Teen makes tribute to D-Day invasion

The bloody storming of Omaha Beach nearly 60 years ago came to life in sand and paper mache in a project by Jon Senior, an eighth-grader at New Frontiers Alternative Junior High School.

“I like the Army,” said the quiet teenager. He was originally tasked to write a history report and then encouraged by his teacher Brian Bennett to take the assignment a step further.

It took Senior a few days to make the 4-foot by about 2-foot diorama depicting the turning point in World War II. His Higgins boats — the flat bottomed landing craft that could navigate the surf and carry a platoon of men — were made of balsa wood. The army men on Senior’s boats were poised for battle, even if they were plastic. The surf that made all of the real men seasick was made of Saran wrap in Senior’s depiction.

On June 6, 1944 the soldiers charged up the beach to the bluffs where the Germans were stationed. The Normandy coast, the “Atlantic Wall” had been reinforced by the Germans making it almost impossible to penetrate. But the allied forces knew if they could get through the wall, they would conquer the enemy. About 10,000 men were killed in a bloody scene captured in the 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan” — which inspired Senior’s diorama.

His mother’s boyfriend helped him build the paper maché Atlantic Wall and the wooden case which holds the scene. Senior surprised his teacher, Brian Bennett when he said the diorama was finished and he would bring it in the next day.

Senior brought in the case and assembled the scene at school. It took about an hour to get the sand Saran wrap and soldiers into position.

“What impressed us most is how authentic it was. He researched the lay of the land,” Bennett said.

“I was expecting something half the size of this,” he said.

Senior said he plans to build a bigger scene and turn it into a hobby.

“We like to see kids follow through, see kids finish a project like this,” Bennett said. “Whenever you can get a student this involved in a project, this is something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

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