Before Richard “Hall” Jeschke helped plan the amphibious assault that led to the liberation of Europe during World War II, he tended flowers at Recruit Depot Parris Island.
“Colonel Jaschke [sic], a strong believer in the beautification of Parris Island, superintends a central garden on the post were flowers are grown and then transplanted to brighten other areas,” David Robison wrote in a March 16, 1941, article in The State (S.C.) newspaper.
Some of his fellow officers laughed at him for placing the garden in the middle of the depot, Robison continued. “Replied Colonel Jeschke: ‘I intend to keep my eye on those flowers and see that they get proper attention. I can do this if they are out in the open where I can pass them frequently — and I couldn’t do it if they were stuck away in some little corner.'”
Jeschke, then Parris Island’s chief of staff for Major Gen. James C. Breckenridge, would step onto Omaha Beach in Normandy a little more than three years later on June 6, 1944.
More than 150,000 Allied troops landed on French beaches that day, according to Britain’s D-Day Museum. Of those, about 73,000 were Americans. And of those, just a handful were Marines.
The Marines had gained notoriety for their exploits in the Pacific but numbered far fewer in the European theater, where the U.S. Army was concentrated.
Jeschke had led troops at Guadalcanal in 1942, according to the Corps’ “A Brief History of the 8th Marines.” And, as that history noted, he later “played an instrumental role in planning the invasions of Sicily in 1942 and Normandy in 1944.”
According to retired Marine Lt. Col. Harry W. Edwards’ “A Different War: Marines in Europe and North Africa,” Jeschke was part of the Normandy amphibious assault and “subsequent operations” through July 1, 1944.
“(Jeschke) made frequent liaison visits to front-line Army combat units ashore,” Edwards writes, “and was subsequently awarded the Legion of Merit for this service.”
He was later invited back to Normandy by the French government to mark the 10-year anniversary of the landings, according to Devereux Oldfield Audilet, a 74-year-old resident of McLean, Va., and Jeschke’s granddaughter.
He survived the war and died in December 1957 after retiring at the rank of brigadier general.
Several of his relatives served in the Corps, including great-grandson Gy. Sgt. Ryan Jeschke, who completed recruit training at Parris Island and served for more than a decade before being killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012.
An oil painting of Ryan Jeschke, who graduated from Recruit Depot Parris Island and served his country for more than a decade before being killed in action in 2012 in Afghanistan. He was the great-grandson of Richard “Hall” Jeschke, who as a colonel in 1944 helped plan the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, during World War II and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his part in the operation.
“Some of the reading I’ve done, it seems like he might have been one of the only Marines at D-Day,” grandson Tom Jeschke, 62, of Lake Anna, Va., told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette on Tuesday morning.
The younger Jeschke, his siblings and their cousins called the man “Gindaddy.”
“The only Parris Island story I ever heard about Gindaddy is that at some time a hurricane came through and fouled the (depot’s) water (supply),” Tom Jeschke said. “And Gindaddy’s solution was to bring in trucks of beer.”
His grandfather was asked: What about the recruits who don’t drink?
“‘I guess they’ll get thirsty,'” was Gindaddy’s reply.
“This is just family lore as far as I know,” his grandson said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the Southeast Hurricane made landfall in Beaufort on Aug. 11, 1940.
The S.C. State Climatology Office notes that it killed 34 people and caused $9.9 million in damage. Damage to Parris Island was not mentioned.
Nor was it included in The State’s March 1941 article, which mentioned the storm.
In fact, Robison wrote that, during the hurricane, “the island got along well on its own supply of water.”
Water or beer, a good story either way.
Wade Livingston: 843-706-8153, @WadeGLivingston
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