- This letter was written by my mother-in-law, Mary Jo Norgaard in
July 2006 after reading some of them. Thank you again for all your time.
- Dear Mabelle,
- My son James Norgaard found your letter on this website. It was
great to relive memories so many years later. He felt you might like to
hear a little more of the story.
- I am the Mary Jo, Lt. Col. Jens A. Norgaard named his plane after.
His parents were both Danish, not Norwegian. He was born in Danish owned
St. Croix. I am 91 years old and still have a mind and memories of your
Jim (that’s what we called him).
- Jens and I were married in March 1943, he died in September 1989. We
lived in Lakeland, Florida where Jens was Commander of the 495th
Squadron of the 344th bomb group of the 9th Air Force.
- His group had been picked to train new B26 Crews after we lost so
many of our B26 Crews to Hitler’s Rommel, “The Fox” in the African
Desert in 1943.
- When their group left for Europe in January 1944, Jens hand picked
his crew. James Parish was the group’s best bombardier and Lou Offenberg
was the most outstanding Navigator (We still keep in touch with him).
The family met with him in Florida after Jens died and he told us all
about D-Day` which we taped. Lou had special Celestial training.
- Col. Witty said the D-Day Mission was
miraculous. It was!
- I dedicated Jens’ plane to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph when he
named it after me. A month before D-Day when they were practicing the
D-Day formation, Lou Offenberg noticed a lake that wasn’t on his map. He
asked Jens why. Jens told him it was in front of the palace and not
marked to protect the palace from German aircrafts. Lou marked his map.
- On D-Day the weather was so bad Col. Witty wanted to abort the
mission. Jens insisted they could do it with his great crew.
- When they had the formation together about 15 minutes before they
were to drop their bombs, Jens asked Lou where they were. Lou answered,
“I don’t have a ghost of an idea.” Just at that moment the clouds opened
over the lake in front of the palace. They knew where they were and
dropped their bombs on all their targets within 20 seconds of the target
- They opened Utah Beach so our men were able to land safely, while
the British 8th Air Force missed their target on Omaha Beach and dropped
their bombs 3 miles inland, causing the deaths of so many of our men. I
learned this in 2002 when I went to the Dedication of the Museum at the
Arnhiem Bridge in Holland with my son Lt. Col. Anders J. Norgaard and
his wife Geraldine. Jens and his crew with Jim and Lou had destroyed the
important bridge after many other crews had failed.
- On a mission sometime after D-day, Jens was flying one of his
group’s planes, “Schiffoni’s” because the Mary Jo was being repaired.
While your Jim was leaning over the bomb site a piece of shrapnel came
through it and struck him in the forehead. Jens dropped his bombs and
immediately turned the plane around to return to their base, as Jim was
thought to be dead, but when Jim moved suddenly, Jens changed course to
the nearest base to get help. But, Jim died there. Jim was the only one
of Jens’ crew that he lost. No one ever died on the Mary Jo.
- When we defeated Japan, Jens was released from the service in
California in August of 1945. Where he had been sent to join the war
against Japan, after returning from Europe. He and I went to visit Jim’s
parents, after his discharge, to give them the details of his death and
his life with the group, and to comfort them.
- I forgot to tell you, our son Anders was born on June 4 1944, two
days before D-Day. Jens didn’t know of his birth for 2 weeks, all
communication was stopped as you know.
- I have kept in touch with Lambert Austin who has been writing a
newsletter every few months for years. I had also kept in touch with
Carl Christ and his wife Edna, who were part of the 344th. Carl has
gathered a great deal of information for the museum and the B26 groups.
Carl died in 2005.
- The success of the D-day mission would never have been so great, had
it not been for James Parish’s expertise as a bombardier.
- Mary Jo Norgaard