This is a story about a real hero who has been living amongst us for many years, but regrettably has just had to leave Aberdeen East to live close by in a sheltered living accommodation. But he has a story that we felt could and should be shared amongst us, and we just had to track him down before he left us with his pretty wife.
We are referring, of course, to Lee and Cele who have been living in the Isles here in Aberdeen. This is a story by a British guy about an American guy. Now there is something special British people feel towards you guys who came to our rescue, and so the story of Lee is very special. He was one of those fighting men who was a part of the ‘Greatest Generation’, freeing the world from tyranny, and with regard to this part of the World War, Europe from Hitler.
June 6th this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the largest amphibious military operation in the whole of history…and history is very big !
Called ‘Operation Overlord’ hundreds of thousands of allied forces, so many of whom were made up of Americans, finally started the massive operation of transferring men/women and machines from southern England across the English Channel into France which was occupied by the Germans. Their purpose, to defeat Hitler and his Nazi war machine that had been wreaking havoc and death over most of Europe.
It was a long shot. Nobody knew if the invasion would really work, and because of a massive storm on the very day Overloard was triggered, it very nearly failed.
Hitler knew that something big was going to happen, but he didn’t know what would happen or from where it would happen. In fact the guy was totally confused as he became the victim of a huge hoax, created by the British and Americans and known as Operation Fortitude South. The hoax was so successful that on the day before the great Normandy landings, a German army commander sent a message up the chain of command that… “the invasion does not yet appear to be imminent”. Oh boy, was he wrong.
The next day over 156,000 troops landed on the Normandy Beaches, of which 73,000 were Americans.
So what has this all to do with a website in Aberdeen East. Well, we have had amongst us one of the Heros who helped get under Hitler’s skin.
Now well into his 90’s, in fact 99 next Christmas Eve, Lee Weiss was a radio operator with a special Morse Code assignment, who before and after Operation Overlord, more commonly known as D-Day, sent hundreds of messages across to the Germans to make them believe that what was to happen was actually not going to happen. And even if it did happen, it would happen somewhere else !
The Germans didn’t know what to make of the messages Lee and his peers sent over the Channel, all 711 of them constituting the only US Army unit set up solely for that part of a massive series of hoaxes. Such was this dis-information that the Germans convinced themselves that the invasion would take place 150 miles further up the French coast. So successful was the work of Lee and his band of men that Hitler kept his best fighters (the feared Panza Division) in the wrong place for seven weeks. Long enough for the Allies to form an unconquerable bridgehead.
Now Lee wasn’t just sat behind a desk tapping away at his Morse Code machine. He was sent over to France to do his crucial work at a hiding place along the Jersey Coast. During his 30 days on the Brest Peninsular, dodging shells and bombs, he had to ensure his communication machine continued its work.
He lost colleagues during the times he left the safety of the US coast line until the war came to an end. On board ship crossing the Atlantic in freezing and rough seas, with the only comfort being a hammock and two blankets, he was a part of the convoys bringing the American war machine over to Britain, avoiding, as best they could, the torpedoes and shells that sunk so many of the supply ships and their precious cargoes.
He had spent three years as a radio operator, specializing in the techniques of Morse Code, that did so much to help finally win the war. He spent time in southern England helping to confuse Hitler and his murderous army, and then time in France and Belgium as part of the Armored Division.
Much of their movements were undertaken at night, as there were many snipers and counter-attacks from desperate German forces fighting their last before giving up to the allies.
Our chat with Lee drew two particular comments we found interesting. That the individual Germans were exhausted having been already fighting for four years, but they were being pressured by the generals to keep fighting.
We asked Lee how he felt at the time when, surrounded by chaos, danger and mayhem, they marched towards Paris to help liberate the city. But reflecting on his feelings as a 19 year old, and offered with a cheeky smile, he explained that his incentive, when bombs were exploding around, and snipers had him and his colleagues in their sights, was the hope of meeting the French girls they had heard so much about !!
But ahead lay Lee’s greatest danger, because he had waiting for him, not the bombs and bullets, but a cute young lady who demanded that he returned to her – safe, well and in good condition ! She said she would be waiting for him to come ‘home’, and that he'd better return ! And so it was that Lee and Renee married shortly after the war had ended, after which he spent many years working for a
decorating company selling and fitting drapes and blinds. In 1999, sadly, an illness took the life of Renee, and Lee’s life took a turn.
A year after Renee passed Lee was visiting a local Deli when a lovely lady attracted his attention. They kept noticing each other around the local Philadelphia neighborhood. Eventually after a number of little chats Lee plucked up courage to invite this pretty lady to dinner, and it all started from there !
In time Lee asked her to marry him and she said no, and so he tried again and again, with a ‘no’ and a ‘no’ and finally came a ‘yes’. Of course, this was Cele, the lady we love and admire as she graces ours community with a such a beautiful smile. Lee and Cele were married in 2006. Firstly, they came here as snowbirds, but later they became a permanent and lovely part of our scene here in Aberdeen East.
We have been unable to borrow any of Lee’s photographs of his younger days, before, during and after the war or with his beloved Cele. When we went to chat with Lee they were ready to leave with all their possessions packed and at the time of writing Lee’s story, they are just settling in to their new home close by.
But we were very lucky, because we know of a young 16 year old student Elliott, who is shortly heading over the Pond on a school trip to study the features of Operation Overlord, and to visit the beaches where the landings took place and were fought over by the brave young American forces. Elliott joined me in our chat with Lee as he was so pleased to have the opportunity to meet one of the World War 2 fighting men. I was able to grab a photograph of Lee and Elliott, a span of four generations. Just a few days later Lee and Cele left their home in Aberdeen East.
The particular significance of this photograph is that it demonstrates the importance of maintaining the links between all generations, so we never forget the sacrifices made 75 years ago.
We all wish you both lots of love, good health and best wishes from everyone here in Aberdeen East and we look forward to seeing you both over here whenever and as often as you can, to share in our fun.