It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Dr Eugene Eckstam, veteran, and lifelong campaigner on behalf of Exercise Tiger, on April 9th 2010.
Eugene Emanuel Eckstam, known as ‘Gene’ to his family and friends, was born on December 16th, 1918, appropriately just as peace was descending on the world. Within a year of his birth, his Swedish-American family had moved from his birthplace of Memphis, Tennessee to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was raised and educated, gaining a BA in 1940 and an MD (Doctor of Medicine) in 1943 from the University of Wisconsin.
During World War II, Dr Eckstam served with the US Navy from 1942-1946 and then in the Reserves until he was honourably discharged in 1954, although by this time, he had become a surgeon. After the war, 1946-50, he completed a surgical residency and M.S. through the University of Minnesota at what is now named The Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. In a long and illustrious surgical career, Dr Eckstam served at The Monroe Clinic and former St Clare Hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin. Following his retirement, he focused his active mind on learning as much as possible about computers, as well as researching everything he could about a wartime operation in which he had been involved: Exercise Tiger.
At the time, little was publicly known about this tragedy and Dr Eckstam made it his mission to track down as many survivors as possible and to make sure that the truth was told…
When the current trustees of the Exercise Tiger Trust took over the reigns three years ago, we had little idea what we were going to do. All that we knew was that we did not want to build a ‘wall of names’: we wanted to find another, more innovative, way of honouring the dead of Exercise Tiger, but we needed inspiration – and we found it in the words of Dr Eckstam.
As we trawled through the boxes of lists, letters, statements, articles and other documents from survivors and witnesses, we found that we had several things in common with Dr Eckstam: a desire to discover the truth and a wish to educate. And it was there that we found our inspiration: to create an online archive and roll of honour, through which we could tell the story of Exercise Tiger in the words and images of the men who were there – because what better way could there be to not only be accurate, but also to let their names live on.
Many of the lists from which we gather our information are those originally compiled by Dr Eckstam; if we need to verify something, it is to his documents that we refer, because we know that we can trust his integrity.
To Dr Eckstam’s family he was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, beloved by all and now greatly missed. To us at the Exercise Tiger Trust, although we never knew or even met Dr Eckstam, he was a man of words… and it was enough.