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  • D-Day

    June 6, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, 6 June 1944 – the beginning of the invasion of western Europe in WWII. The terms D-day and H-hour were just military-speak for the day and time a major operation was scheduled to begin. After 6 June 1944, D-Day had a different, permanent definition. It was and is the largest military invasion ever undertaken.

    The invasion had long been expected by those on both sides of the conflict, though the time and location were a very big secret. Germany had fortified an “Atlantic Wall” from northern Norway to southern France. Planning had begun more than a year before, and a variety of false clues had been placed to trick the German high command into believing that the invasion would take place along the coasts of northern France, Belgium, and/or the Netherlands, instead of on the coast of the French Normandy peninsula. Bombing of Normandy began around midnight (local time) with more than 2,200 British, Canadian, and US bombers attacking targets along the coast and further inland. Paratroopers of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering over 13,000 men, were delivered by Douglas C-47 Skytrains beginning just after midnight. [Note: several of the actual C-47 (DC-3) aircraft that delivered the paratroops on D-Day did a flyover of Washington two weeks ago, while on their way to Europe for the anniversary ceremonies. They were housed at the airport in Frederick, MD and were open for tours.] From Wikipedia: “The invasion fleet, which was drawn from eight different navies, comprised 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels.”

    The landing zone was divided into five “beaches”: Utah and Omaha (US 1st, 4th, 29th, and 80th Infantry, and 82nd and 101st Airborne), Gold and Sword (British 3rd and 50th Infantry and 6th Airborne), and Juno (Canadian 3rd Infantry). Landings began shortly after 0630 local time. German casualties on the first day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. Many died before even reaching the beach.

    Americans living on the West Coast were more likely to be the first to learn about the invasion, as they might have still been awake when CBS Radio broadcast an alert just after 1:00 AM (EWT). Interestingly, the first clue that Normandy was under attack did not come from the US military, but from a German short-wave radio broadcast monitored by CBS. The Pentagon denied any knowledge of the invasion -- for a few hours, anyway. At about 3:30 AM Eastern, the Allied command in London made a brief announcement stating that the long-awaited invasion had begun, and confirmed that it was on the Normandy coast. Shortly thereafter, General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, gave his famous “People of Western Europe” broadcast. By about 8 in the morning Eastern time, the radio networks were carrying live reports via short wave from correspondents who had watched the landings from warships that had already returned to England for more ammunition and to return some of the wounded. Later in the day, the White House announced that President Roosevelt would broadcast a prayer at 10 PM that evening. The text was printed in the afternoon editions of the big newspapers so citizens could pray along with him. The radio networks had reporters read the text slowly in the early evening so that listeners could copy the words down and read them aloud along with the President.

    The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating in the invasion itself. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day, with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of June. The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of the four closest towns on the first day, with all the beaches (other than Utah) linked with a front line 6 to 10 mi from the beaches; none of these objectives were achieved. The five beachheads were not connected until 12 June, by which time the Allies held a front around 60 mi long and 15 mi deep. Victory in Europe was declared 11 months and two days later, on 8 May 1945.

    A reasonably accurate portrayal of the events of D-Day can be found in “The Longest Day”, a star-studded movie made in 1962.
    Skip Lackie

  • #2
    Originally posted by Skip Lackie View Post
    ...A reasonably accurate portrayal of the events of D-Day can be found in “The Longest Day”, a star-studded movie made in 1962.
    If you have Direct TV service, the movie can be seen at 8pm this evening on channel 256 (TCM).

    As a survivor of the Tet Offensive, several rocket attacks, and other combat incidents...I am in awe of the soldiers who charged into those beaches at Normandy. My personal experience was very freighting, and I was puzzled, bewildered, and ashamed about shaking with fear for hours. However, I still can't comprehend charging headlong into the kind of environment these brave men found themselves facing.

    Even if you could have pried me from the deepest corner of a Higgins landing craft...I would have probably immediately sank to the bottom of the ocean and drowned rather than face such a hail of fire. I would like to think I would have done my duty...but I'm thankful I have never had to find out. When D-Day occurred...I was safely in the warmth of my Mom's womb...5 months away from emerging into a world in turmoil, but freedom restored and preserved by the sacrifices of such heroes.
    John Clary
    Greer, SC

    SDC member since 1975

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    • #3
      Thanks Skip.

      Richard Winters, who jumped into Normandy with the 101st airborne in that early morning, told the story that on hearing the things he did during the war, one of his grandkids said, “Grandpa, you’re a hero.” He said he corrected them by saying “I am not a hero. The heroes are those who did not come home.”

      Although I never heard the exact reason, I believe my father was named because of D-day. He was born two weeks after the invasion started and my grandparents gave him the name Dwight. His middle name, Hugo, was in honor of an Uncle who was serving as a medic in the South Pacific at the time.

      We can hope that conflict 75 years ago will be the greatest the world will have to witness.
      Last edited by 62champ; 06-06-2019, 04:00 AM.

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      • #4
        Thank you for that summary, Skip; the logistics are staggering.

        May God bless each and every one who was involved, especially those who were never able to return and enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice.

        All the best to everyone who ever served. BP
        We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

        Ayn Rand:
        "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

        G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

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        • #5
          My uncle (Mom's older brother) was in the first wave onto Omaha Beach. I never heard him talk about combat...he only would talk about the funny or stupid parts of being in the military. What I knew of his D-Day experiences come from letters from him to my parents I found after my mom passed away. The reason he was in the first wave was that his platoon was assigned to the combat engineers to assist in destroying beach obstacles. He had said he hit the beach with forty men...at the end of the day he had ten left. He later was severely wounded on the road to St. Lo and invalided out of combat.

          I asked him once if he saw "Saving Private Ryan". All he said was "That's just Hollywood" and said no more about it and I understood not to ask more.

          It's truly no understatement to say the free world owes such men a debt that can never truly be repaid. The best we can do is not forget them, their sacrifices.
          Poet...Mystic...Soldier of Fortune. As always...self-absorbed, adversarial, cocky and in general a malcontent.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Gunslinger View Post
            My uncle (Mom's older brother) was in the first wave onto Omaha Beach. I never heard him talk about combat...he only would talk about the funny or stupid parts of being in the military. What I knew of his D-Day experiences come from letters from him to my parents I found after my mom passed away. The reason he was in the first wave was that his platoon was assigned to the combat engineers to assist in destroying beach obstacles. He had said he hit the beach with forty men...at the end of the day he had ten left. He later was severely wounded on the road to St. Lo and invalided out of combat.

            I asked him once if he saw "Saving Private Ryan". All he said was "That's just Hollywood" and said no more about it and I understood not to ask more.

            It's truly no understatement to say the free world owes such men a debt that can never truly be repaid. The best we can do is not forget them, their sacrifices.
            Gulp. What a burden to carry for the balance of one's years on the planet.

            Is he still living? If so, please thank him again. BP
            We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

            Ayn Rand:
            "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

            G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

            Comment


            • #7
              When I started teaching full time in 1999, there was a substitute teacher at our middle school who had arrived on Omaha Beach, D-Day +12. He was a nurse in one of the many mobile hospitals the military had to set up to treat soldiers who would come straight off the battlefield. He said even almost two weeks after the invasion took place, the beaches were still littered with vehicles and there were many areas you could not walk because of mine fields.

              He said he heard enough from the soldiers in the hospital to know that war was something that should never happen again. When people first met him at school, they usually asked if a seventy+ year old man would be able to handle middle school students, he would let them know that his hospital was close enough to the Battle of the Bulge that everyone was issued M1s 'if needed', so he could handle a room full of 8th graders...thanks Mr. O - we will never forget.

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              • #8
                Nice piece on Ernie Pyle'c coverage of D-Day.

                https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/m...rnie-pyle.html
                Skip Lackie

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by jclary View Post
                  If you have Direct TV service, the movie can be seen at 8pm this evening on channel 256 (TCM).
                  Spectrum - The Longest Day - TCM - 5:00 PM PST

                  Operation Neptune-Overlord: The troops were landed at the wrong place on Omaha Beach...facing a mammoth sea wall.

                  In the film, a huge hole is blasted in the sea wall by engineers, but it was the 5" guns of two US destroyers that created the hole.
                  Last edited by WinM1895; 06-06-2019, 06:13 AM.

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                  • #10
                    My uncle was an LSI pilot. He participated in the landings in Italy but not on D-Day. He was in the group that ferried casualties back the day afterwards. I have to think that was pretty horrible. He never spoke about it to me, anyway. I'll be thinking about him tomorrow. My wife and I did a self-guided bicycle tour of the D-Day sites back in 2013 starting in Bayeux going to Juno, Omaha, and Pointe du Hauc. It was really moving.

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                    • #11
                      The father of an old friend of mine from Winnipeg was a terrific guy, and most unlike any other kids' fathers I have ever met. I later learned why Jake was so different. He was in the Canadian contingency which landed at Juno Beach. He lost 90% of his friends and viewed life from then on quite differently as he said he should never have been here. Oh and by the way, he was 17 when he enlisted.
                      We owe these brave men everything for the life we have today.
                      Bill

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                      • #12
                        My father-in-law was in that battle. He never wanted to talk about his time in the Army. I think that the memories were too upsetting. I never knew much about his activities. I recently got his Army papers, including discharge. It showed that he was in the Normandy battle and worked his way across France and into Germany. It also showed that he received five Bronze (?) Stars. It may have helped that he could speak German as well as English (born in Manhattan). Cathy, my wife, was here with her mother while her father was fighting in Europe.

                        Last evening, I saw an interview with a guy that was on one of the first landing crafts. He said that there were 32 on the craft and that three made it to the shore.
                        Many did not want to talk about it or visit the site until they got into their 90s.
                        Gary L.
                        Wappinger, NY

                        SDC member since 1968
                        Studebaker enthusiast much longer

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Less than 30 miles east from Roanoke, Virginia is the small town of Bedford, Virginia. The town lost the most D-Day soldiers per capita of any city in the US. They have created a beautiful and stunning memorial to D-Day just outside the city (https://www.dday.org/). It is easily accessible and well worth the extra miles.

                          Another D-Day story: The father of one of our chapter members was on a Navy destroyer that was shelling the beach. It hit a mine and was sunk. The father was in the water for several hours before he was picked up by another ship. It in turn hit another mine and also was sunk. He lived to tell the story.
                          Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
                          '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BobPalma View Post
                            Gulp. What a burden to carry for the balance of one's years on the planet.

                            Is he still living? If so, please thank him again. BP
                            My uncle passed away about nine years ago at the age of 95. The last time I saw him all he had left was long term memories and for the first time he opened up about combat in the hedgerows and some other things.

                            My uncle's car had a bumper sticker placed on it by his son..."I Did D-Day".

                            I'm attaching a scan of a newspaper story about my mom's brothers...all served, saw combat and all came home. Someone was definitely looking over her brothers. The only one left now is the youngest...my Uncle Max. I had misremembered a few things after I read this after a long time.



                            Last edited by Gunslinger; 06-06-2019, 10:32 AM.
                            Poet...Mystic...Soldier of Fortune. As always...self-absorbed, adversarial, cocky and in general a malcontent.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by studegary View Post
                              My father-in-law was in that battle. He never wanted to talk about his time in the Army. I think that the memories were too upsetting.
                              I believe that is pretty common. Back when I was much younger, I used to patronize a neighborhood bar in which a number of WWII vets were regulars. None of them talked about their experiences in combat -- only the pranks, girls, and adventures. I later found out one of the guys that I thought I really knew well had been in the first wave at Omaha Beach. He had never mentioned it.

                              Here's a bit more on how the American citizenry first found out about D-Day:
                              https://www.washingtonpost.com/histo...=.410335afdb82
                              Skip Lackie

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