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Carentan, O Carentan

The French place flowers on a dead American soldier in Carentan

by Louis Simpson

Trees in the old days used to stand
And shape a shady lane
Where lovers wandered hand in hand
Who came from Carentan.

This was the shining green canal
Where we came two by two
Walking at combat-interval
Such trees we never knew.

The day was early June, the ground
Was soft and bright with dew
Far away the guns did sound,
But here the sky was blue.

The sky was blue, but there a smoke
Hung still above the sea
Where the ships together spoke
To towns we could not see.

Could you have seen us through a glass
You would have said a walk
Of farmers out to turn the grass,
Each with his own hay-fork.

The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited til it was time,
And aimed between the belt and boot
And let the barrel climb.

I must lie down at once, there is
A hammer at my knee.
And call it death or cowardice,
Don’t count again on me.

Everything’s all right, Mother,
Everyone gets the same
At one time or another.
It’s all in the game.

I never strolled, nor ever shall,
Down such a leafy lane.
I never drank in a canal,
Nor ever shall again.

There is a whistling in the leaves
And it is not the wind,
The twigs are falling from the knives
That cut men to the ground.

Tell me, Master-Sergeant,
The way to turn and shoot.
But the Sergeant’s silent
That taught me how to do it.

O Captain, show us quickly
Our place upon the map.
But the Captain’s sickly
And taking a long nap.

Lieutenant, what’s my duty,
My place in the platoon?
He too’s a sleeping beauty,
Charmed by that strange tune.

Carentan, O Carentan
Before we met with you
We never yet had lost a man
Or known what death could do.

[HT: Ace]

Using a whistle to signal the attack, Cole led a bayonet charge that overwhelmed the defenders in savage close combat, for which Cole was later awarded the Medal of Honor. At first only a small portion of the battalion, approximately 20 men, charged, but Stopka quickly followed with 50 more.[1] The attack picked up impetus[1] as the other paratroopers observed it in progress and joined it, crossing a ditch. Overrunning the empty farmhouse, men of Company H found many German paratroopers dug in along the hedgerow behind it. Companies H and G killed them with hand grenades and bayonets but at severe cost to themselves. Battle of Carentan – Wikipedia

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joe Krill May 27, 2019, 10:06 AM

    While Vietnam did not have the world shattering impact that WWII did, I say to all my fellow military friends, “Welcome Home”.

  • Casey Klahn May 27, 2019, 4:11 PM

    These were great men.

    Did I mention my father was one? WW II combat artilleryman, and .50 cal. machine gunner.

  • Dan Patterson May 28, 2019, 4:39 AM

    Very nearly none of the intricate plans sprung from the politician-made-General Eisenhower would resolve; the men were hindered not helped by them and at an enormous cost. Success on D-Day and for the following several was only because of the fortitude and initiative of the small-unit rifle companies and whatever support could be mustered from the assets scattered across the Channel and the Contenin Peninsula. There are exceptions that prove the rule, of course; the logistics of transport, Mulberry Harbors, fighter and recon sweeps over France and Germany prior to, the general excellent state of equipment, and so on. But it was the men, the individual separate person, that took it upon himself to get off the beach, or assemble with other widely dispersed paratroops, define targets, align the sights and squeeze the trigger that prevented the enemy from carrying the day. Grand Plans be damned for those are only for the reputations of the Generals.

  • Phillipa Crawford May 28, 2019, 5:32 AM


    This is a snip from the documentary “Normandy – The Great Crusade” and will make the hair on your neck stand up.

  • HABCAN June 6, 2019, 6:12 AM

    Je me souviens!

  • Anonymous June 6, 2019, 2:22 PM

    I realized hindsight is 20-20, but we should have worked with the Germans to stop the Communist steamroller that went on to murder 90 million people. How would have that been worse than what happened after WWII?