June 6 1944

©Chief Photographer's Mate Robert Sargent Into_the_Jaws_of_Death_23-0455M_edit

Chief Photographer’s Mate (CPHoM) Robert F. Sargent

To All The Ships at Sea,

Seventy years ago today my friend Jess Weiss stormed the Omaha Beach along with tens of thousands of 18-30 year old Americans.  Jess explained to me (and he did not like talking about it) he watched thousands killed or wounded that day. He came home with a silver and bronze star, two oak leaf clusters and two purple hearts. He was one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever known and a true visionary.  I’m genuinely blessed to have called him a friend.

The above black and white I believe to be a public domain photo.  I marked copyright unknown.

While sailing off the coast of France this is what Normandy looks like today.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

Jess Weiss A Hero Forever

Jess & Joyce Weiss © Joe DiMaggio

Jess & Joyce Weiss © Joe DiMaggio

To All the Ships at Sea

Anyone that follows my blogs knows I’ve only done two blogs since August 5th. One blog was on the birthday of my son Joseph and the second a tribute to a great photographer Bill Eppridge, one of my heroes and a friend.  I’ve taken a hiatus for my blogs for a very specific reason which I will announce at the end of next month.
I just received a phone call from my friend’s daughter, Susan. When I saw the name on my phone my heart stopped. She said “Joe,”, ” I said please don’t tell me ,” and “she said yes.” I know Blogs are not meant to be about the dead. They should be about the living and in my case they should be about photography and filmmaking. If it wasn’t for my son Joseph and photographers like Bill Eppridge and visionaries like Jess Weiss my ability to make a photograph or do a film would be hindered to say the least. These are people in my life that have inspired, motivated and helped me understand the meaning of being on this blue marble for a short period of time.  Fifteen years ago my phone rang and it was Jess Weiss. He asked me to write his eulogy.  I was surprised, horrified, and frightened. Like Jess would always do, he put my mind at ease. He wasn’t sick he just wanted to make sure I’d be prepared for this day.  First a short history –  Jess was 97 years old the last book he wrote was –

Warrior to Spiritual Warrior the autobiography of Jess E. Weiss, one of the few living combat soldiers who survived the D-day landing on Omaha Beach. His experiences in Europe’s most famous battles were only the beginning of Weiss’ amazing story. He returned home from war to find himself facing a new battle, with the trauma that is known today as PTSD. A debilitating condition unrecognized in WW II, that led him to the most profound and transcendent spiritual journey imaginable.

Warrior to Spiritual Warrior is the post war memoir story of the journey Jess took as he rebuilt and reshaped his life. From the battlefields of WW II to his attempts to build a new spiritual foundation, Jess Weiss’ story is an unvarnished and stark portrait that will horrify, shock, illuminate, and ultimately liberate your faith in the strength of the human heart to heal and transcend the past..
If you follow my blogs you know I use the same expression over and over – you know I’m the luckiest man in the world.  I’ve always had people to go to –  a go to person for sports, for photography, for filmmaking, for writing and so on. Jess was my Go to Person for spiritual advisement and support.  He guided me through some of the darkest days in my life.  In a seven year period I lost my mother, father, brother, my son and nine close friends. His guidance, words, and beliefs helped me deal. I was honored to have him use one of my photos at the end of the remake of one of his books “The Vestibule”  The photo below was an original tribute to my father’s memory.  I think that Jess would be fine with it being repurposed in his memory.  He is still with us and will continue to be with me and in my heart forever. Thank you my friend,  you are a true American Hero.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio All Rights Reserved

Jess and Joyce Weisss © Joe DiMaggio

Jess and Joyce Weiss © Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio  All Rights Reserved

© Joe DiMaggio All Rights Reserved

Private Jess Weiss June 1941

Corporal Jess Weiss and Herb SiegelJess E. Weiss Director and philanthropist David Lynch and author Jess E. Weiss attend the meditation at The Paley Center for Media on December 13, 2010 in New York City-1e
David Lynch & Jess Weiss Transcendental Meditation Conference

The Silver Star

The Vestibule Cover

One of Jess’s Books

This blog should have been put up June 6, 2013

There are many people who judge their wealth by how much money they have in stocks, bonds, bank accounts, the size of their automobiles and how many summer homes they have. I’m not going to question them for the simple reason I am one of the richest men in the world. There are only 8 or 9 people who can verify that.  I became this wealthy because of great friendships.  The oldest living friend I have , since  Will Barnet has gone onto his studio in the sky at 101 years old. It now brings me to Jess Weiss my second oldest friend. The great part is he’s alive and well.  The first time I stepped into his office I noticed there was a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt thanking him for his bravery and next to the letter was the Silver Star, Purple Heart and several other Medals which unfortunately, I’m not familiar with.  That was approximately 20 years ago.  I said to Jess, “my God you’re a hero” and he looked at me and said,  “no I’m a coward.”  Like most true heroes they never speak of the war. They lived it and bled with it and it’s imbedded in every fiber of their being forever and probably will remain with them to the next level of consciousness. He explained he saw 3,000 men die that day and during the balance of the war about another 7,000 men.  He never elaborated on why he received all the medals he did. Jess was there for me when my mother, father, my son and my brother died. His words of wisdom, his teaching allowed me to go on and not give up. That translates into an infinite amount of money. Obviously the money is meaningless but the friendship is worth everything. So on the 69th Anniversary of the D Day Invasion I take my Beret off to my dear friend Jess Weiss. Monday he will be attending a dinner held by the French consulate and will be giving a short speech on Omaha Beach. I hope they’re not disappointed because Jess is not only one of the bravest men I know, but one of the humblest as well . God is truly in him. The French Government has just bestowed this Medal for Jess’s outstanding service 69 years ago on Omaha Beach.  Thank you my friend.  All Americans and all Frenchmen thank you.

Knight Medal of the French Legion d'honneur

Knight Medal of the French Legion d’honneur

©DiMaggio/Kalish

©DiMaggio/Kalish

David Lynch and  Jess Weiss (Transcendental Meditation Conference)

David Lynch and Jess Weiss (Transcendental Meditation Conference)

Walk in Peace

Hi to all the Ships at Sea,

I just received a phone call from my cousin Gerard and he described the military ceremony for my cousin Denis. We talked for an hour trying to play catch up. A dear friend of mine in Scottsdale is going to go and photograph the stone, in which Denis requested it to say “Walk in Peace”. It doesn’t get better than that, no clichés for my cousin.

Denis J. Dermody: loving husband, father, brother, uncle and great friend to many passed away March 2, 2013 at the age of 68. He was born in Queens, New York to Gerard and Francesca Dermody. Denis is survived by his wife Ann, daughter Maureen, his brother Gerard (Ann), Kevin (Barbara) and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, sister Maureen and brother in law Frank Testagrossa. Denis spent his childhood in Port Washington, New York where he developed his passion for fishing and being on the water. Denis, a highly decorated Marine served in Vietnam 1967-1968. Among his many awards he earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He embraced a career as a firefighter. He was a founding member of Port Washington Fire Medic Company Number 1, after which he was honored with a plaque on an ambulance. He later worked in the printing industry. He was a bon vivant who loved cooking and sharing meals with family and friends. An avid sports fan, Denis also enjoyed golfing. He had an infectious laugh and a gift for storytelling. He will be missed greatly by the many whose lives he’s touched. Memorial services will be held at the National Memorial Cemetery, 23029 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, on Monday March 11th at 10:30 am. A reception will follow at Rude Family Northwest Mortuary, 4033 N. 19th Ave., Phoenix. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to .http://www.hov.org/

All the Best,

Joe D

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Denis: A True American Hero

Hi to All the Ships at Sea,

I would like to tell you a story of a young man who was born with a beautiful smile on his face. He was extremely happy, light hearted, and funny. I guess you might even call him the class clown. I don’t think he had a bad bone in his body. One day, he went to Whitehall Street and because of a comment from a wise guy that was sitting very close to him, he wound up being inducted into the armed services. With his non-violent persona he was able to become a medic. He was put into a position where he would save lives and not take them. Denis wound up in a place called Khe Sanh.

The siege at Khe Sanh turned out to be probably the worst battle of that infamous Vietnam War. To this day no one knows what happened, how it happened, or when it happened. What I do know is that my cousin Denis Dermody was awarded the Silver Star. I know they don’t give out Silver Stars to just anybody. If you ever want to know something about a real hero, you can be assured the way to tell that they are real heroes is that they never speak about it and Denis never did. I heard through other people that he saved many lives but had to do certain things he didn’t want to do to save those lives. Like many of our brave, courageous men and women who came back from war, especially that war, they were not welcomed with open arms as heroes. As you know, my expertise is about photography and filmmaking. I will regress for one moment. Three years ago, Denis confided in me that he spent a week in a fox hole with Photographer David Douglas Duncan, who is one of my all time heroes. I have all of his books. The photo you are about to see was taken by David Douglas Duncan. It is double truck spread in his book A War Without Heroes. The day after I spoke with my cousin Denis, I called David, who is living in the South of France and we spoke for about 40 minutes. He recalled many of the things that happened in Khe Sanh. I am pretty sure the abbreviation PTSD did not exist when Denis came back from Vietnam. Like many other brothers and sisters he suffered more when he came back to the United States then he did there. That’s my perception but not fact. Dennis fought through the bullets, the barbed wire, the Napalm, Agent Orange, and God knows what else. He was and is still loved by thousands of people that he’s helped over the years.

In the final analysis he fought the good fight, never lost and just moved on to a different dimension. I genuinely hope and pray that he is looking down with that big smile on his face. I will also remind you, Denis, that you’re half Italian and half Irish and there were only two people in the world who ever called me Joseph – my mother and you cousin Denis.

Rest In Peace I Will Always Love You
Joseph

It’s amazing how much you can miss and it can be staring you right in the face. Photographers are not supposed to do that. Denis’s action just happened to be on March 17th. I wonder if he, at the time, or if anybody else realized that it was on St. Patrick’s Day?

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