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World War II soldier buried in France; honored in Bruning

On Nov. 11, our nation will celebrate Veterans Day: a day memorialized to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Hebron Journal salutes those who have dedicated their lives for the safety of our country, often at great risk to themselves.

Last week, the Hebron-Journal staff received a letter regarding a World War II soldier from Thayer County who was buried in St. Laurent, France.

“In mid-September I visited the grave of a family member in the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

I’d not heard of this man until a couple weeks before leaving home when Terry Meincke of the Chicago area asked if I’d take a picture of the headstone of Lawrence E. Mammen, a distant cousin in our Wilhelms family.

Terry gave me the coordinates of the grave site and I found it within a few minutes. His marker reads:

Lawrence E. Mammen
Private 116 Inf. 29th Division
Nebraska – July 17, 1944

After returning home, I looked up his outfit on the internet and here’s what I found:
The 116th took part in the invasion of Normandy by spear heading the assault on Omaha Beach for the rest of the 29th Infantry Division. The regiment suffered 341 casualties, including soldiers from A Company, Bedford, Virginia, which lost 96 percent of their men within the first ten minutes on the beach. The 2nd Battalion broke loose from the beach and fought their way to a farmhouse to become the first command in France.

The 116th (of which Lawrence was a member) then advanced on the village of St. Lo. Despite heavy casualties and stiff resistance in the bocage, the 116th reached St. Lo.

The bocage is hedgerow country. The hedgerows were so thick it took 12 days and 10,000 casualties to cross approximately six miles.

After fierce and bloody house to house fighting, what was left of the French town was finally captured from German defenders on July 18.

Lawrence died on July 17 in that fierce fighting. He was 32-years-old.

Someone in our tour group suggested I go to the museum office and tell them of my visit.

They had me sign a register and gave me a folder with some information about him and two flags: one American and one French.

There is a stone in Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Bruning in his memory.

This stone reads:

Lawrence E. Mammen
Private 116 Inf. 29th Division
Died in battle of St. Lo
Buried in St. Laurent, France

I put the two flags in the ground by the stone and dug a small hole and put in sand I’d brought from Omaha Beach, some seashells also from the beach and a pine cone that had fallen by his grave.

The flags were picked up later in the day and given to the men of the Durham-Mammen American Legion Post 166 of Bruning, Nebraska and they will place them by the stone on the appropriate holidays.”

Janell Bowman Herbert
Aurora, Colorado

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