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Something to ponder:  The grateful French carefully honored those who died liberating this place in 1944.  Many plaques naming individual soldiers line the walkway between Tower Beaumont and the Chapel.  The underground armory has always been an Army fort, never a Navy installation.  Surely, Donald is the only sailor to fall here.  With that in mind, please note the iron ship anchor hanging from the cross of Christ.

Old Underground Fort

Here's the "old underground fort" in the Chaplain's letter, located a short walk from Tower Beaumont.  The historic cavern where Donald was mortally wounded was known as a place to store cannon powder long before Napoleon's time.  Today, it is a Catholic Chapel: Sanctuaire de Notre Dame du Faron.

Sidebar:  Wartime censorship veiled where Donald died, so here's the rest of the story:  Two months after D-Day in Normandy; Operation Dragoon, the second phase of the liberation of France began.  On August 15, 1944 some 250,000 soldiers in 2,000 ships landed on the Riviera coast of France. The invasion involved 14 allied divisions including the US 7th Army under General Patch.  The beachheads were just a few miles east of Toulon, a deep water military port essential for Eisenhower to feed another million men into Europe.  The landing went well and Toulon was liberated by French forces ahead of schedule on August 27.  But the Allies were plagued with intolerably bad radio communications.  U.S. Army communication units were pressing rapidly onward toward the Rhone Valley, so were of little help.


We know Donald's Naval Communications unit was put ashore to establish a good radio station at the best possible place.  My research suggests that from the city of Toulon, his unit drove up four miles of switchbacks to the fortress Tower Beaumont.  Located at the summit of Mount Faron, the 1600 ft. altitude gave the place an unmatched view of the city, harbor, and miles of coastline below.  It is now a museum that memorializes the 1944 Allied Invasion; and can be reached by a gondola ride that originates one block from St. Anne Hospital.

Tower Beaumont on Mt. Faron

Tower Beaumont on Mt. Faron above Toulon, France

It is the same historic height from which Napoleon Bonaparte made his reputation by shelling British ships in Toulon harbor and driving them from France.

Napoleon on Mt. Faron, 1793

Napoleon Bonaparte on Mt. Faron, 1793

The Chaplain truthfully replied yes on both counts, but Don said he could not come to Christ now as he had waited too long.  The Chaplain quoted John 3:16, John 6:37, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 10:9, and told him of Jesus' promise to the penitent thief on the cross.  Romans 8:28 comforted Don as he weakened.  While the Chaplain tried to prepare Donald for either life or death, one of the pharmacist's mates, a Jewish boy named Rosenthal, gave Donald a pint of his blood.  Donald rallied enough to pray, and Chaplain Pratt writes that his final words made a lasting impression on the group of men around him and they discussed them later on for a long time:  "And to think that all this time I thought I was an atheist!  I only hope that God lets me live to tell others who think they are."  At 6:15 PM, 7 hours after the explosion, Donald murmured that he trusted Christ and took his last breath.


The next day a French Red Cross nurse named Madame Guiet, wife of a French Naval Captain, took the Chaplain to the Mayor who granted him a lot for several graves in the city's Lagoubran Cemetery.  Then she led him to a civilian undertaker where he bought a good oak coffin.  The tragedy of Donald's death more than a week after the shooting had stopped, led to a surprisingly impressive military funeral.  A procession through the streets of Toulon was led by an American honor guard, followed by a French one.  Radiomen from his unit were pallbearers.  All his commanding officers, headed by LCDR L.P. Frank; thirty of his shipmates, and even the Red Cross nurse trudged to the cemetery where Donald was buried beside many French and German soldiers in Section 4, Trench 1, Grave 20.  After the war, he was transferred to his final resting place at Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France.  Plot C, Row 5, Grave 7.


At the grave, Chaplain Pratt spoke briefly on the "Mystery of Life and Death".  He used I Corinthians 15:55-58 and pointed out that a mystery is something that to many, never has an answer - but that there is an answer when the key is found.  He went on to explain the key is found in the passages he had explained to Donald.


The Chaplain closed his letter with this personal plea to Donald's father:  "God still loves, Mr. Lambert, and I pray that you will try to let him ease your sorrow which is too great for man to bear alone.  I feel certain that Donald wants you to tell the world his last words, his testimony.  You won't fail him, will you?"


This webmaster will honor the Chaplain's plea for another generation.   I present young Donald's last words in green text above, for your consideration.  And finally my friend, if you ever wonder about the unfairness of life, please study the Bible texts that the Chaplain shared with Donald.

Seaman 1st Class Donald L. Lambert, VG's younger brother, was killed by a German booby trap in an old underground fort above Toulon in southern France.  He had been sent ashore with his Naval Communications unit to install a radio station.


Here are excerpts from Naval Chaplain Pratt's letter of condolence:

"As you know, your son died here on September 6, 1944 at 6:15 PM.  I wish I could be by your side to try to help you in this hour as I was privileged to be by the side of Donald in his last hours.  But as I cannot, I hope that you will turn to God for strength as Donald did in his last conscious hours.  About 11 AM as I was just leaving our headquarters, I heard from the old underground fort nearby the cry of one of our sailors." 

By the time the Chaplain found him, Donald's friends had covered him with German jackets to keep him warm.  He was lying on his back with both arms blown off, plus stomach and chest wounds.  Donald was conscious and talked with the Chaplain while pharmacist's mates gave him Morphine and worked to stop the bleeding.  Sadly, sailors were not as well-trained to avoid booby traps as were soldiers.  He had picked up a little egg shaped object from a desktop and asked his shipmate, "What's this, Silvers?".  Too late, Silvers replied "Whatever it is, don't touch it."  The Italian hand grenade with its safety pin removed exploded knocking Silvers to the ground.  But Donald had clasped it in both hands and drawn it close to his stomach so his body sheltered Silvers from injury.  Several of his shipmates said that Donald showed more courage than anyone they had ever seen.  He was rushed by ambulance to a nearby French hospital St. Anne, where he received care by both American and French doctors.  Chaplain Pratt stayed with him and Donald asked if there was any physical and spiritual hope for him.