When a drunk driver killed David Dewhurst, Jr., his 3-year-old son, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, was deprived of the opportunity to learn about his father’s past. Nearly 60 years after the accident, Dewhurst learned his father led the final D-Day bombing run at Utah Beach during World War II.
“I always wanted to know more about my dad,” Dewhurst said Wednesday, tearing up. “I always wanted to know what I had missed by not having a father.”
Dewhurst’s father participated in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Speaking to a group of students enrolled in the Normandy Scholar Program on World War II, Dewhurst said his mother only told him and his siblings that their father was a pilot during the war, but did not specify his duties.
The invasion involved about 156,000 Allied troops in Normandy, France. Troops landed over a 50-mile stretch of the French coast by air and by sea at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.
The invasion was the largest amphibious invasion in world history and is considered the turning point in World War II, giving the Allies the upper hand. The attack resulted in the loss of about 12,000 Allied troops and between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops, according to the D-Day Museum’s website.
Dewhurst, 67, did not gain further knowledge about his father’s involvement in the war until June 7, 2007, the day after the 63rd anniversary of the Normandy invasion, when he discovered a museum on Utah Beach with an exhibit detailing his father’s mission on D-Day.
“The memorial was to my dad and it had his picture. As you’d imagine, it was pretty emotional,” Dewhurst said. “I probably stood there for an hour. I couldn’t move, I just couldn’t move.”
Dewhurst said the events of that day prompted him to do two things: revitalize the museum, which he and his family have contributed millions of dollars to since that day, and to seek out the remaining members of his father’s outfit.
Dewhurst said he found four of them and, aside from asking about their experience of the war, he asked them to describe his father.
“Of course, not knowing him, I kept asking these four people that had flown with him, that had known him: how he acted, how he reacted, what kind of guy was he?” Dewhurst said. “Did he get mad? How did he handle himself? I knew that he occasionally smoked cigars: id he try to do that on bombing runs? Answer: no, but yes.”
Spending most of his talk relating the story about his father, Dewhurst said many people share similar stories. He told students in the program, who will visit Normandy in May after a semester dedicated to an intense study of World War II, that visiting the battle sites and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial will “make you proud to be an American.”
“It will remind you that freedom is not free,” Dewhurst said.