Queen Mary 2’s World War II Veterans Atlantic Crossing
Jackie Chase and I first met on April 18, 2017, over lunch in Santa Monica with Timothy Davis, CEO and founder of The Greatest Generations Foundation (TGGF). Timothy had reached out to Jackie a few months earlier, introducing himself and the foundation’s mission, and thus sparked a new partnership between TGGF and Cunard. A few weeks ago, I once again met Jackie at Valencia’s Corner Bakery to discuss Cunard’s recent Queen Mary 2 World War II program with TGGF, and here are some highlights. But first, we’ll start with a snapshot of Cunard’s storied 178-year history.
World War I
Cunard Line possesses an impressive history that goes back to 1840, including its commitment to a huge contribution supporting victory in World War I. Jackie recounted that history for us: Cunard transported 900,000 American troops to Europe, suffering the loss of 13 ships. On May 7, 1915, Cunard’s flagship Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk in 18 minutes by a German submarine, causing the loss of 1,198 lives. This was a substantial motivation for the United States to enter World War I, which ended in victory 100 years ago on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918.
Honoring World War II Veterans
Cunard Line made a full commitment to western allies to pursue victory in World War II over Adolf Hitler’s brutal Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy. With the outbreak of World War II, Cunard retrofitted into troop ships a number of their passenger liners, including Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Credible estimates have Cunard ships transporting over 2 million American soldiers to the European Theater, which led British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to proclaim that Cunard shortened World War II by one full year. The Greatest Generations Foundation was formed over 16 years ago precisely to honor World War II veterans by returning them to their South Pacific and European Theater battle sites. Hence in 2017, Timothy Davis determined that TGGF and Cunard could make a perfect partnership to further honor World War II veterans as their numbers are drastically dwindling. That premonition has now proven both accurate and very successful.
“The Can-Do Yard”
This summer’s trip began with The Greatest Generations Foundation hosting 12 World War II combat veterans and two Vietnam combat veterans (who traveled to assist and support the World War II veterans) assembling for dinner at the Millennium Hilton Hotel in New York City on July 17, 2017. The next day, the group enjoyed a private tour of New York City, including the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. On July 19, the group visited the Brooklyn Naval Yards, which played a critical role in World War II building battleships and aircraft carriers that carried troops, weaponry and supplies throughout World War II. The famous battleships, USS Arizona, USS Missouri and USS Iowa were built at those naval yards, nicknamed, “The Can-do Yard.”
Queen Mary 2 Program
On July 20, 2018, those 14 esteemed combat veterans, along with Cunard’s Jackie Chase, Timothy Davis and TGGF photographer John Riedy, boarded Queen Mary 2 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The veterans’ adventure of a lifetime would continue for the next seven days arriving at Southampton, England, July 27. Jackie Chase expressed her and Cunard’s tremendous appreciation for partnering with The Greatest Generations Foundation. Jackie told me that considering Cunard’s strong support during World War II that hosting these war veterans matches perfectly with their long and proud legacy. Each day, two World War II veterans would take the stage in a luxurious theater to speak to audiences of approximately 700 people at each session about their war experiences. The first event was so popular among the passengers that they shifted to a larger theater for the remaining presentations. Jeremy Hubbard, current co-anchor of FOX31 Denver News, joined the voyage as moderator of the panels and lectures. This voyage was TGGF and Cunard’s second and Jackie Chase said, “I did not think it was possible that the program could be any more remarkable than our first last year. However, between Jeremy’s expert moderation and the beautifully produced introductory video clips, which were played at the beginning of each daily program (new from last year), this event was elevated to a new and exciting level.” Jackie said the following battles were discussed, with Jeremy keeping a brisk pace and level of compelling content on point. “Jeremy and the veterans were simply extraordinary, and the revered veterans had our audiences mesmerized.”
These topics were covered:
D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, 1944
The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944
‘I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor,’ 1941
Miracle at Midway, 1942
Blood Sand: The Battle for Iwo Jima, 1945
Okinawa 1945: The Last Epic Struggle of World War II
World War II Veteran Richard Ramsey
Local Saugus resident and World War II veteran Richard “Dick” Ramsey was invited to this program after Timothy Davis read Dick’s Dec. 29, 2017, veterans page in our Signal newspaper. Dick was thrilled and could not wait to speak to audiences about his impressive service aboard the USS Nevada battleship, which was the flagship for Normandy’s D-Day June 6, 1944, invasion. Dick participated in the shelling of Utah Beach, one of five beaches assaulted by allied troops, which preceded our troops storming ashore at Utah under minimal enemy fire. Dick, who has studied the Normandy invasion extensively, demonstrates an incredible command of the facts relating to this important moment in history: The 4th Infantry Division delivered 21,000 soldiers with a loss of 197 men who gave the ultimate sacrifice at Utah Beach. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Division paratroopers and glider troops, numbering 14,000, lost 2,500 of their soldiers near Utah Beach and another 700 men were lost from various engineering units. The Normandy invasion was in itself historic in size, a success but at a very high cost, with a total numbering over 600,000 British, Canadian, Free French Forces and American troops assaulting Normandy. The total allied military loss of life was approximately 10,000. Soon after D-Day, military personnel from Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece and the Netherlands fought in the ground campaign. Many provided air and naval support with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Navy. Normandy’s D-Day armada consisted of approximately 6,500 ships of all sorts and another 4,000 infantry landing craft. Dick was honored to speak to the overflowing audience and during the last day all of the veterans assembled on stage to close the event. They all toasted to the attendees from a fine bottle of bourbon that Dick brought and then the veterans led the audience in singing “God Bless America.” Dick said, “I could not be more grateful to Jackie Chase and Timothy Davis for including me in this wonderful patriotic program.”
Read about Dick Ramsey’s experiences aboard the USS Nevada at Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa here:
Southampton and London
The group arriving at Southampton on July 27 checked into their hotel for a day of rest and the next morning after breakfast they traveled to London, stopping in at Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial, the only British Isles American Cemetery. Some 509 known and unknown U.S. soldiers are buried there who perished in World War I. The adjacent Brookwood Military Cemetery contains over 5,000 dead soldiers from both world wars. Next, they explored Sir Winston Churchill’s secret underground headquarters. Their busy day concluded with a final farewell dinner at the famous Chiltern Firehouse before their long journey home the next day.
About Cunard Line
Cunard Line is the operator of luxury cruise ships Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Renowned for impeccable White Star Service, gourmet dining and world-class entertainment, all three Queens offer luxury accommodations in Britannia, Britannia Club, Princess Grill Suite and Queens Grill Suite staterooms. Cunard is the only line to offer regularly scheduled Transatlantic service between New York and London, and it continues to celebrate the freedom of travel on exciting World Voyage and Grand Voyage itineraries that visit Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Source: Cunard Line
D-Day 75th Anniversary
Jackie Chase informed me that Cunard Line will potentially partner with The Greatest Generations Foundation again next year as we approach the 75th commemoration of the D-Day Normandy invasion. Check these sites: www.cunard.com and www.tggf.com