This Week in Armenian History


This Thursday, June 6, the world marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the largest seaborn invasion in history to liberate Europe from Nazi rule. A force of more than 156,000 American, British, and Canadian men fought their way into occupied France engaging into fierce combats with the Germans. First Lieutenant Varad Varadian, of Cranston, Rhode Island, was among the men landed in Normandy on that fateful day that marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War and made his way back home, where he also served as chairman of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church Board of Trustees, Providence, as well as a member of the Prelacy Executive Council.  A 40-year member of the ARF, Varadian came from a family that was actively involved in community life, which he began as a member of the Providence branch of the AYF. As an homage to the men and women who served on that date, we share the following excerpt from James H. Tashjian’s 1952 book Armenian-Americans in WWII about Varadian’s heroic actions on D-Day: 

 “So, the 29th United States Infantry Division landed at Vierville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy. It was H hour of D Day. The enemy had the sector under intensive artillery fire. The Americans took a foothold on the sands, then took  a stride forward. But it was hard going. Varadian saw men with whom he had trained and lived being cut down by shrapnel. He hated it, but he thought of home—how he was on his way home. 

“Then it happened. A German shell burst to his right. He was blown off his feet, knocked for a loop-and darkness came. The invasion rolled on around his prone body. 

“When Varadian came to shortly afterwards, he found an anxious corpsman bending over him. He had been hit, he knew it. His head was in an uproar and his body felt as if it had been put through a compressor. The life seemed to be drained right out of him. 

“Varadian was not unaware of the tumultuous scene around him. His outfit was pinned down, had to be put into motion or they would be annihilated by incoming shells. He pushed the corpsman away and got to his knees. A burning sensation on the right side of his face prompted him to put his hand to the place. His palm came away blood-red. But he could think, and the energy was coming back to him. He was to go on, he knew it.   

“And the wounded officer led his men to their initial objective. Once that was done, he allowed himself to be treated for his wounds. They later gave him a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal. Said the citation accompanying the latter:   

“On June 6, 1944, during the assault landings near Vierville-sur-Mer, France, Lt. Varadian distinguished himself in combat by the outstanding manner in which he performed his duties as Platoon Leader. Though wounded by shrapnel, Lt. Varadian declined evacuation and braved intense enemy artillery and small arms fire to lead his men in accomplishing their initial objectives. Lt. Varadian’s initiative, courage, and devotion to duty were an invaluable asset to the success of the invasion operations and reflect great credit upon himself and the Military Serve…” 

(You may read more about First Lieutenant Varad Varadian in this article, published in the Armenian Weekly on June 6, 2014).