Here are a few of the comments about D-Day found on the blog.
Our father was on bloody Omaha at H+12.
He was the platoon leader of an anti-aircraft battery. His mother knew when he was crossing the channel. She paced the hall outside her own parent’s bedrooms with tears streaming down her cheeks. She knew.
Dad told us about the bodies stacked like cord wood – the mines that kept going off as some infantry veered from the ‘safe’ single column paths that lead from the beach.
We owe so much.
May those who stood above that beach, today – prove themselves worthy of the honor of representing these men and the country and freedom they fought and died for.
My father-in-law (now deceased) piloted one of those landing ships at Omaha. He never talked about the experience, but my mother-in-law related that he filled up the landing craft with men, motored to the beach, dropped the gate — and watched most of the men get mowed down, or drown. At times he had to pull his service revolver to force a terrified soldier to disembark. His craft was bracketed by shore artillery and missed annihilation by a few feet. Then he pulled up the gate, motored back to the troop ship, and repeated the whole process, time and time again.
My wife’s mom said he was never the same after he came back from the war. Small wonder.
These were extraordinary men, to whom we owe a great debt. Their kind no longer lives, replaced by a weak, self-absorbed, arrogant generation and their like-minded offspring.
God help us.
Gerard – Thanks for this – a few years back a roommate took up work as a traveling insurance salesman. Up in the Mt Vernon (WA) area he met an old guy who drove one of those amphibious tanks on Omaha beach that morning. The old guy told my buddy the following and my buddy passed it on to me when he got back to our house that evening.
The old guy told about hitting the beach that morning with him and his tank and crew getting stuck in the shallows; they couldn’t figure out why they weren’t getting blown up since everying around them seemed to be exploding. So they drew straws and the old guy (as a young soldier, of course) drew the short one. He undid the tank hatch and peeked out to see what was going on. Turns out their tank had stalled just beyond angle reach of the German guns (not sure which weapon – could have been the 80 mm tank or the multiple barrel mortar). He said he could see from the flashes up on the bluff where the Germans were trying to get them but they couldn’t. Meantime he said he saw the body body parts of American soldiers flying. Then the old guy started crying.
How do you begin to pay homage to such men?
My dad was one of the paratroopers (82nd Airborne) who went in behind the beaches before the D-Day armada arrived. I cannot imagine the raw terror of finding yourself in the dark in enemy territory over a mile from the place you should have been dropped, trying to locate your buddies, and avoiding drowning in flooded marshes with a fifty-pound load on your back. And being no adrenalin-fueled adolescent but a man in your early thirties with a wife at home waiting for you.
He took me to see The Longest Day the year before he died– of a premature heart attack brought on by memories of the war, so the coroner said. I remember asking him after the movie whether he was afraid when he jumped out of the glider in the early hours of the invasion. He said, “Courage isn’t not being afraid– it’s doing what you have to do anyway.” I have never forgotten those words, and I have tried to live up to his gift. He gave me more than just my biological existence– he helped to shape my soul and spirit.
Gerard, thank you for another splendid post.
Over at The Belmont Club is this wonderful story of what two women burrowed in the French Underground were doing in preparation for D-Day:
Look at their pictures, and be struck by their stunning beauty. Look in particular at Violette Szabo because of whom she bears a striking resemblance to.