Allentown man makes trip to France where his brother died
Editor’s note: On Oct. 12, Paul Savary, 92, of Allentown, made an emotional journey to France to visit battle sites and the grave of his brother, Charles Savary Jr. The Army private was killed at age 19 on Aug. 30 1944, in the Battle for Brest. He landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, as part of the D- Day invasion. A few days
before he died, Charles Savary Jr. helped liberate Ville de Guilers. The Savary brothers grew up in Minersville. Paul Savary received a great gift on his pilgrimage to France. His granddaugh
ter, Dennille Schuler, of South Whitehall, has written an account of the trip.
Charles Savary Jr. was a 19- year- old American solider when he was killed in World War II’S Battle for Brest in western France.
Charles was buried in France. His 18- year- old brother, Paul Savary, of Allentown, never had the chance to properly mourn his brother’s death, serving stateside in the same war that took his brother’s life.
Nearly 75 years later, Paul, now 92, traveled to the French towns and villages his brother helped liberate. Retracing the steps of his brother and the others that served in K Company of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division, Paul learned not only about the events of 1944, but how they still resonate today. Paul is my grandfather.
Charles and Paul were particularly close because their mother died when they were young. Growing up in Minersville, in the 1930s was a tough life, but they had each other.
Paul remembers how talented Charles was on the violin, which he started playing at the age of 9. By the sixth grade, Charles was playing in the high school orchestra. When war came calling, Charles wanted to bring his prized violin, but their father said no. Paul often wonders if the violin and a place in the Army Orchestra would have kept Charles from seeing combat. The two brothers were so close that Paul named one of his sons Charles to honor his brother.
Paul’s first trip to France was in 2007, while visiting me during my semester abroad in London. My parents, Deborah ( Paul’s daughter) and Douglas Varney, and youngest sister, Deanna Varney, also made the trip. Then 81 years old, it was my grandfather’s first trip to visit his brother’s grave at Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint- James, Normandy, France, which contains the remains of 4,410 WWII American soldiers.
My greatest memory from that visit was asking the cemetery superintendent if other American families had visited that same weekend, because we noticed many other graves were freshly decorated for Easter. He said no, that French families had adopted the graves and been decorating them for generations to honor the Americans’ sacrifice for their freedom. That was an eye- opening moment for my family, my grandfather included.
My grandfather had been asking to go back to visit his brother ever since. My parents and sister took my now 92- year- old grandfather to France in October to again visit his brother. They also toured the beaches of Normandy.
On their last full day, they decided to visit the battleg round where Charles fought. The Battle for Brest was part of the Allied forces’ plan to invade the mainland of Europe and capture ports used for the delivery of materials and supplies.
When they arrived in the village of Guilers on Oct. 19, they were greeted by Ronan Urvoaz- Sauvage, an expert on the battle, and two others in an authentic WWII American Jeep. After visiting one of the battle sites near where Charles’ unit had fought to liberate Guilers in late August 1944, they were hosted by the mayor of Ville of Guilers, Pierre Ogor.
With champagne waiting, he wanted to say thank you for my grandfather’s brother’s sacrifice. The Ville of Guilers also arranged for French veterans to visit with my grandfather and express their gratitude. Ogor even presented my grandfather with a medal of the city to remember his brother who, he said, was the American soldier “come to fight the enemy on French soil.”
During the presentation he noted the importance, “74 years later, of continuing to honor the people who fought for our freedom.”
After speeches and the presentation, they were taken to the site where Charles was killed in action on Aug. 30, 1944, during an attack on the strong point of La Trinite, west of Brest.
Each family member took away something different from this emotional visit. My sister noted how dedicated the tour guide was in gathering the correct information to be able to tell soldiers’ families exactly what happened to their loved ones. My mom gained a better understanding of WWII and learned more about how her uncle died a hero. My dad gained a new- found appreciation for “the greatest generation” and the massive scale of the D- Day invasion and subsequent liberation of France.
As for my grandfather, this trip offered him an incredible gift — closure. At 92 years old, the people of the Village of Guilers gave him the hero’s welcome that Charles was never able to receive. He saw that there are people who remember his brother and are grateful for his service. He saw that those French citizens would not have the life they have today without the sacrifices made decades ago by American soldiers like Charles.
Paul continued serving in WWII as a member of the Naval Air Force in Kingsville, Texas, but his life was forever changed by the loss of his brother. Instead of being bitter, he has lived his life as a generous, loving and understanding man.
Now, having heard the stories and seen the battlefields first- hand, he can fully appreciate the purpose behind his loss. Charles’ death, while heartbreaking and lifechanging for our family, was part of a mission that proved to be life- saving for generations of French citizens. My grandfather, and all who served, truly are part of the greatest generation and we want him and others to know we appreciate them.
Dennille Schuler, of South Whitehall, is the public relations specialist at Penn StateLehigh Valley and a granddaughter of Paul Savary.
Paul Savary, 92, of Allentown, is overcome with emotion standing next to his brother Charles’ grave in the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in Saint- James, Normandy, France.
Deanna Varney, of Salisbury Township, walks with her grandfather, Paul Savary, 92, of Allentown, after visiting the grave of his brother, Charles Savary Jr., at the Brittany American Cemetery and War Memorial in Normandy, France.