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June 6: A walk across a beach in Normandy

Today your job is straightforward. First, you must load 40 to 50 pounds on your back. Then you need to climb down a net of rope that is banging on the steel side of a ship and jump into a steel rectangle bobbing on the surface of the ocean below you. Others are already inside the steel boat shouting and urging you to hurry up.

Once in the boat, you stand with dozens of others as the boat is driven towards distant beaches and cliffs through a hot hailstorm of bullets and explosions. Boats moving nearby are, from time to time, hit with a high explosive shell and disintegrate in a red rain of bullets and body parts. Then there’s the smell of men near you fouling themselves as the fear bites into their necks and they hunch lower into the boat. That smell mingles with the smell of cordite and seaweed.

In front of you, over the steel helmets of other men, you can see the flat surface of the bow’s landing ramp still held in place against the sea. Soon you are within range of the machine guns that line the cliffs above the beach ahead. The metallic death sound of their bullets clangs and whines off the front of the ramp.

Then the coxswain shouts and the klaxon sounds. Then you feel the keel of the LVCP grind against the rocks and sand of Normandy as the large shells from the boats in the armada behind you whuffle and moan overhead. Then the explosions all around and above you increase in intensity and then the bullets from the machine guns in the cliffs ahead and above rattle and hum along the steel plates of the boat and the men crouch lower. Then somehow you all strain forward as, at last, the ramp drops down and you see the beach. Then the men surge forward and you step with them. Then you are out in the chill waters of the channel wading in towards sand already doused with death, past bodies bobbing in the surf staining the waters crimson. Then you are on the beach.

It’s worse on the beach.

The bullets keep probing along the sand digging holes, looking for your body, finding others that drop down like mere sacks of meat with their lines to heaven cut. You run forward because there’s nothing but ocean at your back and more men dying and… somehow… you reach a small sliver of shelter at the base of the cliffs. There are others there, confused and cowering and not at all ready to go back out into the storm of steel that keeps pouring down. And then someone, somewhere nearby, tells you all to press forward, to go on, to somehow get off that beach and onto the high ground behind it, and because you don’t know what else to do, you rise up and you move forward, beginning, one foot after another, to take back the continent of Europe.

If you are lucky, very lucky, on that day and the days after, you will walk all the way to Germany and the war will be over and you will go home to a town somewhere on the great land sea of the Midwest and you won’t talk much about this day or any that came after it, ever.

They’ll ask you, throughout long decades after, “What did you do in the war?” You’ll think of this day and you will never think of a good answer. That’s because you know just how lucky you were.

If you were not lucky on that day you lie under a white cross on a large lawn 75 long gone years later.

Somewhere above you among the living weak princes and fat bureaucrats and rank traitors mumble platitudes and empty praises about actions they never knew and men they cannot hope to emulate.

You hear their prattle, dim and far away outside the brass doors that seal the caverns of your long sleep. You want them to go, to leave you and your brothers in arms to your brown study of eternity.

“Fifty years? Seventy-five? A century? Seems long to the living but it’s only an inch of time. Leave us and go back to your petty lives. We march on and you, you weaklings primping and parading above us, will never know how we died or how we lived.

“If we hear you at all now, your mewling only makes us ask, among ourselves, ‘Died for what?’

“Princes and bureaucrats, parasites and traitors, be silent. Be gone. We are now and forever one with the sea and the sky and the wind. We marched through the steel rain. We march on.”

Normandy Today. From the Comments– Chris:

“I took the image on the link at low tide in Normady in 2006. This is literally at the edge of the water looking back to the bluffs where the American cemetery is. Look how damn far that is… it took a good 20 minutes to walk down from the cemetery to the water’s edge. I cannot imagine having gone the other way wet, seasick, with a 60-pound ruck on my back, a rifle that weighed a friggin ton unloaded, and with bullets and mortar shells raining down on me.

It could not be done by the men of today.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • pbird June 6, 2018, 9:08 PM

    Ineffable piece of music. Wise too.

  • Anonymous June 6, 2018, 9:21 PM

    Gerard, you are honored by your commemoration of others.
    And the Dire Straits, their lyrics to Taps.

  • Casey Klahn June 6, 2018, 10:18 PM

    We were a dinner party at the Irish Pub, I think it was 2 years ago. I was away from home, but did discover that each diner at our gathering was the offspring of a WW II veteran, and each of those was in action. I called for an extra Guinness to be set on the table, untouched.

    One’s father was a Seabee, one’s father in law, an infantryman in Italy. My father was in North Italy, and raided behind enemy lines with the famous Col. Darby. One amazing father in the OSS, in China (!). My hostess told how her father was a belly gunner on a B-24, who suffered a wound that took him off flight status. This resulted in his being transferred to the infantry. On June 6th., 1944, he was ordered to jump over the side of his Higgins Boat as it hung-up far short of the Normandy beach. He was instantly pulled under by the weight of his gear, and commenced to drown. The big hands of his oversized lieutenant grabbed him up, saving his life by the completely random luck of proximity.

    He went over the side because he was ordered over. Ordered to die. Over he went, throwing his life away as you would toss the coffee from your cup. 417,000 did just that; countless others did the same but it didn’t take. they survived by dint of the miraculous. Like my Oregon-born friend who was sprayed by 155mm shrapnel in a foxhole on a mountain in Italy. The 2 men on either side of him were killed instantly, but he was evacuated to the battalion aid station. No matter; they tossed him on the dead pile. An orderly remarked to the surgeon: “that one is moving.” They all do, don’t you know?

    It’s all a crap shoot, isn’t it? My friend survived to tell the story, and we laughed together and drank another glass of wine. I, who am not worthy to, yet by some grace have lived and drank among these giant men. Our fathers.

  • Jaynie June 7, 2018, 3:34 AM

    Thanks for the D-Day post. What men did!

  • PA Cat June 7, 2018, 4:07 AM

    My dad was not one of those who had to walk across a Normandy beach– he was one of the paratroopers (82nd Airborne) who had to jump out of a glider on D-Day behind the German lines and hope the pilot didn’t drop him and his buddies into a river or crash the glider before they all got out. Yes, he was one of the lucky ones who made it back home, or I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this comment. True, he didn’t talk about it much, but he took me to see The Longest Day the year before he died of a heart attack– the coroner thought it was an aftereffect of combat stress. What I remember most about the movie was asking my dad afterward whether he was afraid when he jumped out of the glider that had carried him to France. He told me that courage doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid– it means doing what you have to do anyway. I never forgot that, I’ve tried to live my life accordingly, and I bless God that I had such a father.

  • arcs June 7, 2018, 6:17 AM

    One man have I known who went across that beach that day but I didn’t know it until his death. Another man I’ve known was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross but he Would Not talk about it. I consider myself blessed and lucky to have breathed some of the same air as those giants.

  • Chris June 7, 2018, 6:20 AM

    PA Cat… Paratroopers did not jump out of gliders. You either jumped from a C-47 or you were in the glider troops and rode the glider (WACO’s I believe) all the way down to the ground. Having jumped out a perfectly good airplane myself a few times, I’d much prefer that route to letting some cab driver plow an unpowered plane into the ground with me in it!

  • Chris June 7, 2018, 6:28 AM

    I took the image on the link at low tide in 2006. This is literally at the edge of the water looking back to the bluffs where the American cemetery is. Look how damn far that is… it took a good 20 minutes to walk down from the cemetery to the waters edge… I cannot imagine having gone the other way wet, seasick, with a 60 pound ruck on my back, a rifle that weighed a friggin ton unloaded, and with bullets and mortar shells raining down on me.

    It could not be done by the men of today.


  • ghostsniper June 7, 2018, 7:01 AM

    I remember reading Eddie Albert’s take on that landing. Yeah, THAT guy. He was there.
    Haunting, terrifying.
    Now look in the right column, toward the bottom, the one on the right.
    Imagine that, that thing taking that on.
    Look what some of “us” have chosen to become.
    Baggage, fodder, trash.
    A good sweeping is past due.

  • Casey Klahn June 7, 2018, 7:32 AM

    I think a valid argument can be made that a glider infantryman’s job was probably the very worst one you could have. I think my dad said that, once. The take my father had…it was so amazing. He always had something to say about how hard the other guy had it. His basic training platoon was broken up, and 5 of them went on to Normandy; all were killed. Dad went on to fight in the hell of the Italian Apennine winter. Pick the worst terrain fought over in WW II; Bougainville, Tarawa, Okinawa? Italy, Burma, the North Atlantic? The Aleutians, North Africa, beneath the Med?

    They ought to erect a statue in the main thoroughfare of every city, so big you can’t get around it. It would be just for the clerk typists, alone. The infantryman, artilleryman, tanker or pilot you cannot approximate in stone. Possibly Gerard’s art, that of poetry, may be one of the best ways to show what The Greatest Generation was and did. I also like this guy’s artwork:

  • Casey Klahn June 7, 2018, 7:36 AM
  • Candy June 7, 2018, 8:02 AM

    Once again Gerard your unique insights are inspiring. Such a great choice of music to tie things together. To all commenters, you have shared some thoughtful and heart felt stories – Thanks You.

  • Candy June 7, 2018, 8:05 AM

    p.s. This post linked at my fb page. Hope others will follow here today.

  • OldFert June 7, 2018, 1:04 PM

    Chris, it *is* being done by the men of today.

    Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, and some Airmen, also, patrol around Afghanistan and the Middle East with up to 120 lbs of gear per each. And I’m not talking just about “special ops” folks.

    I’m sure most of them would, if ordered, fight their way across the Normandy sands.

    Probably just as well that most of those who took part in the invasions of Sicily, Italy, southern France, Greece, and Normandy and other places I don’t remember at the moment are gone now. I don’t know if they’d think the Europe of today would be worth their sacrifices. Personally, I’m not sure the Europe of today is worth the cost.

  • Remus Marsilvia June 7, 2018, 1:27 PM


    “… you feel the keel of the LST grind against the rocks and sand of Normandy”

    True, if you were offloading trucks and tanks. It probably should read,

    “… you feel the keel of the LVCP grind against the rocks and sand of Normandy”

    I served on an APA and did this for a living. It was fun. All the ordnance was outgoing.


    • ghostsniper June 6, 2022, 3:56 AM

      A voice from the past, and greatly missed.

  • Vanderleun June 7, 2018, 2:18 PM

    Correction made, Remus.


    You are, as Eliot said of Pound: “il miglior fabbro”

  • ghostsniper June 8, 2018, 4:55 AM

    “…120 lbs of gear per each…”

    Stop passing this BS around.
    Go pick up 120 lbs and throw it up on your back, and get walking.
    I dare ya.
    You might go 10 steps, but you’re not going to be worth a damn when you get there.

    And what’s IN that 120 lbs anyway?

    I was in a line platoon for 4 years and did more than 50 extended field exercises, a week or more, and another 50 of a few days.
    Entire TA50 rig was less than 50 lbs and it was carried maybe 50 feet.
    After that basic field equipment was used the whole time, less than 20 lbs.
    At the end of the training the TA50 was picked up again and carried maybe 50 feet.
    Artillery base plates are the exception not the rule and aren’t carried very far, less than a mile and are swapped amongst squad members. Same with the 50’s, etc.

  • Casey Klahn June 8, 2018, 7:36 AM

    Ghost, you mean mortar base plates; the four deuce was the worst.

    90 would be a mean rucksack. I did hump those, and after my service I sometimes humped that in the mountains, but most often my max load was 70. On McKinley, with skis and a sled, 200 lbs. Note that it is sliding over snow, but uphill at a slight grade. Yes, that sucked. The best load is about 50-55 pounds, if you must have a heavy load.

    I do believe an infantryman might pick up a 125# load, total gear, but yeah, that shit is limited. What’s worse is the military backpack systems are wrong-headed and engineered poorly. Proper load bearing for a monster load begins with getting it tight to your center of balance, and over your pelvic center. If you say use a frame, you’re disqualified from this conversation.

  • OldFert June 8, 2018, 1:09 PM

    Ghost, I’m glad you’re the only one who knows anything here.

    The 120 reflects Casey’s 90 lbs ruck, plus about 30 lbs of body armor, weapon, plus misc. other junk (radio, intercept equipment, so forth). Assault load is a lot less, of course, but they still hump a lot.

  • ghostsniper June 8, 2018, 1:44 PM

    @Casey, I still have my Mountain Large, issued at Bad Tolz, Ger., circa 1975. For it to weigh 90 it would have to be filled with concrete. I have (4) 90lb bags of sakrete on a shelf in the garage, just a few feet from my Alice and it looks like one bag would be a tight fit. So I have to ask, what is in that pack that weighs 90 lbs and how big is that pack? All of my TA50, not including gun, bayonet, and gas mask, MIGHT have weighed 40 lbs max. That stuff was only carried from the truck to the CP and after that we only carried web gear and/or Alice. On patrols/guard we only carried stuff critical to the mission, NOT the entire gear.

    I keep hearing all this stuff about HUGE volumes of gear but have never seen anything regarding substance. Basically, web rumors and counterfeit piks.

    @Old Fert, I know what I know cause I was there. Were you? Or are you just rumor mongering without thinking?

  • ghostsniper June 8, 2018, 2:02 PM

    @Casey, I agree with your assessment on packs in general.
    After perusing more than 200 packs over the past year I recently chose one and it is now in my possession. It needed to fit tight to my body and was not supposed to stick way out in the back like 90% of the packs in the market now. I don’t need to carry the entire world but I do need some stuff and it needs to not rattle, shift around, or be out of balance. It needs to sit up high but not higher than my neck so that I can maintain 360 degree visibility. No molle straps all over the outside to catch on branches and rattle and snag. Heavy duty, at least 4″ wide, waist strap and 3″ wide shoulder straps and a chest strap and all straps must have quick release latches.

    I’m taking a series of local tactical courses this summer and this pack must hold up under extreme conditions. I don’t need a lot of compartments, for all of my gear is already categorized in individual pouches and easy to retrieve. Money was another major factor. I am not wealthy and most of the packs that do what I want are in the $200″ range and I’m not gonna spend that much. It’s just a bag to carry my other bags. The pack I chose is not perfect but it cost less than $100 (barely) and requires some slight modification on my part.

    Right away I loaded it up with all my gear and put it on and my neighbor helped me to get the straps adjusted just right. Nice and tight and compact. Feels like a 2nd skin. I’ve climbed ladders and trees with it on, walked a mile or so, even swam across the pool with it a couple times. Yes, it’s waterproof, and packed as it is it doesn’t try to float. Next I will fit my battle rattle under it and see how that works out. Like I said, some adjustments will need to be made.

    • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:08 PM

      Ghost, mind if I ask the brand and type. I used to do a lot of hiking and while what I had was tolerable I always felt I could have had better gear. A hundred bucks isn’t bad, after the first 5 miles you know if it was worth it.

      • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:29 PM

        Never mind. I see you answered below. Thanks

  • JoeB June 8, 2018, 3:01 PM

    Great article. I visited Normandy for the first time in April. Just awed beyond words. Brothers in Arms was a good choice. But I also like Nora Jones – American Anthem from the Ken Burns series “The War”. I found my visit very gratifying because the people in the small towns and villages still remember what was done for them. And they are still great ful. And it WAS a Europe and a world worth fighting for.

  • Old Fert June 8, 2018, 6:48 PM

    Ghost, I remember you guys at the Enlisted Club.

  • Casey Klahn June 8, 2018, 6:53 PM

    As always, the infantryman’s load is an all over him affair. In pockets, on shoulders, in his hands, on his web gear, and on and in his pack. I think the D Day Normandy soldiers had some type of load bearing vest (not including the Mae West).

    Ghost, when I was mountain guiding on Rainier and in the North Cascades, I had the big, expensive pack we all used – the same one you’d take to Everest, and that the SEALs chose for their Adak teams. The army pack I used in the service, an ALICE, was stupid in the extreme. I did pack it out to must’ve been 90 lbs one time, in an infantry platoon in the defense exercise, but we only walked it about 100-200 yards. My father’s unit, the WW II Tenth Mountain Division, had a mountain ruck that was a no-shit 90 lbs ensemble, and you skied with that bitch. I wasn’t there, but the legend is real.

    Anyway, I’m embarrassed to talk @ things I’ve done in the context of this post. The packing of gear on one’s person is a fun conversation, isn’t it?

    My respects, and never-ending, to the great men who fought on D Day.

  • ghostsniper June 8, 2018, 8:07 PM

    “…an all over him affair…”

    Well there ya go, and I agree, I do the same, still.
    If it’s in my pack I can’t get to it immediately.

    My platoon did a 1 month “Platoon Confidence Training” in Bad Tolz in Oct-Nov 1975 that was conducted by a fleet of Rangers, Green Berets and French SF’s. The first 27 grueling days were training leading up to the last 3 days of an FTX – Escape and Evasion.

    All 30 of us were loaded into 2 5 ton trucks at midnight with our immediate gear, in my case, my Alice minus the frame. I was cutting as much weight as possible to cover as much ground as possible. C-rats were stripped to the essentials, etc. Nothing unessential went for the ride. My house was my ponch and liner.

    10 miles outside of camp in pitch darkness each of us was dropped off one at a time along a country road, several miles apart. The goal was to use what was on our person and in our heads to get back to camp and we had 3 days to do it. The difficult part was the Rangers and others were now the aggressor forces and were out actively searching for us in the woods. If caught we would be tortured and caged. I’ll remind you it snows in Oct-Nov in Germany. 19 people got caught. 2 fell into a gasthaus got drunk and arrested by the polizei, and 9 made it back to camp unscathed. I was one of the 9. Of the 19 that got caught and tortured a few went to the doctor and a few more went to the field hospital. Stripped naked, beaten with fists and kicked, dragged into a pond of 40 degree water, repeatedly dunked backwards then thrown in a heap on the ground to freeze for a spell.

    My alice weighed less than 20 lbs and that didn’t include the other gear “all over me”.
    Mission specific.

    I still can’t imagine what is in these 90-150lb packs.

    • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:18 PM

      Sounds like the guys who fell into the gasthaus and got drunk and arrested were better off than the guys who got caught.

  • ghostsniper June 8, 2018, 8:10 PM

    Sorry Old Fert, the EM club wasn’t my bag.

  • Fred Z June 10, 2018, 6:57 PM

    My dad fought in WWII, not at D-Day and on the wrong side. Reichsmarine. On D-Day he was a POW in western Canada and had already had his mind and opinions turned upside down by what he found here.

    He was one of many Germans also grateful for D-day, and the sacrifices of the allied troops. He was deeply embarrassed and ashamed by what he, and his, had done, said and thought.

    • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:20 PM

      Good story. Thanks for that.

  • Phillipa Crawford June 6, 2019, 7:28 AM

    Best answer I ever heard to the question of ‘How could you do that?’ meaning storm the beaches on D-Day, was ‘Because my mates went.’

  • kirby June 6, 2019, 11:15 AM

    ghostsniper, if you dont mind, what was the pack you chose. thanks

  • Auntie Analogue June 6, 2019, 11:51 AM

    In the Second World War my Dad sailed the North Atlantic aboard a small escort vessel; for a taste of what he and his fellows endured Nicholas Monsarrat’s semi-autobiographical novel The Cruel Sea serves very well. The mason who built a brick porch for my (former) home was a Merchant Marine sailor aboard oil tankers, his first ship and a later one were each torpedoed and sunk, and he was lucky to have been twice rescued from the sea. One of my uncles was the flight engineer/top turret gunner on a B-24; on one of the bombing raids on Romania’s Ploesti oil plants his plane was shot down and he spent the last two years of the war in a German POW camp. Another uncle was an infantryman in the Southwest Pacific theater and was in several assault landings along the coast of New Guinea, in the landings on Biak, and in the Philippines campaign (he once regaled assembled family with how his and his buddies’ skins “all turned yellow from the malaria pills we had to take,” and when I, then twelve years old, blurted, “Atabrine!”, he said, “How did you know that?”, I said, “I read a lot about what you guys did.”) Another uncle was a Gunners Mate aboard USS Texas providing 12-inch naval gunfire support for the Rangers’ assault on Pointe du Hoc, then for the landings on UTAH Beach, and later for the Allied landings in the south of France in Operation ANVIL. Another uncle was a combat engineer sergeant in the assault landing on OMAHA Beach; his unit was tasked with removing the beach obstacles to allow armored and supply vehicles to land and to motor off the beach and inland (in photos taken on D-Day you can distinguish men from his outfit by the broad rainbow-like arc painted on the front of their helmets). Following the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland my cousin’s Polish Army father in-law escaped first to France, then to England where he rose to colonelcy to lead a battalion in a Polish tank brigade in the Normandy campaign and beyond. The Polish Air Force father of one of my best friends escaped Poland, joined the French Air Force and then escaped to England following the Nazi invasion of France; he went on to be a rear gunner in Wellington bombers and later became a radar operator on RAF Lancaster bombers, serving at least two 30-mission tours on nocturnal raids over Germany. There are many such others whom I knew.

    They’re now all gone. I miss them terribly.

    • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:27 PM

      That’s quite the family history. Sounds like you’ve got the makings for a book there.

  • ghostsniper June 6, 2019, 11:57 AM

    @kirby, I bought a Fieldline pack and the cost was about $40.

    It’s the Real Tree Xtra version.
    As soon as I seen it in person I saw some things that wouldn’t do.
    I know a guy that was a rigger in the air force and he has a upholstery sewing machine and access to material so I had him do some modifications to it.

    He open the hip pads and installed more foam in them, then installed a more robust waist strap with a quick disconnect latch. He removed all the stuff pertaining to carry a rifle on the pack as I don’t see the need for it. That pack had some small red accent pieces and he removed them. He removed the unneeded separation walls inside the pack. It’s been a while so I may be forgetting what else he did.

    As it is now I’m real happy with it. Loaded up it is about 23 lbs and I can stay out for a week or more with it though I haven’t done so yet. This fall I probably will.

    Everything I carry in that pack is in a category that is contained in a cinched and waterproof bag. First Aid, Clothes, Food, etc. I don’t go for all that nonsense of stuff hanging all over the outside, getting caught on tree limbs and making noise. The only thing on the outside of this pack are 2 32oz waterbottles bolted to my rigger belt with fast clips in FDE Rothco carriers.

    I gave the sewing machine friend $100 even though he didn’t want to charge me anything cause I’d rather be owed than owe. I’m funny that way. So for less than $150 I got the pack I always wanted rather than the pack others thought I wanted.

  • captflee June 6, 2019, 6:42 PM

    Your D-Day offerings have been superb, and well appreciated here.

    Casey, ghost, and any of you others who pounded that ground,
    My hat’s off to you lads. Having only humped a ruck for pleasure, on routes and schedules of my own choosing, and with no one shooting at me, I have on occasion driven myself to the point of exhaustion; the thought of those young men fighting their way hundreds of yards through withering gales of fire and rough, cold surf is too much to bear.

    I have carried young American men and a multiplicity of equipment to war, an awesome responsibility, let me assure you. Such landing operations as I have participated in on big haze grey boats have mercifully been bloodless, if not stress free affairs, barring the odd incoming missile/chem weapon alert in Shuaiba port. Suffice it to say, this whole subject is not one that I can view dispassionately.

    It is incumbent on us, the living, to ensure that the brave men who died that famous day,and on those which followed, do not suffer the final death of being forgotten. As the bard had Henry V proclaim, “this story shall the good man teach his son…”

    Well done, Gerard, well done.

  • John June 10, 2019, 11:13 AM

    Regarding “jumping” out of a glider…
    A man may have to jump once it is landed without having “parachuted”. A story told to a child – who may not understand the distinction – should not be discredited… try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • bSirius June 11, 2019, 4:04 PM

    The allies were lucky that the 20 under strength german divisions, composed mostly of teenage boys and old men, were all that they met as the 240 crack divisions were in Russia where they lost 75-80% of their casualties. Half US casualties were during training exercises before leaving the US. The same thing happened in the Pacific theater. Most Japanese units met while island hopping by the US were cooks and janitors who handed the US their ass in a bento box. I have many relatives that were shot up taking islands that should have been bypassed. My point……all that greatest generation BS is just that, BS. They were as incompetent then as they are now. Ask 40,000,000 dead Russians what the US brought to the table.

    • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:37 PM

      Some people are so full of shit they have to let the whole world know. I guess we should at least thank you for doing that.

  • Casey Klahn June 11, 2019, 9:46 PM

    bSerius? The fuck you say.

    The WW II Soves looked at the gigantic US armadas of self-contained naval, marine, army and aviation warriors who crossed the Pacific, and cringed. They cannot come close to that, and have kept that dread in the backs of their crusty skulls for over 70 years. When they shit fear, the turds are red, white and blue.

    They plodded across the eastern expanses of Europe in the Forties at a slow walk, more burdened by their arms than enhanced by them. They had no idea how to conduct armored warfare, and basically still don’t. The armies they have outfitted and trained do stupid shit like bury their Rooskie tanks up to the turret and use them as pillboxes. They recently went to Syria, where we handed them their ass on a silver platter. They never knew Patton warfare, and still don’t.

    In the past 2 months, they witnessed us forward massive military strength to the vicinity of Iran, and back the Iranians down when they offered a new and credible threat. No, we no longer have a president like Obama, who essentially gave a small boat of our sailors to the Iranians to screw with. We now have Trump, who avoids war in the manner of americanism most practiced over our intelligent, free and singularly unique history, but who gives no quarter when threatened.

    I met a delightful Russian lady last week, who is intelligent, beautiful and talented. Russia is a great nation. Militarily? Not so much.

  • Casey Klahn June 11, 2019, 9:50 PM

    I forgot to add that the Germans my dad fought, in Italy, were never the old men and boys you describe. They were intact, elite and meaner than hell. His unit rolled them.

    Suck mine, you swarthy drunken hui.

  • Terry June 6, 2020, 11:27 AM

    My hero-

    My Dad is still alive but his memory is in poor condition. He will be 95 on June 10.

    He flew left seat in a B-17 at 19 years of age over Berlin. Not a good place to be. He never talks about WW-II.

    Then Korea in the USAF. Dad flew in the same unit with then, Captain, Heinie Aderholt. They flew C-47’s doing harassment/psychological warfare missions in North Korea near the Yalu River and into China. On his last mission the right engine was shot off his C-47 but was hanging on hoses and bent up engine mounts. He was forced to land in a flooded rice patty. He and the co-pilot survived the crash uninjured. The Load Master was killed by ground fire from the approaching Chinese troops. Then the real story of his life began that makes him a super-hero. At lease to all who know him. Story for another time.

    Dad also flew in Laos in 1960-62 for an operation as a civilian that the late General Heinie Aderholt
    practically begged Dad to participate in. More drama and heart ache from our own deep state connected to that Laos mess as recently as about six years ago.

  • Blondi Utronki June 6, 2020, 11:36 AM

    Visit the D Day museum in New Orleans.

  • ghostsniper June 6, 2020, 12:53 PM

    Terry sed: “Story for another time.”
    I want to read it.

  • FooDog June 6, 2020, 2:19 PM

    A deep how of respect to fellow vets.
    My story is less glamourous, far less my uncle’s in Vietnam (7 air medals), or my wifes uncle’s in Vietnam one who did not come back, or My grandfather and grand uncles, one post over The Hump, or the one in the First Minnesota Regiment who made it back from Gettyburg. My wife also served in the War on Islam, but that’s her story, as is the pain and loss in her family.

    Gerard, we all serve who honor them, and you have done so, well, my brother.

  • Fuel Filter June 7, 2020, 11:05 AM

    Two submissions to commemorate this D-Day (sorry…this used to be a regularly scheduled broadcast for me but my old iPad took a dump a few years back. Also, I’m a day late and a dollar short, well mebbie not that short.)

    First, the one from the Atlantic:


    Next a new one I just read via Powerline. What if D-Day had failed? One scenario.


    Let us remember all the White Army troops that made it happen.

    (Oh, and it’s too damn bad that Patton wasn’t in charge instead of that simp Bradly.)

  • Cynyr June 8, 2020, 12:55 PM

    Read it with tears in my eyes.

  • Emily Nelson June 6, 2021, 7:56 PM

    Very few perhaps, but I’m sure there must be some comparable to their great-grandfathers today.

  • Clifford June 6, 2021, 8:12 PM

    The little boats, the LCVPs, were wooden, not steel. Only the bow doors were steel. Wooden boats carrying iron men.

    My grandfather worked for the manufacturer of these boats, Higgins Industries of New Orleans. The shelves in my den were made from mahogany scraps from that manufacture.

  • James Bowen June 6, 2021, 8:19 PM

    How do you get Men to do this? They trained and trained and trained, in mock ups and simulators until you thought it was going to run out your ears. Night and day, early in the morning… and the middle of the night ..you’re dead asleep and the sarge comes in banging a garbage can lid lid screaming ‘over the side you numb nuts over the side’. And you jump up and go. You hate the army…you hate the Sargent but you won’t let your buddies down…you won’t let them see you’re scared. You will kill the enemy then maybe go home…if you can, so nobody else will ever have to do this again forever.

  • Nori June 6, 2021, 8:32 PM

    “It could not be done by the men of today.”
    Nor by the women encouraged and allowed to believe they are capable of Normandy.

  • Archie June 6, 2021, 8:57 PM

    Don’t fret. Marching up the beaches can be done by todays lads. It can. The lads that will do it are not heard from but are invisible to you and me, but they are there, waiting.
    All warriors worry their deeds are meaningless in the long run of history but each did their best to hold back the night in the face of adversity.

  • PA Cat June 6, 2021, 9:01 PM

    Gerard had better prepare for an Instalanche: Glenn Reynolds linked to this essay about an hour ago.

  • Giles Overreach June 6, 2021, 9:58 PM

    My father, at the time age 26 and married with 2 kids, landed on Omaha Beach on June 20 1944. Was among the first Americans troops into Paris. Bombed by his own at St. Lo and wandered lost during the Battle of the Bulge, earned a battlefield commission…walked into a compound called Buchenwald and never talked much about it. Went home to Chicago and raised 7 kids.

  • Arnold Williams June 6, 2021, 10:49 PM

    My Dad was in one of those. He remembers his Sargeant’s instructions: “We are going to land on the beach. There will be heavy fire. Do not die on the beach. The beach is a landing zone. Die inland.” When I was young, I remember him flinching if he was in a room and the ceiling light went on. Didn’t like lights above. Fortunately, he got over it.

  • Casey Klahn June 6, 2021, 11:33 PM

    WWII does shape our lives, even though we didn’t experience it other than vicariously. It was certainly that big of an event. Our fathers.

    Keep telling their stories. Be accurate, and also be honorific. I just watched Darby’s Rangers, 1958, with James Garner. Bill Darby was the founder of the Rangers in WWII. After they broke up the Rangers, Darby himself needed an assignment that was rough, tough, and hardcore. He was assigned as assistant division commander of the elite 10th Mountain Division. On the 30th of April, 1945, less than one week before the end of the war in Italy, my father almost bought the farm in heavy combat with the famous 10th Mountain Division. He was on a DUKW, which is an amphibious 2.5 ton truck, which went down and drowned 25 men of the 10th all in one fell swoop. By complete fate, he survived that tragedy, but on the same day, and in the same place, the famous Darby did, indeed, buy the farm. He was kilt (my dad always said “kilt” when telling his stories of the war) by a German 88mm artillery shell burst in the town my dad had just vacated in the DUKW.

    My respects to all of the offspring of WWII vets who comment on here, and to Gerard, whose uncle died in the war as an aviator in the Pacific Theater.

    Tell the stories. Tell the youth. You know your WWII history thoroughly, but most Americans, I dare say, do not.

  • ghostsniper June 7, 2021, 4:35 AM

    “It could not be done by the men of today.”
    Yes it can.
    Not males.
    Men are not confused by who they are.
    After all the confused males are dead and gone the men will still be charging forward.
    It’s always been this way.

  • Terry June 7, 2021, 7:46 AM

    Thank you for reposting this Gerard. My father is a WW II combat veteran and will celebrate his 96th birthday on the 10th.

    We need the men of WW II caliber right here, right now. And we need them desperately.

  • SgtBob June 7, 2021, 1:38 PM

    A friend in Texas landed with the 36th Division at Salerno, Anzio and Southern France. He said of Saving Private Ryan, “They almost got it right.”

  • EX-Californian Pete June 7, 2021, 3:11 PM

    Hey Vanderleun,

    If you might someday wander up to Paradise and enter the Veteran’s Memorial Hall on Skyway, could you check something out for me?

    Years ago, my sister visited Normandy while on a European vacation, and asked me if I would like any souvenirs from her trip. Knowing that my Dad (Army 7th Infantry Sarge) lost quite a few buddies in WW2, and some on Omaha Beach, I asked her for some sand from that beach. So she sent me a sizeable jarful.

    I donated it to the Vet’s Hall and included her postcard and proof of the sand’s origin, and the old Vet that I handed it to was very touched and thankful. He said “probably every grain of sand on that beach was at one time soaked with the blood of the bravest men on earth.”
    I guess maybe we both might have somehow kinda gotten a little of that sand in our eyes and that’s what made ’em get a bit watery.

    I’d sure love to know if the sand, letter, and postcard are still there on display.


  • Earl June 9, 2021, 9:04 AM

    @EX-Californian Pete

    I just checked with the Memorial Hall in Paradise. Talked to a gent (commander of the post) who’s been there since 2011. He has not seen the sand/postcard/etc.

    He’s going to check with some of the old-timers to see what is what.

    Sorry….I’ll post an update if/when I hear.

  • Blue Max Rockatansky June 6, 2022, 3:36 AM

    The Americans got the beach that Rommel had fortified while the Canadians walked ashore.
    Fooled by the blow up with air faux tanks and planes located in the UK Hitler still thought that the invasion would come at the shortest point in the Pas-de-Calais region.
    Panzer divisions were stationed too far back and could never move in the daytime due to allied air superiority, the Luftwaffe was battling multiple air forces with daytime and night bombing and the Eastern Front always took precedence over any other regarding supplies and reinforcements.
    The hidebound and ponderous leadership method of the final word from Berlin was the exact opposite of our commanders who had tactical and strategic freedom.
    These soft weak times are not the fault of the hard soldiers who stormed ashore with MG-42 machine guns blazing in their direction.
    Their guts and glory will be remembered forever.

  • Dirk June 6, 2022, 7:14 AM

    If those men whom gave all, for this nation, could see the shit show we’re in now. I wonder if ?

  • steveaz June 6, 2022, 7:25 AM

    In the aerospace age, there is no longer any need to charge beaches under machine gun fire. The tactic has been made obsolete. Just send in a couple Tomahawk missiles, then flood the theater with ground troops on Ospreys, or fly in the A-10 Warthogs and strafe the heck out of them afterwards.

    An aside: Was the storming of Normandy really necessary?

    It need not subtract from our soldiers’ virtue in that campaign to suggest that American commanders could have found a less obviously ‘wasteful’ use of our troops. At times I think FDR just wanted the ‘Shock-And-Awe’ TV footage that the massive Normandy invasion provided to juice his war propaganda back home. Looking back with 2022’s reality in mind, the fighting dads and sons of middle-class America appear to be unwitting pawns sacrificed on the Socialists’ Weimarian alter.

    If we are ever to shuck off the baleful legacy of FDR, we need to take a hard look at the mythologies his party has erected to support that legacy. Unfortunately, this means that some of WWII’s comfortable fables may have to fall under the glare of new historians’ harsh, yellow light.

    • Vanderleun June 6, 2022, 8:36 AM

      Oh just leave them out of your political posturings today, please. They gave what they gave when it was their’s to do. The anti-FDR rant has been blathering out into the world since before, BEFORE, FDR was elected. I heard the same sort of meaningless posing from my grandmother in the late 60s when she was in her 90s.

      Let the dead be dead, not some shibboleths you shake at the unknowable face of the world.

    • KCK June 6, 2022, 10:10 AM

      You could not be wronger about the demise of maneuver warfare. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the infantryman, whom we celebrate most on this hallowed day, is still the critical component of any military.

      But, otherwise, what Vanderleun says in response is exactly my response, plus I will add: go to hell.

  • WiscoDave June 6, 2022, 9:26 AM

    They were great men. They did a great deed.

  • John Fisher June 6, 2022, 10:02 AM

    Gerald, I have read this every year you have posted it and it never ceases to move me. I agree – it could not be done by the men of today, particularly since the ‘men’ of today seem mostly devoted to tearing down what these men created.

  • steveaz June 6, 2022, 4:31 PM

    Point taken. There is a time and a place…

    I enjoy your blog for its occasional nostalgic and sentimental posts, and I’m very sorry for tredding indelicately on this one.

    • Vanderleun June 6, 2022, 5:59 PM

      It’s alright man. I snapped back. I call us square.

  • Arty June 6, 2022, 4:45 PM

    Good apology Steve. Your parents raised you right.

  • Gary Foster June 6, 2022, 6:00 PM

    Why do old men say this generation is not the equal to the WW2 generation? Every batch of old men does this but it’s never true. As a fully qualified old man, I never thought this was true. Talk to Nam Vets. Don’t think they stood the course there? Don’t think they crossed miles of rice fields under fire towards an enemy they rarely saw but felt the steel being sent to them? American men of each generation stood in the gap. Never let us down, unlike our leaders.