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Thread: June 6, 1944: Against all odds
06-04-04, 06:32 AM #1
June 6, 1944: Against all odds
Issue Date: June 07, 2004
June 6, 1944: Against all odds
Years of planning, Ike’s leadership laid foundation for D-Day success
By Jim Tice
Times staff writer
When 150,000 American, British and Canadian forces assaulted beaches and drop zones on the Normandy coast of France on June 6, 1944, they were executing a strategy conceived four years earlier, well before the United States officially entered the war.
“The Europe First strategy actually emerged in the late-1930s, when a war with Germany became a possibility,” said military history professor Dr. Christopher Gabel, referring to the plan to strike at Germany and destroy its war machine.
The American and British chiefs of staff held secret meetings in early 1941 to plot strategy, “which was quite remarkable given our officially neutral stance at the time,” said Gabel of the Army’s Combat Studies Institute, Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Because the United States had very little in the way of armed forces in 1939, “we could build the Army from the ground up to invade Germany,” he said. “I think it was very important that we knew where we wanted to go, and we stuck to that concept.
The ascendancy of Ike
the Americans and British agreed early on that a single officer, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, would command the invasion of Europe — a unique position that went to Eisenhower in December 1943.
“If the selection of a supreme commander had been made [earlier in] 1943, it probably would have gone to a British general, because the bulk of the invasion troops and equipment would have been British,” Gabel said.
Once in command, Eisenhower had unprecedented authority over operational and tactical decisions involving millions of American and Allied troops, according to Gabel and Lt. Col. John Suprin, an assistant professor of military history at the staff college.
“The invasion originally was scheduled for June 5, and two days before, Eisenhower gets a report that the weather will be bad on that date, so he postpones it,” Gabel said. “The following day, he got a report for June 6 that the weather would be marginal, and he made a decision to launch the assault.”
By the time Eisenhower became supreme commander in late 1943, Allied leaders already had determined that the Normandy coast of France offered the most feasible avenue of attack into the heart of Germany.
The chief reason was the overriding need to secure a deepwater port that could be used in the buildup of forces and materiel for the drive into Germany. Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula, about 30 to 40 miles from the future U.S. invasion beaches, was a favorite of the planners.
The second consideration was the range of air power, particularly British Spitfire and Hurricane fighters.
“This invasion is going to hinge on tactical air support, and the British aircraft had a limited range, much shorter than American aircraft,” Gabel said.
The third reason Normandy was selected was that it was suitable for an amphibious assault because it had little in the way of mud flats, marshes and cliffs.
Omaha Beach, best option
The Allies chose to invade at Omaha Beach, a five-mile stretch of sand in front of Colleville-de-Mer, because of its proximity to Cherbourg.
“If you want to go to Cherbourg, you’ve got to land at Omaha,” Gabel said. “The characteristics of Omaha are bad, but they are not showstoppers. There are cliffs there, but there also are four draws, or gullies, that allow exits.
“Our bad luck at Omaha wasn’t so much that it was a bad beach selection, but that there was an entire German division, the 352nd Infantry, that we didn’t know about.”
The other U.S. beach was Utah, landing site of the 4th Infantry Division on the Cotentin and the right flank of the 1st Infantry Division.
Just hours before the amphibious assaults, U.S. forces conducted two major airborne operations. One, by the 101st Airborne Division, was designed to open exits from Utah Beach. The second, conducted by the 82nd Airborne Division, focused on the capture of Ste. Mere Eglise, a critical road juncture that linked Utah and Omaha.
Daylight on D-Day
As dawn broke on June 6, German defenders along “Hitler’s Atlantic Wall” gazed out on the largest armada in world history. Under Operation Neptune, the Allies had massed nearly 5,000 ships, including nine battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers, 71 large landing craft and thousands of troop transports, minesweepers and cargo craft. At 5:30 a.m., a deafening barrage of naval gunfire opened on the beaches occupied by the Germans, detonating minefields and destroying many obstacles and defensive positions along the vaunted Atlantic Wall.
Allied close-air support was everywhere. Fighters and bombers flew 11,000 sorties against artillery positions, railroad junctions, troop concentrations, headquarters and other high-value targets.
On Utah Beach, the naval bombardment lasted one hour; by 6:30 a.m., troops of the 4th Infantry Division were surging ashore under heavy fire. Within three hours, the men had collapsed the German beach defense, and U.S. soldiers and supplies were moving inland. At day’s end, 23,000 soldiers had come ashore at Utah, at a cost of 197 casualties.
It was a much different scene at Omaha Beach. Rough seas swamped landing craft, not only making the soldiers seasick and wobbly, but dooming 57 of 96 amphibious tanks that were supposed to clear exits off the sprawling, sandy beach, which was a maze of obstacles and anti-personnel mines. Naval gunfire and bombing had been relatively ineffective in this area, so the attackers moved forward with great difficulty under the German gunfire raining down on them.
German defenders caught the 1st ID and 29th ID soldiers in the open with raking small-arms fire, mortars and artillery. By midday, the situation had deteriorated to the point that First Army commander Gen. Omar Bradley considered canceling the assault and moving troops not already ashore at Omaha to Utah.
In a display of Army small-unit leadership that stands as an enduring legacy of D-Day, commanders and NCOs rallied their men and moved them out of the killing zones and into the exit lanes.
By the end of the day, 34,000 troops were ashore at Omaha, although the price tag was heavy with 2,500 casualties, the most of any of the beach invasions. Together, the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne had another 2,500 casualties; the Canadians had 1,100; and the British had 3,000.
Col. George R. Taylor, commander of the 1st ID’s 16th Infantry Regiment, is quoted in the official history as proclaiming, “There are two kinds of people staying on this beach: the dead and those who are going to die. Now, let’s get the hell out of here.” “I think that is kind of a timely message for people to think about today.” he said.
06-05-04, 07:46 AM #2
PROFT: 60th Anniversary of D-Day: Have We Lost WWII Generation’s “Deep Knowledge?”
Thursday, June 03, 2004
By Daniel K. Proft, President, Illinois Leader
OPINION - 20 years ago Sunday, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan concluded his speech at Omaha Beach saying, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
This Sunday it will be 60 years since the Allied Forces stormed the beaches and took the cliffs at Normandy in what was the defining moment of the 20th century in the battle against tyranny.
Each 10-year anniversary of that day grows more important as it becomes more distant. In fact, it grows more important because of its increasing distance in time.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, World War II veterans are dying at the rate of more than 1,000 each day. Some 16.5 million men and women served in the “Big One” but only slightly more than 4 million are still alive today.
Let me repeat for emphasis, today we lost another 1,000 World War II veterans.
I thought about this a little bit last year when my grandfather, a World War II Navy man, passed away. I thought about it again this weekend while watching the Memorial Day remembrances and, most particularly, the dedication of the long overdue World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
My generation, “Generation X” as it has been so dubbed by the arbiters of pop culture, got a pass. There was not a credible concern about the possibility of conscription.
I was 17 when the Berlin Wall came down signaling the effective end of communism and the rebirth of freedom in Eastern Europe, or “new” Europe as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aptly terms it today.
Since Vietnam and the end of the Cold War going forward to our present War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, our military force has been a voluntary one.
9/11 certainly brought home the fact that there is nothing inexorable about freedom, security or even America as we know it. There are people out there who are at war with our ideals and we ignore that reality at our own peril.
Nevertheless, I’m left wondering whether or not my generation and subsequent ones dismiss the axiom that “freedom isn’t free” as just old an platitude trotted out on national holidays to honor old people who fought in some wars over some things some time ago?
The answer is probably mixed. Certainly there are those in every generation that answer the call to give of themselves to provide for the freedom of another.
The more than 800 American soldiers that have perished (31 from Illinois) and the 4,600-plus that have been wounded fighting to successfully free 26 million people from the clutches of a murderous dictatorial regime in Iraq are testament to this fact.
But compare those numbers to the World War II figures: More than 405,000 soldiers died in World War II, another 671,846 were wounded in action.
Any wonder why they call them the “greatest generation?” Not just for the staggering sacrifice in terms of lives lost and lives forever changed but because that generation literally saved the world from tyranny and an entire race of people from extinction.
Would my generation be willing to make such a sacrifice if the stakes were similarly high today? And, quite frankly, aren’t they?
The tenor of the public discourse about President Bush’s handling of the War on Terrorism since 9/11 leaves me wondering.
No speculation is needed about our men and women in uniform. There is an amazing fortitude to their spirit. I watched the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS on Monday and one of the segments was a tribute to those who had been wounded, who had lost limbs, while serving our country in Iraq.
The moral clarity and the sense of purpose of the young men profiled at the concert was chilling and awe-inspiring. How else to describe a 20-year old who has to learn to walk with two prosthetic legs?
When I was 20, my biggest concern was getting into the classes I wanted in college. Some of these young men, whose lives have been changed forever by a mortar shell at the age of 20, as concert host Ossie Davis said, wonder if a woman will ever find them attractive, if they will ever have a families?
That same indomitable spirit that was on display in the Mall in Washington, D.C. on Monday night defeated Nazism and ushered in a period of prosperity, even during the Cold War period, for America unlike any the world has ever seen 60 years ago this Sunday.
Where does that spirit come from?
I turn again to the Great Communicator. From President Reagan’s memorable remarks at Point De Hoc in 1984,
“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”
In reflecting on the upcoming 60th Anniversary of D-day, I wonder if we, the civilian population, have lost that “deep knowledge” of which President Reagan spoke and that commitment to a higher purpose embodied by our armed forces then and now?
© 2004 IllinoisLeader.com - all rights reserved
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, World War II veterans are dying at the rate of more than 1,000 each day. Some 16.5 million men and women served in the “Big One” but only slightly more than 4 million are still alive today.
From President Reagan’s memorable remarks at Point De Hoc in 1984, "The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next."
06-05-04, 11:51 AM #3
Visitors leaving powerful mementos at WWII Memorial
By Jennifer C. Kerr
8:02 a.m. June 4, 2004
WASHINGTON – Intimate remembrances are appearing amidst the World War II memorial's cool granite and bronze: An American flag that graced the coffin of a father gone to war. Black-and-white photos, in pewter frames, of young men in uniform. Silver dog tags, ribbons, even a Purple Heart or two.
"This is personal. These are people that were there," said Frank LaMantia, 52, of Aurora, Colo., as he read notes with some of the pictures of young soldiers, sailors and fliers that visitors have left behind.
"It makes it more touching," said his girlfriend, Janice Schaffer.
One letter next to a photo of a young soldier in the 82nd Airborne read simply, "Dear Dad, Oh, how I wished you had lived! ... All my love, Jeanne."
The memorial was dedicated last weekend at a ceremony with President Bush, former Sen. Bob Dole and tens of thousands of aging World War II veterans. Since then, people have been placing remembrances of loved ones at the site.
The National Park Service has discouraged visitors from leaving the keepsakes.
"We would rather see these mementos stay locally, in the communities where the veterans came from, at a local museum, a local historical society," said David Barna, chief of public affairs for the Park Service. "We would never be in a place to display them all."
Rangers had initially told visitors that the memorabilia left at the memorial would not be saved, but Barna said the agency decided to change its policy this week. The items will be collected and stored at a facility in Landover, Md.
The Park Service was faced with the same sort of dilemma at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when people, in droves, began leaving Purple Hearts, Bronze and Silver Stars, and other items normally handed down to future generations of families.
"They were leaving their medals. They were leaving their photographs. They were leaving very personal items, and they were leaving them not only mother to a son, but comrade to comrade," said Pam West, director of the Park Service's Museum Resource Center.
Over the past 20 years, the Park Service has collected some 80,000 items from the Vietnam wall. They are being stored at the Landover warehouse, and some have been on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.
Many flowers, photos and military caps left by loved ones at the World War II memorial were placed near the names of battles etched into the monument's granite or near the "Freedom Wall" and its 4,000 sculpted gold stars, commemorating the more than 400,000 Americans killed in the war.
A photo of 1st Lt. Everett W. Kennedy of Quincy, Mass., was accompanied by a poem from his granddaughter, Kate, written on the 60th anniversary of his death.
The last few lines read: "In the eyes of a man, the smile of a woman, in the heart of my Gram, and now finally, in the memory of his country."
On the Net:
National World War II Memorial: www.wwiimemorial.com
National Park Service: www.nps.gov
06-05-04, 01:38 PM #4
Ike's Sense of Risk and Failure
By Richard Hart Sinnreich
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page B07
Like many other world-changing events, the successful Allied assault on Nazi-occupied France that began 60 years ago today has assumed over the years a sense of near inevitability, as though no other outcome were imaginable. That wasn't a conviction shared by its authors, least of all Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower. The night before the invasion, he drafted a message reading in part: "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops . . . If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."
The cold-blooded recognition of war's precariousness underlying Ike's readiness to confront the possibility of failure is a quality one doesn't always find in military commanders and finds even less often in their political masters. In part, that's because it isn't a quality we spend a lot of time inculcating. For many reasons, some sound and others less so, the processes that bring political and military leaders to the forefront tend too often to suppress acknowledgment of war's contingency and the self-doubt to which some fear it might contribute.
To some extent, reluctance to contemplate the possibility of failure reflects the national character. It has been argued that, as a people, we lack a sense of tragedy. Insulated for most of our brief history by two great oceans and blessed with material abundance, we tend to expect success in great endeavors as a matter of course.
In no respect is that more true than in respect to war. After all, we haven't been invaded since 1815. On this continent, the last major war ended in 1865. Abroad, apart from Vietnam, the effects of which still linger, we've enjoyed a virtually unbroken record of military success.
Of course, any soldier or statesman with a sense of history knows that war differs from other human enterprises above all in its unpredictability. That uncertainty reflects war's intrinsic friction as well as the malevolence, ingenuity and occasional perversity of the enemy. But recognizing it abstractly is one thing. Accepting its implications is another.
For military commanders, in whom the appearance of confidence can be even more important than its reality, acknowledging uncertainty is especially problematic. The handmaiden of uncertainty is hesitation, and in war hesitation rarely is desirable.
The only real antidote to uncertainty is action. In war, even more than in other great enterprises, that almost always requires taking risks. The difference between risk-taking and gambling, however, turns finally on the commander's willingness to confront frankly the possibility of failure.
Eisenhower understood that hard necessity perfectly. Operation Overlord was an enormously risky undertaking. Failure might have irrevocably altered the outcome of the war and certainly would have prolonged it. A less courageous commander might have been paralyzed by the risks. A less sensible one might simply have discounted them.
Eisenhower did neither. Instead, having made every effort that forethought, skill and attention to detail could to diminish the risks facing his troops, Ike made the decision to go. Then, recognizing that all those efforts still couldn't guarantee success, he set about preparing himself and if necessary his countrymen for failure. That he could look the latter possibility squarely in the face was the ultimate proof of his fitness for the job.
So, too, his readiness to accept personal responsibility for a failure that, in the end, Allied blood and courage prevented. It was a quality he shared with another great American soldier. Meeting George Pickett's shattered remnants as they withdrew from Cemetery Ridge on Gettysburg's last day, Robert E. Lee told them, "It was my fault. It was all my fault."
No soldier wants to go into battle on the orders of a hesitant commander, nor a nation on those of an irresolute leader. Self-confidence thus is an essential quality of soldiers and statesmen alike.
But in war above all, there's a fine line between self-confidence and hubris. Today, as we honor those who made Ike's premature acknowledgment of defeat unnecessary, that distinction is worth remembering.
Richard Hart Sinnreich writes on military affairs for the Lawton (Okla.) Sunday Constitution.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
06-05-04, 02:29 PM #5
06-05-04, 03:02 PM #6
speaking of D-Day, did anyone else see that movie on A&E about Eisinhower with Tom Selleck? Thought it was pretty good, myself.
06-06-04, 07:16 AM #7
Back to Normandy: Two veterans will find a more peaceful welcome this time
By: AGNES DIGGS - Staff Writer
In the predawn hours of June 6, 1944, the largest armada in history crossed the churning seas of the English channel en route to Normandy, France, to begin the largest Allied operation of World War II. The invasion of Europe, launched on the French coast, was planned by military leaders who became legends. But its success was decided by the actions of individuals whose tenacity and commitment overcame their fear of death that fateful day.
The actions of ordinary men would ultimately determine the fate of the world ---- men like Oceanside resident Robert Watson and Robert Clark of Vista, both of whom have returned to those shores to celebrate the landing's 60th anniversary. Watson, 78, and his wife of 58 years, Margie, are guests of a French family. Clark, 83, and his wife, Betty, are guests of the French government. French officials expressed their country's gratitude for the sacrifice of American servicemen by awarding 100 American veterans of the battle their highest medal ---- the Ordre Royale de la Legion d'Honneur ---- the Legion of Honor.
On D-Day, Watson, a member of the 6th Navy Beach Battalion, crawled through blood-stained surf to gain a foothold in the sand, and survived 28 days of fighting to keep the way clear for those who followed.
Clark, on his first combat mission that day, bombed and strafed ground targets to foil enemy attempts to get reinforcements, and to help clear the path that would ultimately lead to Berlin and the end of Hitler's Reich.
'We were there to stay'
Bob Watson of Lynn, Mass., turned 18 in July 1943 and was inducted the following month. He decided the Army was not for him, so he joined the Navy, where he was assured of three hot meals a day, a place to sleep at night "and the furthest they could march me was from bow to stern."
Three months of basic training was packed into three weeks. He was assigned to a beach battalion and trained in everything from weapons to throwing grenades to hand-to-hand combat ---- and swimming 50 yards with a full pack. "'Pay attention to your training, or you ain't gonna make it,'" he recalled being told.
In January 1944, he was shipped to Liverpool, England, in a convoy of 400 vessels. After more training, on June 6 he boarded an amphibious assault ship, the Enrico, and set sail for France.
"They told us before we left England that at 0400 hours intensive bombing would take place up and down the beach. At 0600, the Navy bombardment would pulverize the beach. They told us that before we landed, rockets would pulverize the hillside. The first landing parties were to have waterproof tanks to accompany the men to the beach. Everyone who was supposed to go ashore was told this. Bottom line: None of this happened."
At the outset, the men were excited and optimistic, he said, and they felt invincible. "We were going to walk through our responsibilities without a hitch. There was a lot of laughter. A lot of talking. Whether that was covering a lot of other emotions, I couldn't say. I myself was very concerned and very scared."
About a hundred yards off Omaha Beach, all hell broke loose. Watson's LCM (landing craft, medium), took enemy fire from 88-millimeter cannons, mortars and 50-calibre machine guns. Then the LCM struck a mine that blew the front end out of the water, hurling bodies everywhere.
"There's only two kinds of people in that kind of situation at that point," he said. "The ones that are scared to death and the ones who are already dead. You go into a state of shock. How can this be happening? What is this all about? You go into a survival thing ---- turn to the training that you have. That training is what got me on the beach, up the beach. That's how I got through it."
Most of the troops going in were 18 and 19, he said. "They were well-equipped and well-trained, but most had never seen a person die, let alone bodies being blown through the air in parts. Eighteen-year-old kids."
Watson landed in the water, inflated his life belt, and headed for the beach. Once there, he crawled at a snail's pace toward the dunes, his uniform so covered with the blood that slicked the seawater that he was mistaken for one of the wounded. He had, in fact, torn his shoulder when he was thrown from the craft, and at some point was hit by shrapnel in his foot. More than a week would pass before he got a chance to remove his boots and discover that injury.
Beach battalions hit the ground with the first wave of troops and support the assault, taking charge of the area from the low tide mark to the dune line. Battalion members provide medical help, remove obstructions and evacuate casualties, to name a few things. The 6th battalion had about 400 men, including officers. Within the first hours of battle, the number dropped to 250, Watson said.
In the chaos, he began assisting medics, then was ordered to the top of the dunes to shoot at the Germans. They were firing machine guns. He had a World War I Springfield 30-06 rifle.
The battalion regrouped, and at about 10:30 a.m., Watson and a comrade manned a bulldozer to clear a path for incoming craft and free boats that had gotten stuck. The battalion moved more than 600 casualties in the first hours, he said.
Enemy guns destroyed the first dozer, and he hopped aboard another. It ran over an anti-personnel mine called a "Bouncing Betty," sending the big machine one way and Watson another. Badly battered, he boarded his third tractor and went back to work.
As the invasion progressed, hundreds of thousands of men, as well as tons of food, equipment and fuel, poured across the beach. Watson and his fellows were in charge of traffic control. The surviving members of the 6th spent 28 days on the beach as the landing force came through. Watson was treated three times for injuries.
"We'd been banged, beaten, bandaged, seasick ---- a miserable mess," he said. "It's unfortunate we had to take such a beating, but we were there to stay."
In the end, more than 9,000 troops perished and were buried near Omaha Beach.
Watson's battalion was later awarded a Presidential Citation for extraordinary heroism and the Croix de Guerre with Palm Leaf from the French government. Watson was awarded the Purple Heart. He retired from the Navy with 33 years' service and became a contractor, working in the Carlsbad-Oceanside area. He visits local schools to share his experiences with students.
How did the D-Day operation succeed? "It's a very simple answer," he said. "We were fighting for our liberty and justice. and they were fighting for a dictator."
The Watsons are being hosted and chauffeured by a family in France. The daughter of his former commander made the arrangements, he said, and he's scheduled to meet with other members of the 6th for a gamut of commemorative events.
'It was an astonishing sight'
Bob Clark's birthday falls two days before the date of the assault that became known as Operation Overlord. He served in the 429th Fighter Squadron, flying in the tactical command of the 9th Air Force, then known as the Army Air Corps. The command provided air support for D-Day operations and the ground army's invasion of Europe.
Clark was a Los Angeles native when the war broke out. Like many Americans, he enlisted in 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In March 1944, he sailed for England on the Ile de France as part of a contingent of 15,000 troops.
Overseas, Clark was stationed at a Spitfire base, where he became proficient with Lockheed twin-engine P-38s and the Bell P-39 Air Cobra. He flew his first combat mission on D-Day.
"We took off around 10 o'clock in the morning," he said. "It was an astonishing sight to see not hundreds, but thousands of ships all making their way toward Normandy. It was kind of difficult flying and trying to see this tremendous armada of ships."
The fliers were surprised when they learned their destination was Normandy, he said. All the buzz had been for a landing farther north. They weren't the only ones caught off-guard: The German command was also fooled.
"It was probably the best-kept secret in Normandy," Clark said.
The airmen's job was to take out bridges so the Germans couldn't bring up tanks to knock out the landing craft, he said.
"In our squadron, we had 12 flying that day. There were two other squadrons with us. We were all going to different targets. There were 36 planes. We were knocking out tanks, trucks, trains, anything that came into the area ---- anything that would make a barrier."
They operated on double British daylight savings time, which meant they could fly up to 11 p.m. with plenty of daylight. One pilot could get in three missions a day, he said. And they flew every other day.
06-06-04, 07:16 AM #8
As the invasion advanced, the squadron moved its base from England to Normandy. They moved twice in France, and spent the winter of '44 in Belgium.
"Every time the front would move, we would move to support the troops ---- the ground infantry," he said.
In Germany, they occupied a former Luftwaffe air field until the war's end. Clark flew 75 missions before he was through. On V-E Day, May 8, 1945, he was in Frankfurt. From there, he hitched a ride home aboard a plane that was flying POWs back to England.
"They needed a copilot for one of the B-17s," he said. "And they asked me if I could fly one. I said, 'Heck, yeah.' When we got to London, every light that was possible to shine was going."
He was discharged in July 1945. "I got a lot of holes in the aircraft, but thankfully not through me," he said.
Clark earned a Silver Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal and a Jubilee Medal from the French government.
At the end of his four-year hitch, 13 months of which he spent in combat, he got a job with the Civil Aeronautics Administration, which would later become the Federal Aviation Administration. He later started and owned an industrial supply company.
For five years, Clark has volunteered at schools, sharing his wartime experiences. He and Betty volunteer at the Vista Library, and he is a docent at March Air Base in Riverside County.
In January, he received a letter from President George Bush and a Certificate of Appreciation for his service from the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Clark believes that may have led to him being selected to join the 100 American veterans to be honored at the French D-Day observance.
"We just got a call out of the blue," he said. He was asked, "Would you like to go to Paris and Normandy, all expenses paid by the French government?" He had attended the 40th and 50th anniversary celebrations and thought he would miss this year until the call came.
"Just to be at Normandy again," he said. "We've got quite a few of our pilots buried there, so I want to go visit each of them. That's an emotional thing, to visit all the cemeteries ---- it just tears your heart out."
The Clarks will be entertained at the French and American embassies in Paris. He also plans to visit with squad mates who have come for the event.
"I think we're going to have a warm atmosphere," he said. "People will look back on that day and see what we accomplished and how many guys we lost to do it."
The couple also plan a side visit to a French woman named Madeleine Deschamps, who was a young girl during the war. She and her father tried in vain to save a pilot from Clark's squadron whose plane had crashed in her family's orchard. Clark helped her find the man's family to let them know he hadn't been forgotten. He and Deschamps have been corresponding for eight years, and will finally meet in person.
Contact staff writer Agnes Diggs at (760) 740-3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
06-06-04, 07:18 AM #9
Spurred by the anniversary of D-day, a writer walks where history was made. Her goal is to better understand one officer: her father.
By Susan Spano, Times Staff Writer
Today, on the 60th anniversary of D-day, world leaders are gathering in Normandy on the north coast of France. Fireworks will light the sky over Arromanches-les-Bains, where the Allies constructed an artificial harbor to support troops infiltrating the countryside from the beachheads. And in little Falaise, a walking tour will be dedicated to the closure of a last pocket of German resistance, marking the end of the Battle of Normandy in late August 1944.
The commemorations will continue for 80 days all around the stretch of coast between Cherbourg and Le Havre where the Allies landed.
I went last month, before the fireworks, looking for a little quiet time to think about my father.
Lt. j.g. John J. Spano Jr. was on a ship that delivered men and equipment to Omaha Beach. Just before 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, he traded his Navy-issue sheepskin jacket for a Girard-Perregaux watch that belonged to a soldier headed for the landing zone. My father wore that handsome gold timepiece every day. "It is still ticking," he wrote after he retired. "I hope that young officer came through the war in one piece and is also still ticking."
Time has run out for many of the American soldiers who survived the war. About 1,100 U.S. World War II veterans die every day.
My own father died two years ago at the age of 82. At the end of his life, his war experiences figured large in his thoughts, especially his participation in D-day, the greatest amphibious attack ever mounted. As a privileged baby boomer, I never completely understood what my father's war experiences meant to him.
Figuring that out was part of my mission in Normandy, where I walked the beaches, stood at commemorative markers in apple orchards, got lost among hedgerow-bordered Norman lanes where American parachutists landed (and also got lost), and took my bearings from the spires of medieval churches manned by German gunners in 1944.
There are hundreds of World War II sites in the area, from the majestic Normandy American cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer to endearing mom-and-pop museums with all manner of bric-a-brac from the war haphazardly displayed. In my three days here, I concentrated on sites devoted to America's big chunk of the D-day action — and those connected to my father.
A history of war
I took the train from Paris northwest to Caen, where I rented a car and quickly saw why the city will never forget the war. It was virtually razed by British bombers in a 65-day effort to drive the Germans out. By the entrance to the train station, there's a monument to railway workers killed during the war; the main street is Avenue June 6; and the buildings downtown are mostly postwar vintage, except for the castle built by William the Conqueror and the Gothic Church of St. Pierre, surmounted by a 234-foot spire that replaced the one destroyed in shelling during the summer of '44.
A good way to try to fathom it all is to make a first stop at the Caen Memorial, on the northwest side of town. It occupies a pair of modern buildings, one opened in 1988, the other unveiled in 2002, on a cliff with a garden and greensward below. The memorial's purview goes well beyond World War II. Peace is its point, realized by telling the horrible story of conflict in the 20th century, starting in 1919, at the end of the Great — but not the last — War.
From the main hall, displays (captioned in French, English and German) outline the chain of events that led to another, greater war. A section on "France in the Dark Years" (during the German occupation) follows, with displays on the Vichy government, Gen. Charles de Gaulle's BBC broadcasts from London that rallied the French and the invaluable espionage efforts of the Free French.
Then it's on to the war: models of U.S. subs, photos of bombed-out European cities and a 1939 letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt about the possibility of setting off a "chain reaction in a large mass of uranium."
The story continues in the new building, where visitors are reminded that man's hostility survived the Second World War. Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War are covered in pictures, film footage and text. Then there's one last ugly note from the 21st century: a mangled mass of steel beams, donated to the memorial from the World Trade Center.
The last, light-bathed section of the memorial is devoted to peace, from the nonviolence of India's Gandhi to UNICEF's efforts to help refugee children. I left thinking that in 10 years a new building will be needed to take us through terrorism and the Iraq war, if we last that long.
Visit to Bayeux
To reach the American D-day landing zones, I took the N13/E46 highway northwest from the memorial. The Norman countryside was so verdant and peaceful, I had to force myself to remember that the very highway I was traveling on roughly marked the Allies' D-day objective. (They were optimistic, as it turned out; by the end of the day, they had barely advanced beyond the beaches in many sectors.)
About 20 miles from Caen, I stopped in Bayeux to see its famed, exquisitely preserved medieval tapestry. Its 276 feet depict, frame by frame in something akin to 11th century comic book fashion, the Norman conquest of England, complete with beguiling Viking ships, ducks, castles and knights in armor embroidered on the borders.
Lunch was a delicious seafood salad at Le Pommier restaurant near the cathedral, followed by a visit to the park where, on June 14, 1944, De Gaulle spoke to the French people for the first time since the German occupation on free French soil. The town's miraculously intact old stone buildings and winding lanes suggested the weakness of German resistance in the area.
I'd rented a small, utilitarian cottage in Grandcamp-Maisy, a typical Norman village, all gray stone, shuttered windows and lace curtains, scented by the port's fishy odor. At low tide the beach extends a third of a mile out to sea.
Grandcamp-Maisy has only a handful of hotels, an information office, a little museum devoted to U.S. Rangers who scaled the cliffs at nearby Pointe du Hoc and stone monuments seemingly around every corner.
My favorite was the one on the east side of town, to Tech Sgt. Frank Peregory of the 116th Infantry Division. He won the Medal of Honor for single-handedly capturing 35 enemy soldiers, armed only with grenades and a bayonet.
The village, about halfway between Omaha and Utah beaches, and thus a fine headquarters for my explorations, is near the oyster beds that line the Cotentin Peninsula to the west. So there were oysters and other seafood at the local restaurants. Seafood is good in its own right but the stuff of the gods when swimming in Norman cream sauce.
One night, over a bowl of small mussels, I remembered that my father, who loved seafood, developed an aggravating allergy to it late in life. I remembered a photo of him just graduated from a 90-day crash course at midshipman school; I recalled that when he first saw his beloved LST (Landing Ship Tank), he thought it ungainly and decrepit, with its keel-less bottom designed for putting men and material on enemy shores; and that, by chance, he met up with his older brother Joe, a motor machinist mate on another vessel, when the 310 docked in North Africa in 1943.
The waiters at restaurants in Grandcamp-Maisy must be used to D-day tourists tearing up over dinner.
Trying to imagine
Above all, I remembered that my father was a part of Operation Overlord, intended to wrest Europe from the Third Reich at a time when the Führer was fighting on three fronts, including Russia.
Even capitalizing on Germany's overextension, tactical information supplied by the Free French and the unprecedented buildup of men and material that followed America's entrance into the war, Overlord was a gamble. Imagine trying to send 175,000 fighting men, 50,000 vehicles, 5,333 ships and 11,000 airplanes across a 100-mile channel to massively fortified beaches, without alerting the enemy.
For the rest of my stay in Normandy, I tried to imagine it. I spent a day on bloody Omaha, stopping first at Pointe du Hoc, one of the most moving sites in the whole American landing area. There, U.S. Rangers tried to take some of the heat off Omaha's flanks by climbing 100-foot cliffs to capture big German guns. Lt. Col. James E. Rudder, who led the assault, later said, "Anybody would be a fool to try this. It was crazy then, and it's crazy now."
Pointe du Hoc was newly landscaped and bleacher seats had been erected for the anniversary celebrations. Beyond that, the cliffs are eroding now and the pock-marked verge, where more than half of the 225 Rangers who landed at Pointe du Hoc were killed or wounded, looks like an ill-maintained golf course. I stood there, envisioning the Allied armada as it would have appeared to German gunners but could see only sailboats on the horizon.
After that, I stopped at a fortified medieval farmstead in the hamlet of Englesqueville, surrounded by blossoming apple orchards. The proprietor let me taste his cider and Calvados, Normandy's apple brandy. I bought a bottle of slightly sweet, fizzy cider, the centerpiece of my picnic lunch nearby, atop a German bunker at the west end of Omaha Beach.
06-06-04, 07:19 AM #10
I was surprised at the beauty of Omaha Beach — long, wide, flat, a sun lover's dream. But as far as the Allies were concerned, Omaha was a miscalculation, where German forces far stronger than anticipated awaited American fighting men. "I can still see the beach at Omaha," my father wrote, "a solid wall of flame and fire, the warships shooting tons of shells at the beach and German fortifications. A terrible, fearsome sight."
There are three little museums in the Omaha Beach area to tell the story of June 6: one in Vierville-sur-Mer; another in St. Laurent-sur-Mer; and a third, opened this spring, near Colleville-sur-Mer, devoted to the 1st Infantry Division, a.k.a. the Big Red One, which bore the brunt on Omaha Beach. They're full of vintage Sherman tanks that look as though they never could have budged, mannequins in a full array of World War II uniform, war posters and tins of vintage Griffin ABC Wax Shoe Polish.
One of my last stops of the day was at the Normandy American cemetery, on a bluff above Omaha. I arrived just in time to hear taps and watch the U.S. flag being lowered. Beyond it stretched row upon row of white Latin crosses and the occasional Star of David, set against a velvety-green lawn. In this silent parade ground, 9,386 American servicemen and servicewomen rest, including 39 pairs of brothers, a father and son, and Tech Sgt. Frank Peregory. Someone had left flowers on the grave of Deane L. Quilici, second lieutenant, who was born in Nevada and died July 16, 1944.
The U.S. graveyard is complemented by the German Military Cemetery. It was on my way home, in La Cambe, near Grandcamp-Maisy, at the end of a long avenue of trees. Just after the war, both Americans and Germans were buried there, though the remains of U.S. soldiers were later moved to Colleville-sur-Mer. Its crosses are black, surrounding a mound that contains a mass burial of unidentified victims. Displays describe the difficulty of locating and interring the war dead. No one knows how many Germans still lie far from home in Libya or Russia; 240,000 German soldiers died or were wounded in June 1944, in Normandy alone.
The next day, there was Utah Beach to see, with its seaside Musée du Débarquement and monuments; the handsome church at St. Marie du Mont, whose steeple helped many U.S. paratroopers orient themselves after being dropped in the wrong places; and the town of Ste.-Mère-Eglise, which figured in the classic 1962 WWII film "The Longest Day." Red Buttons played John Steele, a paratrooper who landed on the church steeple, then hung from a flying buttress for several hours, playing dead, while the town fell to American forces. A billowing white parachute and John Steele's effigy still hang there.
There was also time for a short cruise aboard the Col. Rudder, a sightseeing ship out of Grandcamp-Maisy harbor. If I was going to find my dad in Normandy, I thought, it would be on a boat, seeing the beaches as he did — from the water.
It was cold, and the sea was rough so we headed for protected waters west of town in the estuary of the River Aure. I huddled in my seat on the top deck, a little disconsolate. I couldn't feel my father's presence on the boat or anyplace else in Normandy. Nor could I conceive that he might have died here. Even now I can't hold the thought in my mind that he is gone.
But after visiting Normandy, I can understand a little better why D-day was one of the critical moments in his life that made him who he was. He had an unerring moral compass and optimism, bred in part from having been part of something utterly great and good, the battle for freedom that started on D-day.
06-06-04, 08:38 AM #11
("Before The *******ed Marines Get All The Credit")
General Patton's Address to the Troops
The Background Research
Anyone who has ever viewed the motion picture PATTON will never forget the opening. George Campbell Scott, portraying Patton, standing in front of an immensely huge American flag, delivers his version of Patton's "Speech to the Third Army" on June 5th, 1944, the eve of the Allied invasion of France, code-named "Overlord".
Scott's rendition of the speech was highly sanitized so as not to offend too many fainthearted Americans. Luckily, the soldiers of the American Army who fought World War II were not so fainthearted.
After one of my lectures on the subject of General Patton, I spoke with a retired Major-General who was a close friend of Patton and who had been stationed with him in the 1930's in the Cavalry. He explained to me that the movie was a very good portrayal of Patton in that it was the way he wanted his men and the public to see him, as a rugged, colorful commander. There was one exception, however, according to the Major General. In reality, Patton was a much more profane speaker than the movie dared to exhibit.
Patton had a unique ability regarding profanity. During a normal conversation, he could liberally sprinkle four letter words into what he was saying and the listeners would hardly take notice of it. He spoke so easily and used those words in such a way that it just seemed natural for him to talk that way.
He could, when necessary, open up with both barrels and let forth such blue-flamed phrases that they seemed almost eloquent in their delivery. When asked by his nephew about his profanity, Patton remarked, "When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a ****-soaked paper bag."
"As for the types of comments I make", he continued with a wry smile, "Sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence."
When I appeared on a local San Diego television show to discuss my Patton Collection a viewer living in a suburb of San Diego, was very interested for personal reasons. Her husband had been a lieutenant assigned to General Patton's Third Army Headquarters, code named "Lucky Forward" and he had known General Patton quite well.
He had recently died and had left to his wife a box that he had brought home with him from the European Theater of Operations.
The lady invited me to her home to inspect the box to see if there was anything in it that might be useful to me in my search for "collectibles".
Opening the box, I immediately thanked her. Inside was one of only a couple hundred copies printed of the Official United States Third Army After-Action Reports. It is a huge two volume history of the Third Army throughout their 281 days of combat in Europe. She said that she had no use for it and that I could have it. I left with my new treasure.
When I arrived at my office and removed the foot-thick, oversized books from the box, I had an even greater surprise. Under the Reports lay a small stack of original Third Army memos, orders, AND a carbon copy of the original speech that had been typed by some unknown clerk at Lucky Forward and had been widely distributed throughout Third Army.
A few years earlier, I had discovered an almost illegible xerox of a carbon copy of a similar speech. This one came from the Army War College and was donated to their Historical Library Section in 1957.
I decided to do some research on the speech to obtain the best one possible and to make an attempt to locate the identity of the "unknown soldier" who had clandestinely typed and distributed the famous document. I began by looking in my collection of old magazines, newspapers, books that have been written about Patton since his death, and dozens of other books which had references to Patton and his speech.
I discovered some interesting facts. The most interesting probably being that George C. Scott was not the first actor to perform the speech.
In 1951, the New American Mercury Magazine had printed a version of the speech which was almost exactly the same version printed by John O'Donnell in his "Capitol Stuff" column for the New York Daily News on May 31, 1945. According to the editors of the New American Mercury, their copy was obtained from Congressman Joseph Clark Baldwin who had returned from a visit to Patton's Headquarters in Czechoslovakia.
After publication, the magazine received such a large reader response asking for reprints of the speech that the editors decided to go one step further.
They hired a "famous" actor to make an "unexpurgated" recording of the Patton speech. This recording was to be made available to veterans of Third Army and anyone else who would like to have one. The term "famous" was the only reference made by the editors about the actor who recorded the speech. In a later column they explained, "We hired an excellent actor whose voice, on records, is almost indistinguishable from Patton's, and with RCA's best equipment we made two recordings; one just as Patton delivered it, with all the pungent language of a cavalryman, and in the other we toned down a few of the more offensive words. Our plan was to offer our readers, at cost, either recording."
Unfortunately, a few years ago, their was a fire in the editorial offices of the magazine which destroyed almost all of their old records. The name of the actor was lost in that accident.
Only one master recording of the speech was made. The magazine Editors, not wanting to offend either Mrs. Patton or her family, asked for her sanction of the project. The Editors explained the situation thusly, "While we had only the master recordings, we submitted them to our friend, Mrs. Patton, and asked her to approve our plan. It was not a commercial venture and no profits were involved. We just wanted to preserve what to us seems a worthwhile bit of memorabilia of the Second World War. Our attorneys advised us that legally we did not need Mrs. Patton's approval, but we wanted it."
"Mrs. Patton considered the matter graciously and thoroughly, and gave us a disappointing decision. She took the position that this speeches was made by the General only to the men who were going to fight and die with him; it was, therefore, not a speech for the public or for posterity."
"We think Mrs. Patton is wrong; we think that what is great and worth preserving about General Patton was expressed in that invasion speech. The fact that he employed four letter words was proper; four letter words are the language of war; without them wars would be quite impossible."
When Mrs. Patton's approval was not forthcoming, the entire project was then scrapped, and the master recordings were destroyed.
Patton always knew exactly what he wanted to say to his soldiers and he never needed notes. He always spoke to his troops extemporaneously. As a general rule of thumb, it is safe to say that Patton usually told his men some of his basic thoughts and concepts regarding his ideas of war and tactics. Instead of the empty, generalized rhetoric of no substance often used by Eisenhower, Patton spoke to his men in simple, down to earth language that they understood. He told them truthful lessons he had learned that would keep them alive.
As he traveled throughout battle areas, he always took the time to speak to individual soldiers, squads, platoons, companies, regiments, divisions or whatever size group could be collected. About the only difference in the context of these talks was that the smaller the unit, the more "tactical" the talk would be. Often he would just give his men some sound, common sense advice that they could follow in order to keep from being killed or maimed.
The speech which follows is a third person narrative. From innumerable sources; magazine articles, newspaper clippings, motion picture biographies and newsreels, and books, I have put together the most complete version possible that encompasses all of the material that is available to date.
06-06-04, 08:39 AM #12
Somewhere in England
June 5th, 1944
The big camp buzzed with a tension. For hundreds of eager rookies, newly arrived from the states, it was a great day in their lives. This day marked their first taste of the "real thing". Now they were not merely puppets in brown uniforms. They were not going through the motions of soldiering with three thousand miles of ocean between them and English soil. They were actually in the heart of England itself. They were waiting for the arrival of that legendary figure, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. Old "Blood and Guts" himself, about whom many a colorful chapter would be written for the school boys of tomorrow. Patton of the brisk, purposeful stride. Patton of the harsh, compelling voice, the lurid vocabulary, the grim and indomitable spirit that carried him and his Army to glory in Africa and Sicily. They called him "America's Fightingest General". He was no desk commando. He was the man who was sent for when the going got rough and a fighter was needed. He was the most hated and feared American of all on the part of the German Army.
Patton was coming and the stage was being set. He would address a move which might have a far reaching effect on the global war that, at the moment, was a TOP-SECRET in the files in Washington, D.C.
The men saw the camp turn out "en masse" for the first time and in full uniform, too. Today their marching was not lackadaisical. It was serious and the men felt the difference. From the lieutenants in charge of the companies on down in rank they felt the difference.
In long columns they marched down the hill from the barracks. They counted cadence while marching. They turned off to the left, up the rise and so on down into the roped off field where the General was to speak. Gold braid and stripes were everywhere. Soon, company by company, the hillside was a solid mass of brown. It was a beautiful fresh English morning. The tall trees lined the road and swayed gently in the breeze. Across the field, a British farmer calmly tilled his soil. High upon a nearby hill a group of British soldiers huddled together, waiting for the coming of the General. Military Police were everywhere wearing their white leggings, belts, and helmets. They were brisk and grim. The twittering of the birds in the trees could be heard above the dull murmur of the crowd and soft, white clouds floated lazily overhead as the men settled themselves and lit cigarettes.
On the special platform near the speakers stand, Colonels and Majors were a dime a dozen. Behind the platform stood General Patton's "Guard of Honor"; all specially chosen men. At their right was a band playing rousing marches while the crowd waited and on the platform a nervous sergeant repeatedly tested the loudspeaker. The moment grew near and the necks began to crane to view the tiny winding road that led to Stourport-on-Severn. A captain stepped to the microphone. "When the General arrives," he said sonorously, "the band will play the Generals March and you will all stand at attention."
By now the rumor had gotten around that Lieutenant General Simpson, Commanding General of the Fourth Army, was to be with General Patton. The men stirred expectantly. Two of the big boys in one day!
At last, the long black car, shining resplendently in the bright sun, roared up the road, preceded by a jeep full of Military Police. A dead hush fell over the hillside. There he was! Impeccably dressed. With knee high, brown, gleaming boots, shiny helmet, and his Colt .45 Peacemaker swinging in its holster on his right side.
Patton strode down the incline and then straight to the stiff backed "Guard of Honor". He looked them up and down. He peered intently into their faces and surveyed their backs. He moved through the ranks of the statuesque band like an avenging wraith and, apparently satisfied, mounted the platform with Lieutenant General Simpson and Major General Cook, the Corps Commander, at his side.
Major General Cook then introduced Lieutenant General Simpson, whose Army was still in America, preparing for their part in the war.
"We are here", said General Simpson, "to listen to the words of a great man. A man who will lead you all into whatever you may face with heroism, ability, and foresight. A man who has proven himself amid shot and shell. My greatest hope is that some day soon, I will have my own Army fighting with his, side by side."
General Patton arose and strode swiftly to the microphone. The men snapped to their feet and stood silently. Patton surveyed the sea of brown with a grim look. "Be seated", he said. The words were not a request, but a command. The General's voice rose high and clear.
"Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bull****. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight. When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."
The General paused and looked over the crowd. "You are not all going to die," he said slowly. "Only two percent of you right here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he's not, he's a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared. Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it takes an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood. Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base. Americans pride themselves on being He Men and they ARE He Men. Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so. They are not supermen."
"All through your Army careers, you men have *****ed about what you call "chicken **** drilling". That, like everything else in this Army, has a definite purpose. That purpose is alertness. Alertness must be bred into every soldier. I don't give a **** for a man who's not always on his toes. You men are veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready for what's to come. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If you're not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-*******-***** is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of ****!" The men roared in agreement.
Patton's grim expression did not change. "There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily", he roared into the microphone, "All because one man went to sleep on the job". He paused and the men grew silent. "But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did". The General clutched the microphone tightly, his jaw out-thrust, and he continued, "An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure horse ****. The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don't know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about ****ing!"
The men slapped their legs and rolled in glee. This was Patton as the men had imagined him to be, and in rare form, too. He hadn't let them down. He was all that he was cracked up to be, and more. He had IT!
"We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world", Patton bellowed. He lowered his head and shook it pensively. Suddenly he snapped erect, faced the men belligerently and thundered, "Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-*****es we're going up against. By God, I do". The men clapped and howled delightedly. There would be many a barracks tale about the "Old Man's" choice phrases. They would become part and parcel of Third Army's history and they would become the bible of their slang.
06-06-04, 08:40 AM #13
"My men don't surrender", Patton continued, "I don't want to hear of any soldier under my command being captured unless he has been hit. Even if you are hit, you can still fight back. That's not just bull **** either. The kind of man that I want in my command is just like the lieutenant in Libya, who, with a Luger against his chest, jerked off his helmet, swept the gun aside with one hand, and busted the hell out of the Kraut with his helmet. Then he jumped on the gun and went out and killed another German before they knew what the hell was coming off. And, all of that time, this man had a bullet through a lung. There was a real man!"
Patton stopped and the crowd waited. He continued more quietly, "All of the real heroes are not storybook combat fighters, either. Every single man in this Army plays a vital role. Don't ever let up. Don't ever think that your job is unimportant. Every man has a job to do and he must do it. Every man is a vital link in the great chain. What if every truck driver suddenly decided that he didn't like the whine of those shells overhead, turned yellow, and jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could say, "Hell, they won't miss me, just one man in thousands". But, what if every man thought that way? Where in the hell would we be now? What would our country, our loved ones, our homes, even the world, be like? No, *******it, Americans don't think like that. Every man does his job. Every man serves the whole. Every department, every unit, is important in the vast scheme of this war. The ordnance men are needed to supply the guns and machinery of war to keep us rolling. The Quartermaster is needed to bring up food and clothes because where we are going there isn't a hell of a lot to steal. Every last man on K.P. has a job to do, even the one who heats our water to keep us from getting the 'G.I. ****s'."
Patton paused, took a deep breath, and continued, "Each man must not think only of himself, but also of his buddy fighting beside him. We don't want yellow cowards in this Army. They should be killed off like rats. If not, they will go home after this war and breed more cowards. The brave men will breed more brave men. Kill off the *******ed cowards and we will have a nation of brave men. One of the bravest men that I ever saw was a fellow on top of a telegraph pole in the midst of a furious fire fight in Tunisia. I stopped and asked what the hell he was doing up there at a time like that. He answered, "Fixing the wire, Sir". I asked, "Isn't that a little unhealthy right about now?" He answered, "Yes Sir, but the *******ed wire has to be fixed". I asked, "Don't those planes strafing the road bother you?" And he answered, "No, Sir, but you sure as hell do!" Now, there was a real man. A real soldier. There was a man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty might appear at the time, no matter how great the odds. And you should have seen those trucks on the rode to Tunisia. Those drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they rolled over those son-of-a-*****ing roads, never stopping, never faltering from their course, with shells bursting all around them all of the time. We got through on good old American guts. Many of those men drove for over forty consecutive hours. These men weren't combat men, but they were soldiers with a job to do. They did it, and in one hell of a way they did it. They were part of a team. Without team effort, without them, the fight would have been lost. All of the links in the chain pulled together and the chain became unbreakable."
The General paused and stared challengingly over the silent ocean of men. One could have heard a pin drop anywhere on that vast hillside. The only sound was the stirring of the breeze in the leaves of the bordering trees and the busy chirping of the birds in the branches of the trees at the General's left.
"Don't forget," Patton barked, "you men don't know that I'm here. No mention of that fact is to be made in any letters. The world is not supposed to know what the hell happened to me. I'm not supposed to be commanding this Army. I'm not even supposed to be here in England. Let the first bastards to find out be the *******ed Germans. Some day I want to see them raise up on their ****-soaked hind legs and howl, 'Jesus Christ, it's the *******ed Third Army again and that son-of-a-****ing-***** Patton'."
"We want to get the hell over there", Patton continued, "The quicker we clean up this *******ed mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple ****ing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the *******ed Marines get all of the credit."
The men roared approval and cheered delightedly. This statement had real significance behind it. Much more than met the eye and the men instinctively sensed the fact. They knew that they themselves were going to play a very great part in the making of world history. They were being told as much right now. Deep sincerity and seriousness lay behind the General's colorful words. The men knew and understood it. They loved the way he put it, too, as only he could.
Patton continued quietly, "Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin", he yelled, "I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-***** Hitler. Just like I'd shoot a snake!"
"When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, a German will get to him eventually. The hell with that idea. The hell with taking it. My men don't dig foxholes. I don't want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don't give the enemy time to dig one either. We'll win this war, but we'll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we've got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We're not going to just shoot the sons-of-*****es, we're going to rip out their living *******ed guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy Hun **********s by the bushel-****ing-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You've got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it's the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you'll know what to do!"
"I don't want to get any messages saying, "I am holding my position." We are not holding a *******ed thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy's balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living **** out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like **** through a tin horn!"
"From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don't give a good ******* about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder WE push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that."
The General paused. His eagle like eyes swept over the hillside. He said with pride, "There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON'T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, "Well, your Granddaddy shoveled **** in Louisiana." No, Sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, "Son, your Granddaddy rode with the Great Third Army and a Son-of-a-*******ed-***** named Georgie Patton!"
Return to Headquarters
06-06-04, 11:55 AM #14
The part of the World War II site of the Community Veterans Memorial Park in Munster, Indiana.
This soldier is behind a hedgehog and he is hit , that why his arm is in three parts.
Reminding us of the price paid for our Freedom.
They were given an order on 5th of June 1944;
The Airborne parachuted in on the early hours of 6th of June 1944.
H-hour was a few hours away.
We saluted those that died that day we now know as D-Day.
How soon some French forget the price we paid for their freedom...
Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi
PS I'll be leaving ASAP for the Community Veterans Memorial Park to render them my personal honors with a small American Flag.
06-06-04, 12:51 PM #15
The Most Exalting Day
The Most Exalting Day
What we talk about when we talk about D-Day.
Friday, June 4, 2004
Television will be full of reports this weekend of the festivities surrounding the 60th anniversary of D-Day. This has me thinking of why we still talk about the invasion, why television news producers are certain we are interested, and why the programmers of movie channels believe we will want to see "The Longest Day" again, and "Saving Private Ryan."
The Normandy invasion was a great moment in history (brave men joining together to do the right thing) and a definitive moment (the Nazi hold on Europe was loosed; in less than a year Berlin would fall). These are reasons enough.
But there is this, too: We are human and love stories that show humanity as brave and selfless. It exalts us. We need to be exalted. It is hard to get up in the morning and pull on your socks and enter the day. It is hard to be a bus driver. But it is easier when you can think better of your passengers.
When you think man isn't much, when you think human beings are pretty low as beings go, it leaches love from you. It leaches love from your soul when you think we're all nothing much, we're dust in the wind, it's dog eat dog. When you can see us as more than that, it helps you enter each day. It helps you live. We think about D-Day, and Harry the King at Agincourt, and George Meade at Gettysburg, to help us live.
Once a sociologist had a wonderful idea. He asked soldiers just in from battles what their first thought was when they saw a nearby soldier shot. This is what they reported they thought: I didn't get shot. Not Poor Joe, or Where is the sniper? or If Joe bought it I better move, but I didn't get shot. The second and third thoughts were different, but the first was relief: I am alive.
When a doctor told me of this I thought: Yes, that is us. We're all like that. And it's not so bad. We are human and imperfect. We're damaged.
And we think of the imperfect and damaged humans of D-Day, people like us, made of the same clay. Only we're not clay, we're more than that. They held the line, took the hits, moved the line forward, bought that real estate, paid for it in blood, burrowed in, defeated their fear, pushed aside their egotism, took back a continent. And at least one old dazed French farmer, according to the book and movie of Cornelius Ryan's great popular history "The Longest Day," walked through the shooting and on to the beach carrying a bottle of Calvados to give to France's liberators. And that is part of the human story too.
The men of D-Day had their "I didn't get shot" moments and pushed forward anyway. They didn't run--"I'm pushing my luck!"--they stood their ground.
This is very moving. And it is a good thing for us to remember about ourselves.
There's a lot of talk again, windy and mindless talk by or professional talkers, that we are marking D-Day with such great attention because we are baby boomers, and by definition inadequate, not members of a greatest generation. We were handed an easy ride by history: we must tip our hats.
Well, of course we should tip our hats, but not to a generation. To individuals. To the wonderful men who took the beach, and other beaches, some of whom still hold those beach heads, in World War II. A lot of Boomers--not all by any means, for many of them have had terrible adversity, and are unknown heroes--got a relatively good ride for a relatively long time. But history isn't kind forever. Those young jogging gray-heads who are 50 now and running the networks and the schools and the Army: history has given them a job and will give them a job, and it will not be a job for sissies. Don't write them off until their work is done.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster),
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