WWII veteran visits his best friend's grave for the first time at Normandy American Cemetery, 79 years after the Allied landings
"Robert, you know, we won the war!"
Back in June, Ohio native and WWII veteran Richard Rossi visited his best friend's grave for the first time at Normandy American Cemetery.
When they grew up, Richard and Robert were always together, like brothers. Both jazz lovers, Richard played the saxophone, Robert played the trumpet, and together they played many concerts before the war. Richard was 17 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 10, 1943, with his best friend Robert Bailey. While Richard completed Radio School at Fort Benning and became a radio operator, Robert was assigned to the 79th Infantry Regiment. In spite of this, they kept in touch as war raged.
Richard was assigned to the 1301st Engineer General Service Regiment, part of Patton’s 3rd Army. He departed for France and landed on Utah Beach in early July 1944 as a radio operator. He later learned of the Army’s need for a saxophone player for the orchestra regiment. Learning that Robert had been killed in action on July 8, 1944, was hard for him, but he continued performing for the troops - boosting morale of the men fighting in Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia was a vital mission too.
Returning home after the war was hard too: everything had changed, and mostly, he missed his best friend. Richard followed his passion for jazz music and became a successful teacher of saxophone music. 79 years after the Allied landings in Normandy, the first thing Richard said while facing his childhood friend's grave was "Robert, you know, we won the war!" He went on to share countless stories with Robert. For 30 minutes Richard told his best friend about what happened during all those years that separated them.
Accompanied by ABMC interpretive guide Guillaume Lebastard, a jazz music lover too. Together, they chatted about old and new jazz waves, and Guillaume asked what Robert’s favorite song was, without hesitation Richard replied “Body and soul” by Coleman Orchestra, 1940. Guillaume promised Richard he would visit Robert's grave again to play the song.
Since that day, Guillaume has shared Robert and Richard's story with visitors, ensuring that their legacy continue to live on.
Robert Bailey is buried at Normandy American Cemetery, plot E, row 11, grave 06. Today and every day, we remember his sacrifice.