Windows for Remy dedication to honor Brady WWII hero

This weekend, several surviving military veterans who fought in World War II will get the rare opportunity to lay to rest the unfortunate ghosts that have haunted them over the past 50 years’a ghost to these men, but an angel of mercy to countless others in the small town Remy, France. As a tribute to a war hero and former Brady resident, Lt. Houston L. Braly, who lost his life defending France in WWII, the high point of the July 28-29 celebration will be the unveiling of new stained-glass windows for Remy’s 700-year-old Church of St. Denis. The original windows of the church along with several other historical buildings were destroyed when Braly’s squadron’s fifth firing pass destroyed an 18-car amunitions train and took the lives of some 400 German soldiers in the blast. Still today, Braly is seen as a hero in Remy. Even with all the destruction caused in Remy on Aug. 2, 1944, his death symbolizes the concrete proof of the depth of America’s dedication to freeing France from the Germans. Members of Braly’s family planning to attend the ceremony this weekend in France are Walter and Norma Braly and sons, William Joel Braly and son, Thomas Calhoun Braly; Dr. W. Grant Braly and wife, Lisa Hansen Braly and children, Frank Braly, Houston L. Braly II and Morgan Braly. The weekend of events include a parade at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday which will highlight both French and American military units. The parade will follow with the crossroads memorial plaque presented at the crash site of Lt. Braly on August 2, 1944. The dedication of the new windows will take place at 10:45 a.m. at St. Denis chapel. (Editor’s note: The following article was published November 21,1999 in the Lubbock Avalance Journal. It details some of the history leading up to this weekend’s events.) Remy, France (AP)’In the quiet medieval church, former U.S. fighter pilot Roy Blaha gestured upward at the clear plate windows that stood out starkly among the brilliant panes of stained glass. Fifty-five years ago, Blaha’s 383rd fighter squadron had swooped over the town of Remy on a mission to strafe a German munitions train. The train exploded, shattering nearly all the town’s windows’including some in the 13th century church. The blast also killed many Germans and a local boy. “The explosion damaged so much here,” said Blaha, 78, of Homestead, Fla. In the tight years after World War II, the people of Remy could afford no luxuries, least of all restoring the seven lost windows in the Church of St. Denis. Clear glass filled the empty spaces. Now, so many years after that Aug. 2, 1944 mission, Blaha and some of his surviving squadron buddies have come back to Remy to carry out a new mission’replacing the windows again, this time with stained glass. The former members of the squadron and volunteers raised $200,000 for the project as a way to thank the townspeople who risked their lives during the war by defying the Nazi occupiers. The first window went up Saturday, and three former members of the squadron were there to see it. It was the first time one pilot, Manuel Casagrande of Alamo, Calif., had set foot in France, even though he flew over it often during the war. “It’s not just for the people of Remy, it’s for all the people of France who resisted against the Nazis,” said 78-year-old Gordon McCoy of Linden, Calif., a former member of the squadron. But the people of Remy are closest to their hearts. The villagers’ tribute to a downed U.S. pilot touched the squadron for decades, and galvanized efforts to replace the windows. The blast that shattered the stained glass also killed 22-year-old Lt. Houston Lee Braly Jr., ripping the wings off his P-51 Mustang. Several townspeople pulled Lt. Braly’s badly burned body from the downed plane, wrapped it in a parachute and hid it in a farmhouse, infuriating the German military. Hundreds gathered to shower his body with flowers. The Germans were livid at this show of affection toward the downed American, and threatened reprisals. Even after Braly was buried, people continued to pile flowers on his grave, and German forces kept up their threats. The young pilot’s death crystallized anti-occupation sentiment in the town of about 1,800 people, and prompted many to devote themselves to resisting the Germans. To this day Braly is a hero in Remy. The site of his crash is marked with a cross painted on a stone wall, and many older people keep clippings and photos of the young man in their desks. And curiously, though U.S. forces all but destroyed Remy, the townspeople were never bitter toward the Americans. Even now, as much of France rails against U.S.-driven globalization, the people of Remy are ever-conscious of the American efforts during World War II. “The American pilots were the hope that came from the sky,” said Bernard Quertelet, 61. “A young man lost his life to defend us, to save a people he didn’t know.” After the members of the 383rd began a fund-raising campaign in 1994, letters began trickling in. Organizers received about 4,000 donations, most only a few dollars, from people who had lost fathers or husbands in the war, from children’s bake sales and from people who read the story and were touched. The town chose a modern, abstract design to replace the lost windows.

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