Fathers Day -- June 17, 2001
Members of the American World War II Orphans Network
Network makes Father's Day easier for war orphans
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - If there is one holiday that feels lonelier than others for Ann Bennett Mix, it's
Father's Day. Like many baby boomers, Mix never had a chance to get to know her father. He was killed in
World War II.
By Vincent Z. Whaley
Press Staff Writer
Serving in the 87th Mountain Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, in Italy, Mix's father, Sydney Worthington Bennett,
was sent to the front line as a replacement. On April 19, 1945 - Bennett's third day of combat - a sniper shot and
killed him near Mongiorgio.
To help fill the void in her life and the lives of others who lost their fathers during the war, Mix founded the
American World War II Orphans Network in 1991.
gather at the dedication ceremony for the D-Day Memorial
in Bedford, Va. (Staff Photo by Vincent Z. Whaley)
Ed Peters, AWON Founder Ann Mix, Donna Allen
and Leonard Rorrer.
"At war's end, 16 million had served, 405,399 had died and 78,773 were missing in action," she said. "More than
180,000 people lost their fathers during the war. Our purpose is to support American orphans of World War II and
to honor the memory of our fathers. This is a big deal to us because we lost our daddies."
While attending the June 6 dedication ceremony for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Mix and other members of
AWON recalled their fathers' ultimate sacrifices.
Falling Waters, W.Va., resident Donna Allen said her father served in the 101st "Screaming Eagles" Airborne
Division. As a paratrooper with G Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Pvt. Roy Upton Talhelm jumped
during the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, to help quell German forces near the invasion beaches.
"Dad jumped at 1:30 a.m. behind enemy lines on D-Day, and they were scattered everywhere," she said. "He was wounded
two days later on June 8. and died on June 12 in a field hospital that was set up in a big chateau near Carentan,
In 1996, Allen traveled to France and located her father's grave at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in
Colleville-sur-Mer above Omaha Beach. During that trip, a former German soldier gave Allen a gift that will always
remain close to her heart.
"The residents of Carentan had a ceremony and awarded me the Medal of Carentan due to my father's service during the
war," she said. "Following the ceremony, I began talking to two Germans. One told me he was a doctor on D-Day and
cared for more than 400 wounded German and American soldiers. He told me he just wanted me to know that he did care
for Americans, too.
"The other German told me he found something shortly after D-Day and had kept it all of these years, but never knew
who to give it to. He handed me an intact parachute used by the Allied forces during the invasion and told me he
wanted me to have it since my father was a paratrooper.
Sharing their fathers' experiences and searching for information about their fathers during the war are the primary
goals of AWON, Mix said.
"AWON members have found their lives and relationships to their fathers transformed by doing research following
guidelines we provide for locating records and resources," Mix said. "Additionally, many have applied for benefits
they previously had not known were available."
The 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995 saw many war orphans reaching middle age. Mix said she feels
war orphans should acknowledge the "far-reaching impact the loss of our fathers has had on our lives."
"The sacrifice did not end for us in 1945, as we have lived with unanswered questions and unresolved grief," she said.
"Now we are asking, 'What were the circumstances of my father's death? What kind of man was he?' "
For more information on AWON, send inquiries to P.O. Box 1922, Fredericksburg, Va. 22402 or e-mail Mix at
On the Net: www.awon.org