Honoring UW–Madison’s fallen heroes on Memorial Day

MADISON, WI (May 24, 2018) – During this Memorial Day weekend, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association hopes that you and your family will take a moment to remember and honor the men and women who died in service to their country.

According to the Wisconsin Union, 908 University of Wisconsin students and alumni have lost their lives in war. The vast majorities of those, 607, were soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who were killed in World War II.

Brigadier General Don Pratt was one of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Pratt was the highest-ranking American soldier to die on D-Day.

Pratt was born in Brookfield, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1917. He enlisted in the army during World War I as a second lieutenant. In early 1941, he became chief of staff of the 43rd Infantry Division. Realizing that airborne would be of importance in the war, in mid-1942, he became the deputy commander of the newly created 101st Airborne Division. The division was sent to Britain for the pending invasion of France. Pratt was selected to land in Normandy in an AG-4A glider, with his jeep and three other men: Lieutenant Colonel Michael Murphy, Second Lieutenant John Butler, and First Lieutenant John May.

Coming down at Landing Zone Easy around 4 a.m., near the town of Hiesville, 10 miles inland from Utah Beach, the glider landed successfully but skidded over 700 feet down the clearing into a tree lined hedgerow, killing Pratt and Butler and severely injuring Murphy. Only May survived without injury. Pratt was initially wrapped in a parachute and buried in a French pasture. In July 1948, he was reburied in Arlington National Cemetery. A fictionalized version of the incident was included in the film Saving Private Ryan.

Pratt’s story is just one among the hundreds of thousands of stories to remember this Memorial Day. The sacrifices made, the families who lost their beloved, and those emotional wounds which will never heal.

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Contact: Tod Pritchard, tod.pritchard@supportuw.org, 608-609-5217, @WisAlumni