For this Memorial Day, let us remember Sgt. Roy Speake, who died early in the morning on D-Day, June 6, 1944 during the beginning of the invasion of Normandy, and is now buried in Cooke County, Texas.
Sgt. Speake served as a paratrooper with Company C, 1st Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His plane, a C-47 Troop Transport, was shot down and crashed near Picauville, France at around 1:20 AM. All on board were killed. His plane was part of Operation Albany, the first mission ordered to secure key points behind Utah Beach in preparation for Operation Overlord.
Born in October of 1918, Roy Speake graduated from Gainesville High School and also attended Gainesville Junior College, where he learned to fly. However, his main work was at his family's farm north of Valley View, Cooke County, Texas. After his father died, Roy managed the farm with his mother and several siblings. While he was exempted from service due to the importance to his family, he enlisted anyway - one of four brothers to serve in World War II, but the only who did not return. At first he was listed as MIA and then, once the wreckage was recovered, his death was confirmed.
Initially, Sgt. Speake was buried at the American Cemetery in France, but Greta Speake, Roy's mom, paid $75 to have his body brought back home in 1948. Over 3,700 other service members' remains were repatriated and returned on the ship, Greenville Victory. Once home, Sgt. Roy Speake was re-interred at the Spring Creek Cemetery in Cooke County, Texas (north of Valley View), a short distance from his family's farm.
A plaque on the church wall in Picauville, France remembers the American soldiers who died on that early morning of the largest land invasion (up until that point) in world history.
Rest forever in peace, Sargent Speake.
Much of this information was gleaned from Honors.org, which commemorates fallen soldiers; dday-overlord.com, which chronicles the events of June 6, 1944; from newspapers accounts; and from a 2014 interview between the Gainesville Daily Register with Roy's sister Bette Speake Anderson, who served at Camp Howze during the war.