noteworthy day for us, the ship, and for France.
After explaining that we, USS LST325 (WW2LST callsign) were one of the many LST ships that landed on his northern shore 65 years ago that day, the "floodgates opened!" He said that French TV was filled with D-Day remembrances and the activities at Normandy, and that he was overwhelming appreciative of the sacrifices of the "American Boys" who
liberated them, and especially for those who gave their lives in the process.
He went on to reveal that he was 93 years old, (on CW you cannot tell any difference between a teenager or an old-timer) had served in the French Navy during their war years. His ship was sunk by the Germans but he survived and later on became a part of the French Air Force.
He kept repeating "merci, merci, mon ami" (thank you my friend) for the USA and its soldiers and sailors for liberating them fron the Nazis, and for contacting him from a ship that was there! I added a few details, such as the 44 trips across the Channel that our ship made, etc. He went on and on, and could not stop expressing his overwhelming gratitude. The communication was going on much longer than I expected, over 20 minutes.
I know that other stations were listening to our conversation and I finally excused myself to allow others to contact him. But after we signed off, there was SILENCE. No other stations called either him or me. No signals to be heard. At that moment I knew that the listeners must have been as humbled as I was and stopped their activity to contemplate the significance of the day and the "signals across the sea" expressing unbounded thanks, that they had just listened to.
Although searching for ships to contact, I have to say that this communication was the hightlight of the weekend
for me. A truly humbling experience that occasionally happens. The right day, the right radio mode, the right countries, the right person, (also a Navy man), the right ship and the right remembrances.
Andy, (as he identifies himself to radio friends), actually
Andre Bertemes, near Toulouse, is a true patriot and French Ambassador (on the radio) and a true friend of the USA. Long may he spend his early morning hours (and our evenings) each day shaking hands with us across the sea.