Tracy Sugarman: From D-Day To Today

As a junior at Syracuse University’s College of Fine Arts, Tracy Sugarman had a great time.  He was on the lacrosse team, was dating a wonderful woman named June — “it was all Joe College,” he says.

Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The next day, Tracy and a fraternity brother took a bus to Buffalo.  When they returned to campus, they were in the Navy Reserve.

He was allowed to finish school.  But 2 days after graduation — May 13, 1943 — Tracy headed to midshipman’s training at Notre Dame.

Tracy Sugarman

Within the next 4 months he married June, became an officer, trained crews in Maryland for D-Day, then headed overseas for more training along the coast.

“We kept ‘invading’ England,'” Tracy recalls.  “Then one day, it was time to invade France.”

June 6, 1944 was “extraordinary,” says Tracy.  “There were 3,000 planes, and 3,000 ships — as far as the eye could see.”

The day was sunny, but the seas rough.  They circled until 3 p.m.  Everyone was seasick.  As an officer, Tracy had to pretend he was fine.

“Finally we hit the beach,” he says.  “It was just awful.

“It was noisy.  It was smoky.  Ships were blowing up.  There were bodies in the water.”

Tracy made his was through the maze of iron.  He kissed the ground, then returned to the assembly area.

He spent the next 6 months unloading ships, working with troops, ammunition and hospitals.

Among Tracy Sugarman's many books is "My War" -- a collection of letters and drawings he sent home to his wife June, from overseas.

Finally — with the ports secured — he helped 2 other officers close up Utah Beach.  He went back to England.

On April 12, 1945 he had to announce to his ship that Franklin Roosevelt had died.  Most of the sailors had never known another president.

“I was 23,” Tracy says.  “I took 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds to the D-Day beach.  They looked at me — the ‘old man’ — to take care of them.”

That’s a theme he’ll return to on Memorial Day.  As grand marshal of Westport’s parade, Tracy Sugarman will give a keynote address across from Town Hall.  If you’ve never stuck around for the event — shame on you.  This year in particular, it’s a speech you should hear.

“We send kids to war,” Tracy will emphasize.  “It’s not John Wayne.  It’s kids, like those in Staples right now.”

Tracy Sugarman

Tracy is honored to be chosen as grand marshal.  “I’ve marched in the past with my son’s Boy Scout troops. During Vietnam, I marched wearing a black armband.”

Tracy calls Westport’s Memorial Day parade “a great community event.  I love it.  Kids show themselves off — and then everyone gathers around the statue” at the park across from Town Hall.

There are 1,650 names of Westporters from World War II on the honor roll there.  Another 250 served in World War I.

“That’s very impressive,” Tracy says.  “A lot of people paid a lot of dues.”

At 89 — and a Westport artist and author for 61 years — Tracy laughs that the military hat, shirt and pants he’ll wear will be “too tight.”  Maybe, he says, “my voice will be too.”

But his children, grandchildren and friends will come hear him speak.  Hundreds of Westporters will follow the parade to the park, to hear him too.

“I take the day seriously,” he says.  “It’s a time for looking backward — and then forward.”

With — thanks to Tracy Sugarman — a message that is timeless.

8 responses to “Tracy Sugarman: From D-Day To Today

  1. Fine, thoughtful tribute to Tracy, Dan. I remember his son and daughter whom I both had in class and the days Tracy was on campus during the Vietnam protests bringing with him the much-needed stabilizing support and advice. –Karl Decker

  2. This is an example of me hearing about someone I have lived in a town with all my life, who’s work I have admired but have never met. It’s very frustrating. I hope to hear him speak after the parade and shake his hand. Those bodies in the water, I read at some point, were our own men weighed down with too much on their backs and they drowned in the choppy seas so close to the water. … what a waste!! And I hope everyone has seen those great anti war photos in Dan’s earlier piece.. I saw Karl Decker in the photos. We should try to identify as many individuals as possible in those shots.

  3. John Huminski

    Kudos to Mr. Sugarman

  4. Tracy definitely paid his dues. I’d like to hear what he says after the parade… should be interesting. He’s a fabulous artist as well. Excellent choice for a Grand Marshal.

  5. Michele Smolen

    Hello Tracy —— You certainly deserve the HONOR. Wish I could be there. Michele Smolen —- An xWestporter . ( But a forever Westporter!)

  6. Tracy Sugarman has been an inspiration to me and to my family for as long as I can remember. My mother was also an illustrator and she and Tracy were friends until her passsing in 2004. My dad was one of Dick Sugarman’s Boy Scout leaders. My mom was Laurie Sugarman’s Brownie and Girl Scout leader. Most of all I remember — and will never forget — Tracy’s good work during the civil rights era when i was a Staples student and the infectious enthusiasm with which he has lived his long life to the hilt. I wish I could be there for his Memorial Day speech. Fortunately, though, I have his book, which my mother gave me as a Christmas present shortly before her death. It’s a powerful and timeless read. I recommend it to all.

  7. I have read the Voices of War. My father was on the LST 346 that was in the first wave to hit Utah Beach on D-Day. I also visited Normandy last year for the 67th celebration to honor my dad and all those men who fought. I was wondering what LST was Mr. Sugarman on. Thanks so much and God Bless you for your service.

  8. The world without adorable, lovable Tracy, citizen of the world and loyal friend, will be less, much less. We loved you so Tracy and you loved back. How lucky we are to have those beautiful memories of our times with you and Gloria. The love and laughter lingers. You are both always in our hearts. Kathy& Bob