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Keith John Paul Horcasitas

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Memories of Dad as I recall D-Day and Father's Day / National D-Day Museum

Pic: Public Domain

As we recognize D-Day today and Father's Day soon, I fondly recall many memories with my daddy and grandpa – who became known by many, including Tom Brokaw, as embodying “The Greatest Generation.” While some people, unfortunately, have not had a positive relationship with their fathers like I was blessed to experience, I pray that their hearts will be healed even if one's dad may have already passed away - it is never too late to forgive someone, including yourself.

“The favorite memorials of the last war (WW I) were of a soldier going ‘over the top,’ but when sculptors and the illustrators look for a subject to symbolize WW II, it will be a landing party coming down the ramp of an invasion boat!”

My renaissance grandfather, who died when I was about 8 year old, helped me recently, though my research of family documents, to better understand this truth about the Higgins Boat and how he was truly a part of that “greatest generation” who sacrificed so much for us and taught us about how to live with and for one another.

That first caption noted above was found on a pictorial booklet that my sister, Helen Pederson, donated a few years ago to the D-Day WW II Museum in New Orleans which commemorated the 10,000th Higgins Boat built. We had found the booklet, which has some special recognition to my grandparents, “Tito” and “Tita," after going through some belongings that we secured about them following our parents' deaths in 2006.

My grandfather, Andres N. Horcasitas, Sr., was a very involved New Orleans community person who had moved from Mexico to New Orleans in the 1920’s for health reasons. Although he never obtained US citizenship, he eventually became the first in that status to be able to lead as the President of the Rotary Club in NO. Being fluent in Spanish and English, he was able to develop many international ties with Mexico and other Latin American countries.

My grandpa was also an active participant in many other civic groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Head of the Mexican Government Tourist Bureau, a professor at Tulane University and one of the founding members of the Sugar Bowl Football Classic that used to be held at Tulane Stadium. It was fun as a kid to be able to get those free tickets to those bowl games!

Grandpa taught my dad, Andres N., Jr., many important aspects to working with people and cultivating relationships with them. He was known as the “last word” on “thank you” notes. If someone took the time to send him a note thanking grandpa for the thank you note that he had originally mailed to the person for something, grandpa would send another thank you note thanking the persons for their thank you notes!

In the past, when I was a Board Member and Secretary for a not-for-profit organization, I asked my dad then for some advice about a delicate political board situation. He recounted to me the importance of collaboration – a buzz word we hear all of the time nowadays – and being sure to listen well to the input that you need in all business matters.

The first time my dad had done “Minutes” for some Chamber of Commerce meeting, he had noted in writing literally that two Board Members had been involved in a heated argument over one of the Agenda items. So my dad decided to review the matter with both of the parties, individually, who had been involved in the incident. Following that, dad followed grandpa’s old writing dictum of “brevity and levity” by noting the following in the Minutes: “A discussion ensued about matter # 2 on the Agenda with quick resolution and closure.”

One of the innumerable other prominent contacts that my grandfather had in New Orleans was Andrew J Higgins, President of the Higgins Industries which developed and produced the famous Higgins boat, which proved to be a critical element to the success of the Normandy D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944, as was alluded to in the opening paragraph.

Per my grandpa’s influence, the 10,000th Higgins boat built, the “S. S. Veracruz” (named after one of the richest states in Mexico), was given to the Mexican government; it was an LCM (6), a 56 foot welded steel tank lighter. A large entourage of military and political representatives, including the Mayor of Mexico City and the Vice-Admiral/Undersecretary of the Mexican Navy, were invited to New Orleans on Sunday, July 23, 1944 to the Higgins’ Industrial Canal plant.

Included in the pictorial booklet is a congratulatory note to Andrew Higgins from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Also, a similar letter from the Admiral of the US Navy in found with the documents with regrets for being unable to attend the auspicious occasion. My grandmother, Mrs. A. N. (Maria del Rosario Rodriguez) Horcasitas, Sr. was given the privilege of christening the Veracruz before it was launched that day!

The following quote by Rear Admin. E. L. Cochrane, chief of the US Navy’s bureau of ships, was noted in a newspaper account of the event: “The successes which our amphibious forces have been achieving against the strongholds of the enemies on both sides of the globe could not have been won without the contributions of the men and women of Higgins!”

After the military and political speakers made their comments for the occasion, everyone witnessed a reenactment of the Normandy Invasion. One local journalist noted: “A true -to-life picture of troops landing in small boats and storming an enemy stronghold was furnished spectators … by 200 men of the 245th engineers Combat Battalion from Camp Shelby, Mississippi.”

While my dad was serving in the Army in Alaska for 4 years during WW II and did not witness his mother’s christening of the Veracruz, he always shared with me his thankfulness for serving his parents and his country and especially for all that he had learned from Tito and Tita. I hope I can try to realize how much I have learned from my blessed parents; may they all rest in peace.

Keith John Paul Horcasitas, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA, 70810,, May 15, 2011     

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