Tag Archives: World War 2

D-Day Plus 75 Years : A Short Story

At this precise moment 75 years ago – 9 hours ahead of Pacific time – the first amphibious landings started at Normandy.

By dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads. The amphibious invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches code named Gold, Juno and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach. U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. However, by day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches. According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing.

He’s been gone about 20 years, but I still remember him stopping by my late father’s office every Wednesday at 1200 for lunch, in that big 70s Lincoln.

I can’t remember him without a smile and some pleasantries when he arrived. Never knew him by anything other than his nickname, which was Dusty. Outside of his family, I doubt that anyone else did, either.

He and my father would then head off for restaurants unknown. They were 2 Army veterans of that era. Neither talked much about those times.

He was wounded in that war and recuperated in a British hospital. As he was recuperating, there was an Army nurse at his side.

And from that time for over 50 years that nurse never left his side.

One Thanksgiving they invited us to their home. I had to decline, having a prior invitation.

It is a dinner I have regretted missing for 20 years. My parents told me that after dinner over desert and wine, the conversation got serious. After all those years, he opened up for the first time and talked about his day on that beach 75 years ago.

Since I wasn’t there, all I have are the few things I was told afterwards.

He was in the second wave.

What he remembered most that day were the drownings. Not all of the Higgins Boats  could get to the shoreline. If the feet couldn’t find the bottom with all of the equipment carried – 90 lbs in some cases – you were in big trouble.

And you couldn’t stop to help them.

You were trying to stay alive and get ashore. He watched his best friend drown.

When my mother asked him if he was worried about dying, he replied that “you never think it will be you“.

Allied victory wasn’t certain that day. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s chief of staff, gave it 50% odds of success *. Eisenhower had an alternative letter ready in the event of failure.

Winston Churchill went to bed that evening worried that by next morning, he would learn that 20,000 were killed. That was the number of British killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He also remembered the Dieppe Raid just 2 years earlier. After 6 hours and 60% casualties, the British were forced to withdraw.

(Then) Lt. General Omar Bradley was very close to ordering a withdrawal at Omaha.

“…by mid-day on June 6, caused Gen. Omar Bradley, a competent and “unflappable” commander, to fear that his 29th and 1st Divisions had “suffered an irreversible catastrophe.” He came within an inch of ordering withdrawal of the Omaha force — representing the main bulk of the American D-Day effort.”

“…The beaches of Omaha were a real trap for the troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The first assault wave was brutally cut down, while the second left the beach strewn with the wounded, the dead and broken equipment.”

I’ve always kept to a rule of not using people’s names in my posts unless I have their permission, but in this case I’ll make an exception. They’re both long gone now.

He left us shortly after that dinner and she left soon after.  I think too of the anonymous thousands who have already left us, taking their own stories of that day with them.

They deserve more than to be forgotten.

They were Dusty and Doris Miller.


 

 

* The Secret of D-Day, by Gilles Perrault. (1965 – out of print). 

More on the 2nd wave here.

 

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Filed under Army, Heroes Among Us, History

Virginia Hall

Since writing about her yesterday, curiosity had gotten the best of me, and I read a bit more on her. What an amazing woman.

As to David Holahan’s statement that ” James Bond had nothing on her”, Bond of course was some fantasy of Ian Fleming. To think that some spy would arrive with a self-confident (arrogant?) attitude in an Aston Martin and tux, well, of course real spies are the opposite. Most times a person who one would least suspect. When the best have disappeared the world is left wondering who they were, or at least what they looked like.

When the Manhattan Project was started, “an informant in the British civil service notified the Soviets. As the top-secret plan to build the bomb, called the Manhattan Project, took shape in the United States, the Soviet spy ring got wind of it before the FBI knew of the secret program’s existence.” It was 4 years after the war before  the identity of one, Klaus Fuchs, was discovered.

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Filed under Books, Good Stuff, History, Media, Patriotism

Some Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes

A Painting of Virginia Hall Using Her Suitcase Radio

Imagine that you are a young woman in her 20s or 30s and in Britain. You are either British, French, or, at least in one case, an American.

The Nazis have just finished their invasion of France, and a desperate British government is asking for volunteers for a dangerous mission.

They won’t tell you what it is until they get to know you. You don’t even know what group you are trying to join.

Then you are either out or in.

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Filed under Valor

Goodyear FG-1 at KIBM

Pics of an immaculate Goodyear FG-1 Corsair at Kimball Municipal Airport in Kimball, Nebraska.

Imma quite smitten.

She was stopping by for fuel:

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Filed under Airplanes, Flying, Heroes Among Us, History, Naval Aviation, Navy, Plane Pr0n, Really Good Stuff