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SEATON: Ike visited Seaton before D-Day

Tuesday, 06 May 2014

WAR time Supreme Commander Dwight D Eisenhower, who went on to become the 34th President of the United States, visited Seaton briefly in 1944 before American GIs stationed in the town left for the D-Day landings, many of whom lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy. As Seaton prepares to commemorate those landings and the part the 4th Infantry Division of the United States Army played in the liberation of Europe, local historian Ted Gosling has secured proof that Ike played a flying visit to Seaton on February 5th 1944 to wish his troops well. American GIs were stationed all over the West Country in the build-up to June 6th 1944 and Eisenhower travelled to Seaton by car after arriving by train at Honiton. But he only spent 15 minutes in the town before moving on, possibly, to Axminster and/or Lyme Regis to meet more troops. Mr Gosling, who was ten-years-old when war broke out and has vivid memories of the GIs based in Seaton, a prolific author and curator of Seaton Museum, has written a book about Seaton and East Devon at war which will be published in June. He has also confirmed that Brigadier General Roosevelt, the son of another American President, Theodore Roosevelt, was also stationed in Seaton. Although he was 56-years-old and suffering from heart trouble, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honour by leading his men under fire on Utah beach, only to die of a heart attack one month later in France. Another American war hero stationed in Seaton was Captain George Maby, who became the second most highly decorated soldier in American history. A US Army retired colonel, John Rudman, visited Seaton four years ago and was surprised there was no evidence of any US presence in Seaton during World War II. His father spent six months in Seaton, saying these were some of the fondest memories the GIs had before going into combat. When Mr Rudman returned to America he contacted his Congressman to arrange for a special plaque thanking the people of Seaton for all they did for the US troops during their stay in Seaton. This plaque has been sent to Seaton Town Council and will be unveiled on June 6th. Mr Runman also sent a Stars and Stripes flag that had flown over the White House in Washington, encased in a special wooden case, with a certificate of authenticity and a Congressional Proclamation, which now has pride of place in Seaton Museum. Hundreds of Czech troops were also stationed at the holiday camp who were visited by their country’s president, Edvard Beneš.

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