WWII revisits Louisiana in lecture series

Director at Stephen Ambrise Historical Tours Dr. Mark Bielski discussed the World War II D-Day invasion at the "Louisiana and World War II: A Yearlong Lecture Series 2017-18." Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

The “Louisiana and World War II: A Yearlong Lecture Series 2017-18” resumed this month with a lecture by Director at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours Dr. Mark Bielski titled, “Operation Overlord the D-Day Invasion and the Deception Plans.”

“I’ve been interested in history since I was little,” said Bielski. “My grandfather got me a copy of a book about World War II, and I read that. That and the Civil War have always fascinated me.”

The lecture was held in the Student Union Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.

Bielski got involved in the lecture series via Head of the Department of History and Political Science Dr. William Robison and the study abroad program.

“I know Dr. Robison,” said Bielski. “I’ve worked with him when we were putting together the study abroad program to go to Normandy and study for credit. We’ve done it for a number of years, and we’re doing it again for next year.”

Bielski has been prepared for this lecture by extensive research in the field including meeting with World War II veterans.

“A lot of it I’ve drawn from research I’ve done before, visiting over there, and talking to veterans from World War II, which I’ve had the honor and privilege of meeting and traveling with,” said Bielski. “They show me where they were and share their stories with me. Unfortunately, some of them are gone now, the guys that I did go with. They’re the real heroes. They don’t talk about it in that way, but it was really an experience to be with them.”

The presentation Bielski gave went a little over the allotted time, yet he feels as though he left out important details.

“It’s like every other time I’ve taught a class or made a presentation,” said Bielski. “After I’m like, ‘Awe I should’ve talked about that too.’ I always feel like I’ve left something out. I tried to sneak a look at my watch, and saw I was going over. So, I maybe went a little too quickly through when I talked about the women involved in the deception and the intelligence operations. I’m glad I got to talk about them. We always forget about the people behind the scenes. We saw the rugged guys with the guns, but what happens behind the scenes is all really key to making it successful.”

Bielski collaborated with Robison to choose the topic of the lecture and wanted to stress the important, yet not well known, people involved.

“I knew about the series from Dr. Robison, and I asked him what he wanted me to talk about,” said Bielski. “He said, ‘How about D-day, the invasion and preparations?’ People forget about the brains behind an operation like that. There’s so much planning involved. There were around 160,000 troops in the invasion, amphibious and airborne. There was probably an equal amount behind the scenes making it happen. Who’s gonna cook? Who’s gonna get the uniforms ready? Who’s gonna order the supplies? Who’s gonna fuel up the tanks? Who’s gonna steer the boat?”