Colonel James M. Thompson's headstone in Normandy American Cemetery

Colonel James M. Thompson, a Texan and the Commanding Officer of the 448th Bomb Group, was killed in action on April 1, 1944, when his parachute failed to open when he bailed out from the lead aircraft during a bombing raid over France.  

At the time of his death, Colonel Thompson had been awarded the Air Medal, Croix de Guerre (French), Distinguished Flying Cross, Army Presidential Unit Citation, and Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster.

Colonel Thompson’s remains are interred in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.  Plot A, Row 22, Grave 32.

Visiting the Normandy American Cemetery

There are 9,387 American military dead buried or commemorated under white Italian marble headstones in the Normandy American Cemetery. I was there on June 6, 2023, for the annual commemoration ceremony to mark the 79th anniversary of D-Day. The visitors included several World War II reenactors who were eerily walking among the graves.

The Cemetery sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, the scene of one of the greatest amphibious landings in World War II. As I sat by the reflecting pool in front of the open rotunda for the ceremony, the sound of the crashing waves provided the background to the speeches of the American and French dignitaries. It took very little imagination to picture the soldiers wading ashore amidst flying bullets that cloudy June day in 1944.

Understanding Memorial Day

The numbers of our war dead are staggering. In addition to the national cemeteries stateside, the United States has 25 American military cemeteries located in 10 foreign countries, and 27 memorials here and on foreign soil to honor those marked missing in action during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. You may have noted that the information listed above about Colonel Thompson was only about his service in the military. That information is all that is found on military-related websites.

Who Was Colonel James M. Thompson?

You have to look harder to see the man behind the commendations and cause of death. Colonel Thompson – do you suppose he went by James or Jim or Jimmy? – married his wife Sara Anne Giffin in October of 1932. They lived in Groesbeck, Texas. His parents were James Wilson Thompson, Jr. and Ida Lee McKenzie. His middle name was McKenzie.

He had 7 siblings. Six of his siblings, along with his parents and wife, survived him. Although his remains were interred in Normandy American Cemetery, his family also established a memorial to him in Groesbeck. Perhaps so that they could have a place to sit and remember?

The military lost a soldier, but Colonel Thompson lost his future. What would he have done with the rest of his life? Become a General? Retired and gone into the family business? Spent time laughing and fishing with his friends?

Hammerle Finley Law Firm Honors Soldiers’ Sacrifice This Memorial Day

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died in the service of their country.  Each one of them sacrificed their future. We can repay them by remembering and the Hammerle team will be remembering this Memorial Day. 

79 years after Colonel Thompson died, I left a rose on his grave.

Virginia Hammerle is an accredited estate planner and represents clients in estate planning, probate, guardianship, and contested litigation. She may be reached at This blog contains general information only and does not constitute legal advice.