June is “a happy month and it’s a sad month” for Kitty Gee of Chesterville.

It was the month she married her husband John Gee, who died a few years ago at the age of 88. It is also the month she remembers the anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, which happened 73 years ago Tuesday — on June 6, 1944.

During World War II, Allied forces from Britain, the United States and Canada, together with Free French forces, landed on the coast of Normandy in the largest seaborne invasion in history. Operation Overlord, as it was called, secured a foothold on the French coast that led to the liberation of Western Europe that was then under the control of Nazi Germany.

John Gee was 18 years old when he arrived on Utah Beach, one of five beaches the Allied forces assaulted on the coast of Normandy.

John was a frogman, a forerunner of Navy SEALs, said Kitty, who lives in Chesterville. He was trained in combat and was a member of Underwater Demolition Team 18. Under enemy fire he performed demolitions underwater to clear obstacles on the beach to make way for invasion forces. His experience was recounted in the book, “The Frogmen of World War II: An Oral History of the U.S. Navy’s Underwater Demolition Units.”

“He wasn’t scared,” Kitty Gee said in an interview Monday. “He said it was just like fireworks … the sky was lit up.”


John stayed in a foxhole on the beach for two weeks, Kitty said.

In 1978, he returned to the spot in France and found the foxhole, but when he returned later in 1994 it had been turned into a museum area.

Some people didn’t like to talk about the war, Kitty said, but John Gee enjoyed recalling what he had been through.

When he joined the U.S. Navy, he had never left Maine, she said, so when he went away it was “exciting” for him.

Parts of his job were unpleasant, though, Kitty said. John had to remove dead bodies from the water, but he always tried to push his feelings aside to get the job done, she said. He received a bronze star for his bravery.

“He was a very patriotic man all his life,” she said.


Kitty and John Gee had six and five children, respectively, from previous marriages, and four of Kitty’s children went into the service. John was a major influence on them, she said.

The Franklin County couple ran a poultry business together for 30 years on their farm in Chesterville, she said. John kept in touch with his old crew from the service, and “to this day they still write” to Kitty, she said. John Gee died in 2014.

Kitty remembers when she went to Normandy with John and saw “all those little white crosses” for the estimated 10,000 or more Allied soldiers who died that day, she said. But now, she often runs across people who don’t know what the battle was and its importance.

Kitty Gee said she worries that society will forget “the sacrifices those poor boys went through.”

“It was a terrible, terrible battle,” she said. “I think (John) would like to know that we didn’t forget him. These soldiers are being forgotten.”

It’s important to remember what happened in June 1944, Kitty said, because it was a turning point in the war and so many gave their lives for it.


“We would not be free if it weren’t for our veterans,” she said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239


Twitter: @madelinestamour

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