Greetings, Dear Reader! It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Friday, June 4, 2021. It’s a sultry and somewhat gloomy-looking morning; the current temperature is 80˚F (27˚C) under cloudy skies. With humidity at 57% and the wind blowing from the southeast at 6 MPH (10 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 79˚F (26˚C). Today’s forecast calls for thunderstorms to move through our area, and the high will be 86˚F (30˚C). Scattered rain showers can be expected tonight, and the low will be 71˚F (22˚C).
In two days it will be the 77th Anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast of France which marked the start of Operation OVERLORD – the Allied invasion to liberate France from German occupation – and the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler and his tyrannical Third Reich. During the first 24 hours of Overlord – itself a collection of coordinated operations with individual code names – three airborne and six infantry divisions, supported by a large armada of warships and supply ships, broke through the German defenses along a fifty mile front and established a series of beachheads that became the first “cracks” in Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.
Ever since I first learned about D-Day as a precocious child back in 1969, I have been fascinated – some people might even say “obsessed” – with World War II in general and the Battle of Normandy in particular. At first, my interest was that of a kid who just thought tanks, guns, and planes were “cool.” Later on, though. I watched serious documentaries and read every book I could get my hands on about what is famously referred to as “the longest day” – June 6, 1944 – and the campaigns that followed.
And each year around this time, I try to mentally journey back to late spring of 1944 and put myself in the hearts and minds of those American, British, Canadian, and Free French soldiers, airmen, sailors, and coastguardsmen who participated in the D-Day landing. Intellectually, I know that the veterans of previous campaigns just wanted to get it over with so that the war would end, and they could get home.
I also know that the green troops fresh out of training – some of whom had been through an accelerated training program and had never heard a shot fired in anger – were confident that the Germans were on their last legs and that the combination of aerial bombardment and naval shellfire targeted at the beach defenses would make the actual landings a “walkover.” Sure, many of them were scared but acted as though they weren’t. But I’ve read enough of the D-Day literature to convince me that the prevailing attitude among the invasion planners was that the veterans – who had been through battle before – were more likely to be less cocky about the Overlord invasion than kids – some just recently graduated from high school – who had never seen a battlefield or seen their buddies get wounded or killed in action.
I also remember that on June 4, 1944, the weather over Southern England and the invasion area in France took a turn for the worse – a low pressure system came in from the Atlantic and brought along rain, fog, and heavy seas. This forced Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, to postpone D-Day, which was set for Monday, June 5, for 24 hours.
I can only imagine how tense everyone involved in the planning and execution of D-Day must have felt 77 years ago. Especially those guys at the tip of the spear who were due to land on Utah, Omaha, Sword, Gold, and Juno Beaches in the first wave of the invasion.
And each year around this time, I always take a moment to remember those men and women who worked so hard to make the D-Day invasion happen. From the combat infantrymen who had to get on those Higgins boats and other landing craft and struggle to get on the beaches to the nurses, drivers, spies, French Resistance fighters and Red Cross volunteers whose services often get overshadowed by the stories of the “fighting men” of D-Day, I silently thank them all for their service. They were ordinary folks who lived in extraordinary times, and although not all of them saw action on the front lines or earned medals for valor, all of them, in the lingo of the time, “did their bit.”
They deserve to be remembered.
11 thoughts on “Musings & Thoughts for Friday, June 4, 2021, or: Remembrance of D-Day”
I read about the invasion from the German side. One of the most amazing parts about it was that they didn’t know it was happening, and then suddenly there was a “sea of metal” They didn’t know there could be that many boats in the world let alone just off the beach they were patrolling. Also, at this point in the war, Germans were convinced they were going to win, but their general miltary supplies were low. So they were getting to and from base to their little cement huts on the beaches with horse and buggies. They didn’t have access to vehicles. They thought the Panzers were the most amazing creation on Earth. Then D-Day happened. The Allies drove land and water vehicles onto the beach and the Germans admitted to being terrified. Then the Allies started tearing through the barbed wire and their trucks and tanks were throwing shells and driving through the anti-personel bombs placed by the Germans on the beaches. One tank would get destroyed and the next one would simply come up and pass it and keep coming. one after the other would get destroyed and there was an indefatigable number behind it ready to come. And almost every one that got destroyed, the personel inside would just climb out and join the invading force on foot behind the tanks. They didn’t understand how the tanks blowing up like that weren’t killing the soldiers. Some stayed to defend, but many just admitted to running out of sheer terror at the number of enemy combatants coming at them. It was an amazing book and certainly not the normal reading for someone reading about D-Day. Books are always from the perspective of the Allies, its the first one by the Germans that I ever read about that day.
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Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day” and Stephen E. Ambrose’s books about D-Day attempt to get the German side of the story; yes, lots of books, like Band of Brothers and Pegasus Bridge, tend to focus on the Allied point of view, but that’s because they focus on one unit in a particular battle. I do need to get a Germanocentric book, but I will have to get it in August, as I already have several things on order for June and July.
I cannot remember the title of the book. What I remember was the author’s father was a German newspaper man. He was tasked to interview the German soldiers at Normandy and write puff pieces about them. This guy was the best wrestler in his 3rd grade class kind of things.
You’re probably referring to “D DAY Through German Eyes – The Hidden Story of June 6th 1944” by Holger Eckhertz, I decided to get the Kindle edition since it’s cheaper and doesn’t take up room in my bookcase.
Wow! You have a great memory. The only difference in details is that the German interviewer who talked to the soldiers in the book was the author’s grandfather. Other than that, spot on!
Thanks for the recommendation!
Holy! How did you get that from my ramblings?? And yes, that all sounds exactly right. And you are serious? All of those random bits from the book were right except that it was his grandfather? Wow. My mind is mysterious. It’s like a vault for the books I’ve read, but I always forget the title and author. Every single time. It’s frustrating. But to be honest if I had to pick one to remember, I’d rather remember the content. It’s stays with you and helps shape you. Titles don’t. Movies, music, tv shows all the same. Saw something once and something triggers that memory and I will recall almost everything except that one bit that gives me a real hint to where I got it. That drives me crazy though because I can see the actor in my head, recreate entire sequences in my mind, but there is this void in my memory where that hint is. Like this random character is talking to someone but I can’t remember who, and it’s the title character 🙄
Sorry total randomness 😂
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I think you gave me enough information to deduce that the book you remembered was not Paul Carell’s “Invasion! They’re Coming!” This 1963 book is often referred to as “the German version of ‘The Longest Day.'” and was, for a time, popular in many circles, especially during the Cold War.
I usually avoid Carell (real name: Paul Karl Schmidt) because he was a dedicated member of the Nazi party and after the war became one of the popularizers of the “Clean Wehrmacht” myth, i.e., that the regular armed forces had not committed war crimes and that the Waffen-SS (the Nazi Party’s military wing) had also fought bravely and cleanly. Carell also tends to whitewash German soldiers’ behavior re civilians in the occupied nations and says that Hitler’s invasion of Russia freed its people from Bolshevism and restored religious freedoms in that nation till the Red Army kicked his fellow Germans out of Eastern Europe.
While it is true that most of the books about D-Day tend to be written by the victors, I still take what German soldiers say (especially in D-Day Through German Eyes) with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially when it comes to what the “Landsers” said to the interviewer at the time the notes were taken. Remember, Holger Eckhertz is not the interviewer…his grandfather was, and quite a few of the Q&As are from 1944 and not from the postwar period. (Also, many German narratives always say that German soldiers were not outfought but outnumbered by Allied manpower and materiel.)
If you really want to read a fair-and-balanced book about D-Day (most of the books I have are pretty fair and balanced, in my view), you should try to get Sand & Steel. Here is a link to my review from last year: https://alexdiaz-granados.com/2020/09/22/book-review-sand-and-steel-the-d-day-invasion-and-the-liberation-of-france/
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Thank you for the recommendation I will read that. Personally, I don’t necessarily believe that any book on the subject is truly fair and balanced. They are written either by the Victor or the defeated, and if not either of those then by people who are not involved you only have those records to create their book. The only true fair and balanced way to read it is by ensuring you know both sides and how they perceive it. At the same time, even those recollections are not necessarily accurate. Primo Levi is a Holocaust survivor and he has written a number of books. His last book was actually a psychological study and both victimology and perpetrator perception. He makes the argument that neither victim or perpetrator actually are able to properly recollect the bigger picture. The victim only knows what they saw, and start to fill in the blanks using other victims stories until their own story starts to fade and the new story with more information replaces it. The perpetrator on the other hand, comes up with 1000 reasons why they are not guilty. They start to weave and cobble together these excuses, and they start to believe them because they do not want to believe that they are truly horrendous human beings. So neither side is completely true and accurate. The book delve into how he begins to think about his perspective, and where he starts to question what he truly remembers versus what he knows because of other people stories and his own mixed together. It’s actually an extremely interesting book, and it is called “the drowned and the saved.” I recommend it, if for no other reason then to truly understand that there are very few true and balanced books on any given subject.
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That was a very comprehensive review. That book is encyclopedic in its size, and it seems very interesting. I will have to look into it. Thank you for the suggestion!
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You are so welcome!
I’m sorry, I meant to hit enter not send. Anyway, he went back to interview them after the invasion. From each of the beaches. He was going to write a book from the soldier’s perspective. The guys who were all sure of themselves a few months before. He started and got a few of them completed before he died. His son found his old notes much later and realized what his dad had been doing. His dad had meticulous notes so he was able to find the surviving people. He interviewed them and completed the book. He also wrote the forward. I cannot remember if he published under his name or his fathers or as a co-author situation. I read it almost three years ago and I remember plots better than titles or names.
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First, important to remember days like that. Never forget those who lost their lives 77 years ago (in two days)!
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