75 years ago, U.S. Army SGT Richard Wank landed on the beaches of Normandy with his weapon and his trumpet.
As Fox 4’s Brandon Todd discovered, the trumpet is now headed back to honor Wank and the men who served with him on that historic day.
Before that could happen though, David Anderson of Brass Alliance had to breathe new life into the old, tattered Holton Trumpet.
“It’d been through a lot obviously it was a complete disassembly and reassembly,” Anderson said.
“There were cracks in some of the pipes, there were things missing, and of course it was not straight, there’s a lot of dents, a lot of work needed to be done, it needed to be completely re-done and straightened and re-plated.”
Jeff Wank says his grandfather never let go of the trumpet as he jumped off a Higgins boat on June 6th, 1944.
“He was standing at the front of the boat and when the ramp dropped he jumped off and heard an explosion and turned around and everybody was dead,” Wank said. “He makes it to the beach, gets shot along the way and laid on the beach for awhile with that trumpet underneath him”
Two days later, medics found SGT Wank alive, the trumpet stil in his hand.
Wank’s family didn’t know about that day until right before his death 12 years ago. His grandon felt there was a legacy to share.
“What I was saying was you have to tell someone you can’t just keep this to yourself, this isn’t just your history anymore,” Jeff told his grandfather.
It wasn’t easy for SGT Wank to hand the trumpet over to Anderson
“He really didn’t want to let it go, he had trouble,” Anderson said, “he told me as soon as he left he sent a text it said I cannot belive I just let you leave with that instrument”
It took Anderson 7 weeks to restore the instrument.
“Even though it’s been restored you can still see where he held his hands, just like on a firearm or something that’s used a lot and held by someone a lot,” Anderson said, “I was blown away just working on it, it was a real honor and mind blowing experience.”
While working on the horn, Anderson had an idea. He knew the UT Alumni Band would be performing in Normandy for the 75th Anniversary. He made a connection and the newly restored trumpet went to one of the best of the brass, Kenny Bierschenk.
HE’S CHOSEN TO PERFORM “TAPS”
“As a musician we often think of music as spanning the centuries, Taps being sounded at all these military events. It’s the same now as it was back in World War II, the same as it was in the Civil War.
To be able to play Tapps on a bugle or on a trumpet that was actually used to do that very same thing 75 years ago when it was still a battle zone, that’s really meaningful to me,” Bierschenk said.