June 6: A walk across a beach in Normandy

Our fathers, our heroes....

Lest we forget.

My father was half a world away, and his day would be in September 1944, when MacArthur "I Shall Return" came ashore on Leyte.

"...that this country shall have a new birth of freedom, and that this government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Lest we forget, that which was purchased with the blood and lives of long dead soldiers, who gave up all their tomorrows that we might live in freedom today.

Posted by David at June 6, 2009 9:37 AM

Beautiful. To not at least try to make oneself worthy of the sacrifice is to live as a scoundrel and thief. One can never repay the debt, but one must never stop trying.

Posted by Gagdad Bob at June 6, 2009 10:19 AM

Our (Western Chauvinist is my sis) 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.

Posted by Cathy at June 6, 2009 12:51 PM

"...you rise up and you move forward, beginning, one foot after another, to take back the continent of Europe."

One of the most moving lines in a long time.

For Uncle Charlie. 17 years old, 5 feet 4 inches.

Posted by Lance de Boyle at June 6, 2009 1:08 PM

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.

Posted by Dr Bob at June 6, 2009 3:32 PM

All of the comments here are so touching.
But I have to slightly disagree with Dr. Bob.

Our fighting men and women today are not weak, self-absorbed, nor arrogant. I have met them, and they are anything BUT.

It is the lazy, whining petulant generation that sit on their asses complaining about our military that are disgusting.

God bless all of those who sacrifice for our country.
They are the noblest of people.

Posted by Tamara at June 6, 2009 3:53 PM

Dr. Bob.

Your father-in-law's plight breaks my heart.

I beat at heaven's door for answers that a man should have to experience and do what he had to do.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Cathy at June 6, 2009 7:23 PM

The lucky men who fought that war and lived knew the high price of freedom. They came home and settled down, determined to live the lives their lost comrades would never know, the lives made possible by the sacrifices of the unlucky. Think about the way America took off in the 50's and 60's, a complete turnaround from the decades of the Great Depression and WWII. But shielding the next generation from the want of the depression and horrors of war made the boomer generation too childlike. If the times call for adults in the future will we find enough of them?

Posted by Boots at June 6, 2009 10:02 PM

My father was in Europe and the Pacific. My son has been to Iraq twice. The Greatest Generation and the Next Greatest Generation, with us spoiled Boomers sandwiched in. Maybe for national survival all it takes is every other generation. God knows that's still a lot of sacrifice. We should be ever-grateful, they did it/do it for all of us.

Posted by Patty at June 7, 2009 4:26 AM

My father served as a machinist mate in the Phillipines during WWII and I am as proud of him as I can be. I also served, as a fire control tech during the Viet Nam war. I served in one of the destroyers that blew those rivers open so that John Kerry could win his three purple hearts in forty days and then betray us all upon his return to America. He and the rest of the political prostitutes of his and our day told us we couldn't be proud of our service, and God help us, we believed them for a long while. I've come to realize that my motives were the same as my Dads' and so were the motives of the vast majority of the peoople I served with. Thanks for listening. I've wanted to say that for a very long time.

Posted by Mike Melde at June 7, 2009 5:08 AM

They surely didn't die so that fat socialists could sell their country down the river...did they?

Posted by thud at June 7, 2009 5:15 AM

My nephew from Arizona recently emailed me about his concern for the state of our union. I replied, "Our fathers gave us America, we gave it away."
I realized early on, that every step I took as a free man was on the bones of those who gave so much. Thank you, all of you, living and dead, then and now. God bless you all.

Posted by Dennis at June 7, 2009 7:34 AM

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 80mm 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?

Posted by Doug at June 7, 2009 10:06 AM

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.

Posted by Connecticut Yankee at June 7, 2009 4:10 PM

Dr. Bob, Mike, everyone -

The tears spring to my eyes reading these accounts. I know I don't have a shadow of the courage these men had.

I wish I could tell them that they shouldn't be embarrassed that they were scared, soiled themselves, for had to be forced to do what they did. I'm just so grateful they were there.

So thankful.

Posted by Deana at June 7, 2009 9:13 PM

Thank you, Mike Melde. God bless you. Surely your reward will be great in Heaven. lois

Posted by lois in Indy at June 8, 2009 8:44 AM

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.

Posted by Roderick Reilly at June 8, 2009 12:59 PM

I have to concur with Tamara, Dr. Bob. There are many of the same caliber. They are out there right now as each reader reads this. In Germany, Italy, S. Korea, Okinawa, and a bunch of other places. Those countries know what would happen to this world without the US military keeping an eye on things. Like sheepdogs guarding the flock from wolves. As the saying goes: Freedom isn't free.

Or we can just let China run things more efficiently and cheaper..

Posted by JD at June 11, 2009 4:46 PM

On another note...

I was stationed in Germany for three years and my biggest regret I have is not visiting the cemeteries at Normandy.

Posted by JD at June 11, 2009 4:49 PM

This one's for my Uncle Buck, who was the waist gunner in a B-25 in the South Pacific.

The plane broke in two at about his station when it got shot down. The front part, with a full bomb load, went down like a stone.

He and the tail gunner floated around in rafts for about a week until they were rescued.

Posted by WWWebb at June 12, 2009 8:04 PM

This was indeed The Greatest Generation.

Posted by cilla mitchell at July 2, 2009 3:13 PM


Posted by cond0011 at June 6, 2013 11:22 AM

To save your world you asked this man to die:
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
- Epitaph for the Unknown Soldier, by W. H. Auden-

Posted by Derek Alexander at June 6, 2013 11:27 AM

Yes "what for". I believe we are right now witnessing the greatest betrayal the world has ever seen to those men that fought and died for liberty.

Posted by Denny at June 6, 2013 2:04 PM

I wish I had said the 2nd greatest betrayal, The first was by Judas Iscariot.

Posted by Denny at June 6, 2013 2:23 PM

My second father was D-Day+3 on Omaha. They couldn't offload their trucks until the beaches had been cleared of bodies, because the men would not drive their equipment over the dead. So dozers were used to scoop/clear pathways so the equipment and motor vehicles could be taken across the beaches. My second father was in charge of a 1 1/2 ton radio repair bus.

The bodies were sorted out later, but it was a complication that the high command had not considered ahead of time. Needless to say, this was NOT shown on the newsreels.

Most libraries have the official accounts of the D-Day invasion. It is painfully dry and sobering reading, but highly recommended. Also Eisenhower and Churchill's official accounts.

Posted by DHH at June 6, 2013 7:33 PM

@bill jones;

What an incredibly shriveled little soul you have. To paraphrase Dorothy L. Sayers, "It's a wonder your own spit don't poison ya."


Posted by Dave at June 7, 2013 3:51 AM

Words fail. thanks g.

Posted by rlc at June 7, 2013 7:53 AM

God Bless America

Thanks to all Vets

Posted by Rex Bartholomew at June 7, 2013 9:49 AM

God Bless America

Thanks to all Vets

Posted by Rex Bartholomew at June 7, 2013 9:49 AM

How about Guadalcanal, 1942, over 7,000 marines dead. Anybody weeping over them? Also what about "Baby Boomers" ruining the country? Was LBJ, Nixon and the rest boomers? D Day allies outnumbered the Germans in ships, manpower, air support. How many know Russia lost 20 million? Very few. Only difficult beach was Omaha, rest got off easy. Remember Tarawa? Nope? I'm a ex-marine, viet nam 68-69, so get real.

Posted by Alex at June 7, 2013 1:40 PM

At this time the D-day events are rapidly losing any remaining actors. Soon the stories will become more myths than personal family events, adventures, and tragic losses. This past year I discovered a book that upended my understanding of D-day. The book told the story of a German soldier who over the course of nine hours on that horrible day made Audie Murphy's exploits look like those of a Boy Scout. The soldier was Heinrich Severloh who is believed to have killed probably 3,000 or more American troops with a MG42 and many with a Mauser rifle, all from an open pit looking down on Omah Beach. The book is available from Amazon in England and Aberdeen Books in the USA: WN 62 is the title. It is the English translation of the fourth German edition. Hein is dead now but he was considered a hero by the French and English as he got older as the book shows.

Dan Kurt

Posted by Dan Kurt at June 9, 2013 8:25 AM

We can thank the WWII warrior generation. We can thank them and the government that decided that they needed to be rewarded for their determination and good luck.

Only part of what that generation did was on the battle field. Many things were accomplished on college campuses and main street. They pulled themselves together and made the USA what it was 30 years ago.

They help rebuild Japan and then laughed at Japan thinking that they could sell little cars that a man could nearly lift completely off the ground.

They were wrong to laugh their children and grandchildren are now working to stock America's Wal-Mart’s with the Chinese crap that the Japanese have contracted the Chinese to build.

The next generation by the way helped a truly devastated South Korea rebuild and also contract the Chinese for the American Market.

But, the strangest of all is the Ikea story. The USA didn't help the rebuild their country or laugh at their Volvos well we did kind of comment on the Saab story. But these guys built stores in the USA filled them completely with Chinese crap and then sell it to Americans that think it is like Scandinavian merchandise.

Thank God for Barak he proved that the American dream is so strong around the world that we can print useless money (it is worse than the counterfeit North Korean $100 bills made from $5 bills). The North Koreans started with pre-Chinese $5 bill. I say pre-Chinese because now we have the Chinese Purple to keep North Korea from bleaching them to make $100 bills. Oh don’t start that stuff about North Korea having only China as an Ally.

What I don't understand is why the Chinese are still sending hundreds of thousands of illegals to the USA when they know the dream is just that a dream. There is no substance to any belief that the USA will be able to pay off its debts. There is no way manufacturing will begin again now that we know about Cancer and all the manufacturing disease. There is no way we will be able to sustain the level of government, retirement and union benefits that we are paying out today.

Maybe they were the greatest generation because they didn't protest the WW II. Maybe they were the greatest because they bought the things that there brothers in manufacturing built. Maybe they were the greatest because they didn't sell the country to Foreign interest. Maybe they were the greatest because they were natural born. Today 30% of this countries people were not born here.

Maybe they were the greatest because they really didn't think that someone who broke in to this land is entitled to the same system of benefits that their fellow combatants were entitled to.

Today our government gives a retired military ID card that expires the day before the veteran turns 65. When the greatest generation retired their ID card last until they died. Their Benefits were based on their battles for this country. They were based on them supporting the constitution against foreign enemies. Yes, they were in foreign lands. We didn't have people in their generation that planned to end this great nation they wanted to make it better even if they had to join the PTA.

Posted by Sam at June 26, 2013 2:20 PM

While Obama praises those vets at Normandy, his Administration abases Bergdahl's platoon mates.

Story here at http://americanmoxie.us/2014/06/06/middle-finger-6/

Nothing is beneath this Administration.

Posted by Vermont Woodchuck at June 6, 2014 7:35 AM

" You hear them, 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 the others to your brown study of eternity."

And here is an example of Gerard's power with words. Amazing!

Posted by Captain Dave at June 6, 2014 1:52 PM

A few years back I toured Corregidor Island, Philippines, which was taken by the Japanese then retaken by the US and Philippine forces. There was plenty of visible dents, dings and other damage to steel and concrete doors and bunkers. Hand to hand combat and blood everywhere. I was standing where so many fought and died.

Thank you to all American Veterans.

Posted by Snakepit Kansas at June 6, 2015 11:09 AM

Very, very proud to be an American today. What a wonderful country - I mean this very sincerely. No nation ever achieved the level of grace we have enjoyed; none the freedom of conscience, freedom of self, freedom to prosper. Codified by the authors of the constitution and the Bill of Rights; certified by soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines. Especially thinking of those few at Normandy on one given day, and also of my own father who was a combat veteran in WW II. BTW, I served in the army and missed, barely, the wars fought on either side of my 10 plus year service. I used to be ashamed, but recall always my father's happiness that I did not go in harm's way. Now you know why I stand when the colors pass by.

Posted by Casey Klahn at June 6, 2015 9:24 PM

Casey, I am also a vet, 1966 - 1972. Not the most glorious times.
When I read of the events in WWII, the landings, I can't help but compare myself to the soldiers that went through those times.
And I feel like I come up short.
It wasn't the times or the equipment or the fight against Evil powers, it was the individual courage of the soldiers.
It has been said that a hero is one who is scared, but does what he has to do anyway.
Those soldiers, heck, the entire nation left some pretty big shoes to fill.
We may come close, maybe, but not near what that generation achieved.

Posted by chasmatic at June 6, 2015 10:32 PM

Hi, Chasmatic. It does pass through one's mind often. We who wore the uniform after WW II are afforded, unmerited, the grace and light bestowed on us by stellar men who raced into that breach.
I will never achieve their merit or fill their shoes - not with a hundred years to try with. But, still, you wear the uniform without the choice to say "I am worthy," nor to say "I am not worthy." You wear it because they did. That's well enough.

Posted by Casey Klahn at June 7, 2015 5:27 AM

I hasten to say the positive experience I had in the Reagan era, and in traveling with WW II vets to Italy, is an entirely different one from the experience of someone during the Vietnam era. I did get to enjoy that feeling, too, as I went in in 1975. Everyone I served with, almost, was a Vietnam veteran. No American should have to put up with the sh t they experienced from the American public.

Posted by Casey Klahn at June 7, 2015 9:17 AM

Sorry @ repeated postings, Gerard. I feel it is partly my sucky internet (but it happens when my internet is also doing extra well) and maybe the comment program. Wish I could solve this. Thanks for everything.

Posted by Casey Klahn at June 7, 2015 9:22 AM

An excellent piece indeed, Gerard. This is one of the few places where D-Day was mentioned this year. The world owes a debt to the Greatest Generation and the American Service men and women it can NEVER repay.

We all know the media has long since tired of having to mention any American success anywhere, and we know the demokrat politicians would rather spend their time reminding people just how screwed up a racist America has made the world. When we once again find ourselves facing the ultimate threat and are forced to call an entire generation of young men and women to sacrifice, I sincerely doubt we will be able to defend our country or our way of life. The left will once again work to subvert all American military actions toward self-defense while apologizing to the enemy.

Can we rely on the hipster generation to save the world? It doesn't look good.

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Posted by Earlene at June 17, 2015 1:24 PM

My father, who was in the British army, volunteered to be a glider pilot for the Normandy landing. He would, had been accepted, have flown to the vaguely defined landing zone in the pitch dark, trying to land a glider among the trees and hedgerows and rivers perhaps with a small tank or vehicle behind the wooden partition, or a couple of dozen men. If he survived the landing (and the vehicle or stores behind him didn't rip free from their ropes and flatten him on impact, or if he wasn't shot in the dark by allied soldiers fearing every movement was the enemy) he would have been in the thick of it before the shelling began or the air cover was in place.

If he hadn't been turned down, he would have been there as one of the 90-odd percent of glider pilots who didn't survive. If he hadn't been turned down I imagine I wouldn't be here to relate that small tale on a day of many thousands of tales.

Posted by stevegle at June 6, 2016 10:51 AM

This is a sacred day. I cannot do other than to revert to my army tongue. If you were going to serve in WW II, you had to have your shit wired very tight.

My respects to the men and women of the WW II generation.

Posted by Casey Klahn at June 6, 2016 8:11 PM

Beautifully done, Gerard. Minor suggested revision for the next time: "jump into a steel rectangle bobbing on the surface of the ocean below you. Others are already inside the steel boat" - the Higgins boats were actually made mostly of plywood.

Posted by Punditarian at June 7, 2016 4:24 AM

I have great appreciation for all American combat veterans. My cousin will be carrying physical scars and other unseen, from him tours in Afghanistan.

Posted by Snakepit Kansas at June 7, 2016 4:41 AM

I think McGill University prepared me well to undertake such an interesting internship in Washington. For starters, I have many American friends at McGill that encouraged me to spend the summer in Washington. They were right to do so, as I absolutely loved the city. Furthermore, my studies in political science made me well aware of recent events on the world stage as well as the important role played by the United States in the international system. Having done a lot of Model UN conferences at school and abroad, I also had an understanding of the role played by diplomats and was able to summarize important information to have it fit the format used in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, the opportunity McGill offered me to study one year in Spain helped me learn Spanish, which came in handy when doing research on the Latino community in the US or South American countries of importance to America.

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Posted by Bob Agard at June 18, 2016 9:04 AM

Gerard, you and others above on this thread, have spoken in such a way that cannot be misunderstood.
Karl Popper is pleased to have been proven wrong. Bless you all.

Posted by Howard Nelson at June 5, 2017 10:36 AM

Everyone should read this. My God.

Posted by c.a. at June 5, 2017 11:04 AM

Remembering, and honoring.

Posted by Casey Klahn at June 5, 2017 8:07 PM

An excellent essay, thank you!

May I immodestly recommend my own piece, "The awful stakes of D-Day." There was no Plan B.

Posted by Donald Sensing at June 6, 2017 8:10 AM

"died for what?"

For 73 years of relative peace. It is likely past time to do it all again. It is coming. No one wants it but honest clear thinking people understand that the sooner we do this the better the chances of success. Or we could wait until Islam has placed millions of their followers in every Western country and then they decide to bring the war to us. It's coming. For many countries it is 1939 again. The signs are there. No amount of candles and balloons or lit up buildings or tearful songs sung at memorial concerts will erase those signs. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

Posted by GoneWithTheWind at June 6, 2017 8:33 AM

"died for what?"

For 73 years of relative peace. It is likely past time to do it all again. It is coming. No one wants it but honest clear thinking people understand that the sooner we do this the better the chances of success. Or we could wait until Islam has placed millions of their followers in every Western country and then they decide to bring the war to us. It's coming. For many countries it is 1939 again. The signs are there. No amount of candles and balloons or lit up buildings or tearful songs sung at memorial concerts will erase those signs. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

Posted by GoneWithTheWind at June 6, 2017 8:33 AM

Here's what *really* happened to the first wave at Omaha Beach. You'll
never hear about this. They were slaughtered wading into a Pit of Hell. No Saving Private Ryan scenario here.

As bad or worse as anything that happened at the Canal, Iwo, Peleleu or Okinawa.


Read this ^^^ and weep.

The really sad thing: This all could have been prevented if we hadn't gone whole-hog with "Uncle Joe". We should have told him to go fuck himself and gone in from the South. The traitors in the gubment, including Frank the Cripple, Harry Hopkins, Ike and Marshall sold out all our forces in the ETO.

All those men butchered for the sake of Communism when we could have stopped it in it's track.

Patton was fucking on the money. We killed the wrong armies and destroyed the wrong nation.

Posted by Fuel Filter at June 6, 2017 10:33 AM

Thank you, Gerard. You have a gift, truly a gift, to help us understand that we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Posted by The Old Salt at June 6, 2017 11:01 AM

This is in no way intended to take anything away from the heroism of the soldiers who landed on D-Day, but it was yet another case of "lions led by donkeys"; men in high command who let their stupid pride get their men killed.

I watched a documentary yesterday about the specialised weapons developed (mostly by Brits, which is where the "stupid pride" came in) for use on D-Day. Virtually all the "funnies" (flail tanks, fascine droppers, bridgers) were rejected by the American generals; and the only type of specialised unit used by the Americans was the swimming tank, which they deployed far too far out with the predictable result of 90% of them sinking and their occupants being drowned.

On the other beaches, the stuff was in fact used; and worked just as designed, with the result that the casualty rate on all other beaches except the American ones was considerably lower.

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