JAFFREY — Russ Butler had already visited Normandy Beach in France twice before making another trip last month to commemorate the anniversary of the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944.
On his third trip, he decided he wanted to do something purposeful, so he found the names of six New Hampshire soldiers killed on Omaha Beach and in the months after the invasion, famously known as D-Day, and visited their tombstones.
“It made it more personal for me than the first two times I was there,” Butler said. “I saluted the six New Hampshire boys who didn’t make it home ... rather than just walking by the grave sites.”
Butler said he “started getting interested” in who the soldiers were and tried to find family members of the six soldiers he chose at random from public Army files.
“I’ve always been sort of a history buff for World War II” he said.
He initially had tried to narrow his search to soldiers from Jaffrey, but he said the Army provides only state-level origins for soldiers killed in action.
“I didn’t get very far,” he said of his search for surviving family members. “Who knows where they are and if they have relatives still around. But I thought there must be some relatives still around.”
The grave sites he visited belong to Pfc. Frederick L. Bennett, Pfc. Raymond A. Cole and Pfc. Herman G. Coutu, all of whom died on D-Day at Normandy, and Sgt. Francis E. Donley, who died Aug. 6, 1944, and brothers John and Donald Crafts, both of whom were captains. John Crafts died Aug. 10, 1944, and Donald Crafts died Dec. 11, 1944, Butler said.
Bennett, Cole and Coutu are buried at Normandy Beach, while Donley and the Crafts brothers are buried at Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France, he said.
Butler said he hoped to find family members to let them know that the American Battle Monuments Commission has services that allow families to place flowers on grave sites. More information can be found at the commission’s website, abmc.gov.
- - - - - - - -
Tim Buckland may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.