Remembering D-Day


My grandpa was there that day. So was valued commenter R-Jud’s heroic great-uncle.

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255 replies
  1. 1

    This was a pretty cool story.

  2. 2
    beltane says:

    FSM only knows how Fox News would have covered the Normandy landing.

  3. 3
    Elizabelle says:

    Did you catch the ceremony? Very well done. I’m sorry it did not get more airtime on US television, but oh well. The Price is Right will not be denied.

    ETA: Fox News wasn’t covering it either. Thought they might, given their geriatric audience …

  4. 4
    Jerzy Russian says:

    My Dad served in the Army for a few years in the late 40s or early 50s. I am not sure since he never talked about it (he would have been a bit too young for WW II). His attitude (and those of his family) was that joining the Service was just something you did. Several of his brothers would have been old enough to serve in WW II, but I don’t every remember hearing any stories of this.

    I can’t even imagine being one of those soldiers on that landing craft pictured above.

  5. 5
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Elizabelle: I wish I’d seen it, but I’m busy as hell today plus had to deal with a crazy-making situation, more about which later. Glad it was well done!

  6. 6
    kindness says:

    My Dad was in the Navy in the South Pacific. My Uncle was in the Army in Europe but he wasn’t in the D-Day invasion.

  7. 7
    Elizabelle says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I bet C-Span re-airs it. Very well done. Concluded with planes with red, white and blue smoke, forming the French flag, and fireworks(?) on the beach.

    A good history lesson, elegantly presented.

  8. 8
    Elizabelle says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Ah. A BCracker epic rant coming? Fingers crossed.

  9. 9
    Dee Loralei says:

    @Betty Cracker: Did it involve frogs? Chickens? Boxers? Can’t wait!

    I wish I had seen the ceremony today.And I really enjoyed reading about everyone’s family members who served in the earlier thread. All the WWII era vets I was related to or knew have all died, so I’ve been a bit melancholy.

    @Elizabelle: I left a comment to you in the next thread down.

  10. 10
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    My grandfather landed at Normandy about a week later. Of his brothers, one served in the Old Guard in DC, another was in Europe as well, yet another was a marine in the Pacific, and the youngest missed WWII, but served in Korea. One of my grandmother’s brothers was awarded a Bronze Star while serving as a artillery observer in the Italian campaign.

    It seems that everyone was affected by that war, unlike today when a war only touches a few people.

  11. 11
    japa21 says:

    I have always disliked the phrase “The Greatest Generation” applied to anything. But there was something special about those who served then (and I am not just talking about the Americans). And also not just about D-Day. A lot of the Pacific fighting was as horrific as what happened in Normandy.

    I remember the opening scenes from Saving Private Ryan. Hard to believe anyone could experience that without being permanently scarred. I am sure many were.

    Just read Lt. Col. Bateman’s piece at Pierce’s site. Never had heard the story of General Theodore Roosevelt Jr and the role he played in the landing. Rather remarkable.

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    @kindness: So was my father. He was on the Nevada when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

    I have weekend company coming and unmade beds and an empty refrigerator. Thanks President Obama. The French can certainly put on a performance and I so glad that I saw it.

  13. 13
    Linnaeus says:

    My grandfather was there, too. US Army, 112th Engineer Battalion. They were one of the first units to land on Omaha Beach.

  14. 14
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Dee Loralei:

    All the WWII era vets I was related to or knew have all died, so I’ve been a bit melancholy.

    Sadly, it is quite likely the the 75th anniversary will be the last for which even a handful of vets will still be around.

  15. 15
    Mnemosyne says:

    As far as I can tell, I had no relatives in WWII at all. My maternal grandfather was too old (he was a vet of WWI and had a Purple Heart from it) and my paternal grandfather had too many kids to go (four kids by 1941).

  16. 16

    My great-uncle Cary Dunn was there. According to his daughter: “He was with the 467th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and was in the original landing at Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. His rank was Captain and he saw service in Northern France, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland before returning to the states in 1945. He was awarded the Bronze Star. He left the military for a brief period of time, but rejoined and was promoted to Major and taught ROTC at the University of Pittsburgh for about two years. He was transferred from the Army to the Air Force in 1949 and was sent to Okinawa in 1950 where he worked as an engineer at Kadena AFB. He died of cancer at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 12, 1952 at the age of 45.” He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

    I never met him; he died six months before I was born. I wish I had known him. Given his siblings’ long lives (my grandmother lived to be 95), I would have been able to learn about what his service meant to him as I was becoming aware of my own feelings about war and peace, and to put a real connection between the stories I read in history books and the lurid tales depicted in the Hollywood movies about the war.

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Mnemosyne: My maternal grandfather was nearly 39 at the start of the war and was in a reserved occupation.

  18. 18
    beltane says:

    @Jerzy Russian: There were several WWII vets in my family, and also a great-uncle who died in the Battle of the Bulge. None of the vets ever, ever spoke of their wartime experiences, and they heartily shunned the whole VFW thing. I do know that my great-uncle, the only boy in a family of girls, spent most of the war in Texas training others in tank operation. He fought hard to be sent to Europe and was quite open about wanting to kill Germans (he was Jewish). I think he died in the way he wanted to die.

    Most of the first-hand accounts of WII I’ve heard are from my father, who provided me with a civilian’s view through the eyes of a child living right on the Gustav Line in southern Italy. His PTSD has hardly diminished over the years. Just last month he told me that the last time he was ever truly happy was Christmas of 1942, before the bombs and the Germans came.

  19. 19
    Rob in CT says:

    My father arrived on D+1, if I recall correctly. He was British Merchant Marine, so he wasn’t storming any beaches. On the flipside, he got to be a target and didn’t get to shoot back*, which wasn’t a lot of fun. The ship was torpedoed (official records say “human torpedo” !!), beached, and then divebombed by Stukas. While loaded with tank ammo. Fun times.

    * – there is a hilarious/horrifying story about this. At one point, I guess Merchant Mariners’ complaints about not being able to shoot back got loud enough that they were given some AA guns. My father, a young Lt., was on duty and in charge of the gun crew during an attack. The crew was repeatedly frustrated as they were trying to track enemy aircraft because the gun had some sort of safety mechanism that prevented it from swivelling all the way around. So my father, feeling brilliant that day, allowed them to remove the safety. What happened next? They shot up the deck of another British ship (a destroyer, I believe), while hitting precisely nothing German. The gun was taken away. Apparently my father is unaware if they actually hurt or killed anyone, which was one of my first questions about the incident.

    Crazy stuff.

  20. 20
    japa21 says:

    My FIL landed in France the day after D-Day. He was wounded 2 days later and never went back into combat. Had some shrapnel in his neck for the rest of his life.
    My MIL was in the Coast Guard during WWII, served in NYC and Miami.
    Of the two, she had the more colorful stories.

  21. 21
    Emma says:

    @japa21: I just did a little reading about him. His son, Quentin, was at the Omaha Beach landing, the only father-son combo in the army. “Years later, General Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat, and he replied, “Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach.” (from Wikipedia)

  22. 22
    kindness says:

    @JPL: My father was 17 when Pearl Harbor happened and went down & signed up right after that. They didn’t care he wasn’t 18 yet.

  23. 23
    cmorenc says:

    @Jerzy Russian:

    I can’t even imagine being one of those soldiers on that landing craft pictured above

    Veterans of D-Day have generally agreed that the depiction of the Omaha Beach D-Day landing in “Saving Private Ryan” comes about as close to faithfully conveying the actual experience as could be done in a movie. Assuming this is true, I cannot imagine being a 20-ish young man summoning the mojo to soldier through such a nightmare where your chances of just crossing the beach far enough to actually attack the fortifications on the bluffs above are so completely random, and you’re witnessing men around you suffering so many gruesomely horrifying ways to die or be seriously injured. That movie brought home to me why so many WW2 vets who served in actual combat didn’t often talk much afterward about it – they were eager to put it behind them and try to resume normal life once it was all over.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    My maternal grandfather was 46 by the time of Pearl Harbor (born in 1895). My paternal grandfather was kind of a jerk, so he probably just dodged it like John Wayne.

    ETA: And my mother was a late-in-life baby for both of my maternal grandparents — she was born in 1939.

  25. 25
    feebog says:

    My Father and Uncle both enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor. My Uncle on my Mother’s side also enlisted. Both Uncles were in the Seebees in the South Pacific. My Dad, now 93 and hanging in there enlisted in the Marines. About a year in he was given an opportunity to transfer to the Navy as a Pharmacist Mate, and he took it.

  26. 26
    SatanicPanic says:

    That photo is old and we’ve all seen it in movies so maybe we’re a little bit numb to the idea but WOW, that would be scary as hell to be climbing out of that boat

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, I don’t know if TCM will be showing this today or will hold it for Veterans Day, but The Best Years of Our Lives explodes a lot of the myths about veterans of WWII. It won multiple Academy Awards, and deservedly so.

  28. 28
    kd bart says:

    My Dad use to tell about how he landed on the beach at Normandy. Of course, it was 10 weeks after D Day and things were a lot easier he would joke.

  29. 29

    As was my grandfather. Hell, he might have been driving that boat right there in the picture.

    My grandfather, who just died about three weeks ago in his sleep, age 91, was one of the drivers of the landing craft at Omaha on D-Day.

    He did an interview with a local TV station when “Saving Private Ryan” came out. The newsdroid asked him how accurate the film was. He said it was pretty good, but the actual landing (the first ten minutes or so of that movie, which I found almost impossible to watch) was “far worse”.

    I cannot imagine. I almost crapped my pants in the movie, and that was just a movie!

    My grandfather was no saint, and didn’t spend his life trying to be a hero, but by God nobody can question the courage of anyone who went through that.

  30. 30
    hoodie says:


    A lot of the Pacific fighting was as horrific as what happened in Normandy.

    A lot of it was worse. Jungle warfare, malaria, dysentery, atrocities. The invasion of Okinawa was comparable in scale to the Normandy invasion and in many ways more grisly. Pacific vets have never gotten the recognition that vets from the European theater received, probably because there isn’t the equivalent of France as a host country for such memorials decades afterward.

  31. 31
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Elizabelle: I watched the ceremony at Coilville-Sur-Mer on BBC World News. They broadcast part of the French president’s speech and cut over to parts of the British ceremonies. They did show the whole of President Obama’s speech, which was wonderful.

  32. 32
    japa21 says:

    @hoodie: Correct, and I should have so noted. The other reason I think D-Day gets so much more recognition is that in the Pacific everything was a step by step process. D-Day marked the actual turning point in Europe.

    But it is true that the Pacific vets don’t get as much recognition. I wonder if that is different in, say, Australia.

  33. 33
    Thlayli says:

    I watch The Longest Day every 6/6. It’s in my DVD player ready to go as soon as I get off work.

  34. 34
    WaterGirl says:

    My dad, who never said a word about the war, did correspond with his Army buddies. Maybe he talked about the war with them? He was part of the group who set up communications as they moved the lines forward. I have no idea if that meant he was safer, because he wasn’t actually a combat soldier, or if it was more dangerous because they were always right on the edge of enemy lines.

    There was only one story about the war, a happy one, that my dad told his three daughters. He was stationed in Japan at that point, and he and his buddies really wanted a christmas tree. As the story goes, they had a bit too much to drink on christmas eve and decided to cut down one of the trees. No one considered the fact that there were a zillion feet of snow on the ground until spring came, and then there was this HUGE tree that had no top. oops.

    My dad’s brother, my Uncle Harry, came home from the war and was never the same again. He was kept in institutions and group homes for the rest of his life. If only they knew then what they know about PTSD now, he might have been able to have a real life. He was a good guy.

    My other uncle was on R&R in Australia and met the love of his life. He returned home for a couple of years after the war, but then moved permanently to Australia and married Aunt Peg.

  35. 35
    kd bart says:


    William Wyler was practically deaf, from a wartime injury, when he directed The Best Years of Our Lives

  36. 36
    Rob in CT says:


    D-Day marked the actual turning point in Europe.

    D-Day was a really big deal for the Allies, sure, but I think Stalingrad was the turning point.

  37. 37
    Chris says:

    Being half-French, half-American and all history nerd, June 6th is basically my own private National Holiday.

    It does some good as a counterweight to my (by now almost pathological) cynicism. America has long experience fucking up, or at least fucking over, everything it invades. World War Two is one of the very few times that didn’t happen, and for that, I’m quite grateful (my American half just as much as the other one). To the soldiers, but also to the people who actually stopped and thought “hey, what happens after the invasion?” and planned accordingly.

    Similarly with French/European politics. I’ve been raging for years about the rise of the far right and often cringe when considering the future. D-Day is a useful reminder to me that without World War Two, the far right wouldn’t have just been the rising fringe it is now, but literally all anyone knew, for years and years and years. Fascism might not have remained in power all the way until today, but Europe would certainly be different… and the liberal, democratic, pluralistic and social-democratic values I believe in would almost certainly be worse off for it.

    So D-Day will always be worth remembering to me. And a big “thank you for your service” to those who served in that war.

  38. 38

    My grandfather was in the Reserves for the British Army in India. He was also a volunteer medic during WWII. I don’t think he saw any action but I have seen photographs of him in his uniform.

  39. 39
    AliceBlue says:

    My dad “flew the hump” in the China-Burma-India theater.

    Someone in the thread below referred to the Pacific war as the bridesmaid. CBI is the red-headed stepchild of that bridesmaid.

  40. 40
    Origuy says:

    My dad was too young; he was in the Corps of Engineers during Korea. Did one tour on Okinawa and one in South Korea building roads and bridges. When he came back, he kept operating construction equipment until he retired.

    Today’s Congress would be whining that FDR didn’t tell them when the ships were crossing the Channel.

  41. 41
    catclub says:


    Pacific vets have never gotten the recognition that vets from the European theater received

    The npr blip did mention the Russians actually lost 20 times as many soldiers as the US did,

    when they HELPED us win the war.

    ETA: They also said that Stalingrad broke the back of the German Army.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kd bart:

    He was in battles and yet never fired a shot — he was part of the unit that was making propaganda films for the war effort. From IMDb:

    The documentary features aerial battle footage that Wyler and his crew shot over the skies of Germany. One of his photographic crew, flying in another plane, was killed during the filming of the air battles. Wyler himself lost the hearing in one ear and became partially deaf in the other due to the noise and concussion of the flak bursting around his aircraft.

  43. 43
    🌷 Martin says:

    My great uncle was there as well. He was a medic, straight out of training, landed on the beach I think in one of the later waves that day when it was less dangerous for him, but there was an overwhelming need for the medics the moment he arrived. He wouldn’t ever talk about that day or any kind of combat, but he’d talk about other stuff in the war – helping civilians, etc. He suffered some moderate PTSD from that. Couldn’t stand to be in enclosed spaces, bunch of other stuff like that. Two of his brothers were also in Europe but weren’t there that day. My grandfather and another one of his brothers were in the Pacific. Grandpa returned with crippling PTSD, but they otherwise came home in one piece. My grandmother was a nurse (officer – outranked all of the boys – she was always proud of that) stationed on a hospital ship in the Atlantic. Her ship came under some fire – nothing too bad as I understand – but she was injured while helping to load a soldier on a stretcher onto the hospital ship from another ship while that was happening. That landed her in the hospital for 6 months and ended her time in the war.

    About a year before we entered the war my grandfather on my mom’s side decided that we were going to war and tried to enlist (wanted to be a pilot) but his eyesight was too bad. He instead drove down to the Grumman factory 20 miles away and asked for a job building planes (they were already ramping up that far out). They hired him and I know he made F6F Hellcats. I think he might have been involved in tooling that plane up while they were designing it.

    But they’re all gone now as well.

  44. 44
    nancy darling says:

    @cmorenc: @SatanicPanic: I can’t bear the thought of watching “Saving Private Ryan.” I’ve read too many books about that day. What the movie can’t convey, but books tell you about are the smells of that day—a buddy (or yourself) who has shit himself in sheer terror, the smell of a corpse with its guts spilling out as it floats past your landing vehicle.

    Bateman was wonderful today with his re-telling of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. accompanying his troops in the landing—the only general to do so.

    Pierce was good too, tying Ernie Pyle, the Bergdahl saga, and the soldier’s default position of grousing and complaining into a neat little package.

  45. 45
    Phoebes says:

    My father, who’d be 98 if he was alive, served in the Aleutians for 28 months. We never had any pork growing up because my father was served pork for breakfast, pork for lunch, and pork for dinner. When he came home in ’44 and married my mother, he decreed “no pork, ever!” He died seven years ago. His younger brother saw action in the South Pacific.

  46. 46
    Gator90 says:

    My grandfather avoided military service in WW2. He never liked to talk about it.

  47. 47
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @nancy darling:

    Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. accompanying his troops in the landing—the only general to do so.

    He was not the only general to land with his troops on D-Day. He was the only general at that spot at that time.

  48. 48
    Tokyokie says:

    My father was an officer in the Corps of Engineers and served the duration of the war in the Aleutians Theater. He, too, never talked about his wartime experiences (save one story about Bob Hope coming out to do a show, then getting too plastered in the officers’ club to perform). His reticence to talk about it has gotten me thinking in the last couple of years that he might have been involved in the Battle of Attu, but as he’s been dead 30 years, I’ll never know.

  49. 49
    Baud says:

    I don’t have any personal connection to WWII, but it was one of the great turning points in human history. Amazing time and amazing people.

  50. 50
    big ole hound says:

    The amazing part of the D-Day invasion is that approximately 4500 allied soldiers,airmen and sailor died out of an invasion force of 140,000 so the planners got most of it right. We hear of the gory mistakes but let’s not loose track of how successful that day was in terms immediate purpose.

  51. 51
    japa21 says:

    @Rob in CT: True. Ask 1,000 Americans what Stalingrad meant in WII, and 999 would probably go, “Who?”

  52. 52
    nancy darling says:

    D-Day is worth contemplating for what it tells us about ourselves back them. We were made of stern stuff. In 30 months, from Pearl Harbor to D-Day, we built the ships, planes and tanks, and mobilized the men to mount the biggest military operation in history. I don’t know if we could do it today.

    Now, our leaders don’t ask much of us. Didn’t George W. tell us, “Don’t worry. Be happy. Go shopping”? For sure he said the shopping part.

    I think climate change and its ramifications pose as great an existential threat to us as the Axis was to our parents and grandparents. I worry that there is not the will to tackle it. Too many of us are contemplating a new flat screen tv or wondering if Kim Kardashian has had a butt-implant.

  53. 53
    kd bart says:

    @Mnemosyne: I just read Five Came Back. Mark Harris’ book on Wyler, Ford, Huston, Capra and Stevens and their dutues in documenting the war and the effect it had on each of them. Stevens was most effected as he was on hand to film Buchenwald.

  54. 54
    nancy darling says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): Wiki says Roosevelt was the only general to accompany his troops “by sea”. They could be wrong and so could I.

    Roosevelt was the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. At 56, he would be the oldest man in the invasion, and the only man to serve with his son on D-Day at Normandy (Captain Quentin Roosevelt II was among the first wave of soldiers to land at Omaha beach while his father commanded at Utah beach).

  55. 55
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): @nancy darling: Roosevelt was, however, the only general to land with the first wave.

  56. 56

    @nancy darling: I don’t think the shouters on Fox News and other MSM outlets are representative of this country or its people.

    BTW what was the Republican Party of the WWII era like?

  57. 57
    raven says:

    @Elizabelle: It was on at 4am.

  58. 58
    Chyron HR says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    BTW what was the Republican Party of the WWII era like?

    Nazi sympathizers who wanted to overthrow the government.

  59. 59
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Chris: Your comments are consistently good man. Just throwing that out there.

  60. 60
    LanceThruster says:

    Saw a D-Day program (about the dedication of the statue in honor of the Navy’s part in the operation) that pointed out that the very first deaths that day were from a Navy ship striking a mine.

  61. 61
    Ruckus says:

    They’d love to forget that which can not be forgotten.

  62. 62
    kindness says:

    @Chyron HR:

    Nazi sympathizers who wanted to overthrow the government.

    Some things don’t change much, do they?

  63. 63
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Origuy: I do wonder about what today’s Congress would do. I think I don’t have a sense about what the 1940s Congress was like, so I don’t have a point of comparison. I would assume that this Congress would complain that he should have invaded earlier or had a cow that the Armies were then trapped for weeks afterwards (I told you! He should have gone to Calais!). We don’t handle setbacks at all well. At all!

  64. 64
    Rob in CT says:

    @big ole hound:

    They learned some things from Dieppe, I think.

  65. 65
    Sherparick says:

    What, and show the Muslim Kenyan Usurper in a positive light?

    A British Liaison officer had this description of Omaha at 3:00 pm in the afternoon, when the beach was “secured.” Let’s just say that “Saving Private Ryan” is still a sanitized version of events (particularly the noise and smells)..

  66. 66
    bemused says:


    I sincerely wish Tom Brokaw had not named his book The Greatest Generation. I’m not a fan of Brokaw and would turn the channel every time I saw him on tv. A Republican relative sent me a youtube of Brokaw telling the story of the Candy Bomber backed up by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Gah! The Candy Bomber is a good war story but no way did I want to listen to Brokaw tell it.

  67. 67
    raven says:

    I’ve mentioned that I just finished Atkinson’s “The Liberation Trilogy”. I thought they were all great books and he did not pull punches. He talks about how many of the vets would snicker at the “Greatest Generation” blabber. He notes the massive awols, vd cases, thefts and stupidity along with the incredible feats of engineering, logistics, communication and heroism. He also make a strong case that Roosevelt was correct in going against the “generals” by not going directly to Europe but instead invading North Africa. Obviously he was right, we had to learn how to do what we were doing and above all we had to learn how to hate and kill the enemy.

  68. 68
    Rob in CT says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Edit to my post: the disabled bit was intended, I think, to prevent them from moving the barrell below a certain degree. This is why they hit the other ship – once removed, they could track the enemy planes down low – right down to the horizon. Once such plane went behind another British ship and that’s how they strafed the deck of a friendly ship.

  69. 69
    beltane says:

    @Chyron HR: Yeah, the Hitler-love was strong even among mainstream Republicans, not to mention the ferocity their Roosevelt Derangement Syndrome.

  70. 70
    Keith G says:

    Since I was born in 1950s, every male relative of the previous generation that I had a direct connection to was in the war.

    My dad’s company did not go ashore in the first wave of D-Day. But shortly thereafter, their job was to accept the supplies being brought in by the Navy and stage them on the beach under fire – ammo, medical supplies, Jeeps, cans of fuel, and whatever. He witnessed a lot and told just a little of it.

    His company did the same job before at Sicily and ltaly.

    He died in 1994 at the age of 79.

  71. 71
    Suffern ACE says:

    How much of our mythmaking about the war is caused by our mythmaking about Vietnam. We want to celebrate WWII as the Great War where we were All Unified and Pulled Ourselves Together and Liberated the World. It just seems like a myth that was created to beat up on those generations who didn’t all come together and pretend that coming together to fight a war is somehow natural for us.

  72. 72
    Paul in KY says:

    My father, soon to be 90, landed on D-Day + 18. He was with Patton’s 3rd Army. One of his sister units captured Werner Von Braun.

    After WW II he switched to USAF & was in Berlin Airlift. Rode many transports in & out of there. was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (as a non-pilot corporal). Not many enlisted have the DFC.

  73. 73
    beltane says:

    @Suffern ACE: It’s worse than that. I just could not envision today’s congress forming an alliance of any sort with the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany.

  74. 74
    Violet says:

    @nancy darling: I saw “Saving Private Ryan” in the theater and after the movie spent about half an hour sobbing in the parking lot. Horrors of war got to me, even the somewhat sanitized movie version.

  75. 75

    I have two WWII related questions
    How accurate was the Band of Brothers? Also too, why is WWII memorial in DC so ugly?

  76. 76

    @Violet: I could not watch the landing scene.

  77. 77
    opiejeanne says:

    Wow. That’s some story and the photo is wonderful

    My dad landed at Normandy about 5 days after DDay, with a radio truck. I haven’t been able to figure out where he landed, somewhere up the Seine (according to him). Landing X or Camp X.

  78. 78
    raven says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Accurate in what sense? They had men from the actual unit as advisors and they are interviewed before each segment. The WWII memorial design is ugly to me but I’m not artist. I can tell you that “The Wall” was a great deal more controversial and look how it is received now.

    Have you watched “The Pacific”?

  79. 79
    opiejeanne says:

    @Violet: we saw that movie with friends our age and stood in the parking lot afterwards for an hour, resolving that we would not recommend it to our fathers. The landing scene was devastating.

  80. 80
    Ruckus says:

    My dad served in the Pacific, in the navy on a tender as what we call a machinist. He also would not talk about it. I therefore have no idea of what he did, didn’t do or where his ship was or what he went through. We had some pics of him in his uniform but that’s as much as I know.
    I think it is amazing how many people sacrificed themselves in so many ways in WWII. In my lifetime I haven’t seen anything like what I was told and read about when I was a child in the 50s. And I’m glad about that. But I see so much of our politics seems to be about capturing that something, mostly by people that I doubt would ever have willingly or even grudgingly made those sacrifices. I am saddened that life has come so far in the last 60+ years and yet has also has made so little progress. Maybe that’s just the nature of living.

  81. 81
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Chyron HR: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  82. 82
    raven says:

    @Violet: When the film came out my dad said “you know why they were so seasick”? I had no clue. He said, “in the Pacific our ships were able to get much closer to the beach because of the depth of the water. At Normandy they were on the damn landing boats miles out to seas”. He was on an LCVP on 27 landings so I took his word for it.

  83. 83

    @raven: I mean historically accurate. To me, “The Wall” is sublime, makes you contemplate the horrors of war, the toll it takes. No, I have not watched “The Pacific”.

  84. 84
    Sherparick says:

    @nancy darling: BG Norman Cota of the 29th and BG Willard Wyman of the Big Red One (1st Inf.), both Assistant Div Commanders and acting commanders on the field were on Omaha, although I believe they came in on the second wave (not that this was much different than the 1st wave). TR Jr. was probably the only general in a first wave assault. BG Gavin, 101st, and MG Ridgeway, 82d, were in the airborne assault.

  85. 85
    SatanicPanic says:

    @raven: I think the WWII monument fits the era its meant to commemorate.

  86. 86
    max says:

    My maternal grandmother had five brother and four sisters. One of her brothers took some kind of fall pre-war and got an infection and wound up having to walk with a cane the rest of his life. The other four were in, one of whom went aboard at Utah. (I can’t remember which one – I think it is was Uncle Jack.) And the men her four sisters married were all in, too. Half of ’em were in the Pacific, and half in Europe.

    My maternal grandfather was going to school in Buffalo in ’40, and he crossed the border and signed up with the RCAF. They apparently sent him back, and then he wound up in the Army AF (presumably as a medic since he was studying to be a doctor) and then I don’t know what the hell happened. Then he got recalled to the AF for Korea. His dad had been in the WWI Army, and my great-grandmother mother Lydia had been among the first women in the armed forces. (And then they got married five minutes before the war ended.)

    My (very black) step-grandfather wound up in an all-black transport unit, and came aboard at Le Havre and promptly got wounded mildly. And then he followed 82nd to the east, and eventually got captured by the Germans during the Bulge while he was helping build bridges across the Saar. Then he got liberated three months later. (He stayed in ten years, so he was in Korea as well.)

    My paternal grandfather was too old and a railroad man (as he was his whole life) so he didn’t go.

    [‘They’re all gone now.’]

  87. 87
    Ruckus says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    How do you make a memorial to war not ugly? War is ugly, we should be reminded of that, not statues of some gallant general sitting high upon his steed.

  88. 88
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: It tracks the Ambrose biography pretty closely. Mr. Ambrose was not always reliable, but people like Winters and Guarnere were also consulted.

  89. 89
    PurpleGirl says:

    @raven: I haven’t seen the WWII monument in DC, I have seen The Wall. I do remember some of the debate involved in the design of the WWII monument. Some people who didn’t like it compared it to the work of Albert Spear. I had the impression that the people guiding the design wanted something epic, “strong”, heavy (i.e., a lot of stone).

    WRT Maya Lin’s (sp?) Wall, when I first saw that, there was an immediate sadness at all the names. I also dislike the multi-figure statue that was added later a short distance away.

  90. 90
    Long Tooth says:

    One D-Day account told of a remark by a sailor who was beached when his landing craft was destroyed. Picking up a rifle, he was overheard to say, “Just what I wanted to avoid when I joined the navy- fighting as a goddamned infantryman”!

  91. 91
    Bill in Section 147 says:

    My Dad was just coming home from his tour in the Pacific, arriving from San Francisco at the train station in Santa Barbara to meet my Mom and my oldest sister who was born in December of 1943. So June 6th of 1944 was also a big day family-wise.

  92. 92
    Ruckus says:

    I’ve only seen pictures of the wall. I talked a few days ago about going to DC to see it. But my take is the same, the people, the massive numbers of people, names listed one by one. All gone, not after a life’s work and kids and homes, although many had those, just gone. For what?

  93. 93
  94. 94
    FlipYrWhig says:


    I think the WWII monument fits the era its meant to commemorate.

    In that it looks like something Nazis would build, yes.

    ETA: Ah, PurpleGirl got there first. Yes, that thing is pure Speer from top to bottom.

  95. 95
    Bill in Section 147 says:

    @Mnemosyne: Great Movie Great WWII Movie. My WWII-era parents loved it.

  96. 96

    @raven: I will try to see if I can get hold of the DVD, sounds compelling.

  97. 97
    raven says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Band or Pacific?

  98. 98
    Ruckus says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    Netflix has both Band of Brothers and The Pacific on DVD.

  99. 99
    hoodie says:

    @raven: My dad was in the 1st Marine Division in the Pacific, he told me about standing ankle deep in vomit on the landing craft. He also said that guys that were hit usually called for their mommas, not god.

    Although you have to honor those that served, I’m ambivalent about these D-Day commemorations because the European War has been so romanticized. Saving Private Ryan tried to depict the gruesome machine-of-death aspects, but you still have the quaint French villages and other assorted nonsense that is the stock-in-trade of WWII movies. Recounting of the Pacific War tends to cut off at Midway, because the reality of the island-hopping campaign that followed just isn’t amenable to romanticization. The Navy blows off just about every scrap of vegetation on an island and the Marines land and wage what amounts to trench warfare with Japanese holdouts. I wonder if it had something to do with Viet Nam, e.g., the Pacific War was too much like Viet Nam.

  100. 100
    raven says:

    Today’s shootings:

    12:21 p.m. – A law enforcement official familiar with the situation said explosives are suspected because Marx is a “sovereign citizen” well-known to local authorities. They are concerned about explosives because sovereign citizens are known to be involved with explosives.

  101. 101

    @raven: Pacific, I have already seen the other one. Any other recommendations for WWII movies besides the one Mnem recommended?

  102. 102
    raven says:

    @hoodie: My old man was always pissed because of the second class status of the Pacific war so I don’t know how much the Nam had to do with it.

  103. 103
    PurpleGirl says:

    @PurpleGirl: I should note that my brother (4 years older than myself) enlisted in the Air Force rather than be drafted by the Army. He spent most of his time at Clark AFB in the Philipines, with temporary tours in the Aleutians and Da Nang (long after the worst of the fighting there).

  104. 104
    John Smallberries says:

    One grandfather was XO of the USS Texas at Normandy.

    My Moms father spent the war in the Navy as well, repairing planes in Oahu. He was too old for combat, having served on a crusier in the Atlantic during WW1.

    I got a lot of great stories from them and from my Dad before I went in to do a hitch.

    I agree with some of the other commentators that the thought (that I grew up with) that, at a minimum, you did your service even if you didn’t make a career out of it went away and no longer has any meaning for a lot of the kids coming up today.

  105. 105
    nancy darling says:

    @PurpleGirl: I’m not crazy about the WWII memorial. But when it was dedicated and I saw how happy the old vets were about it, I thought, if they like it, it’s good enough for me. It lacks the emotional punch of the Wall or the Korean War Memorial.

    The first time I visited the wall, I wanted to read every name there. I settled for one name on each panel. A lot of southern boys I could tell from the names—Willie Lee, Joe Jim, etc. Also a lot of Hispanic names jumped out at me.

    The Korean memorial seems haunted by the ghosts of GI’s. Their reflections are in the polished wall behind the statues of soldiers moving across the area. Korea was my oldest brother’s war. He was a forward observer for the artillery—a lonely, crappy job.

  106. 106

    @hoodie: Wasn’t there a Sean Penn movie called the Thin Red Line about the war in the Pacific? I remember it getting good reviews.

  107. 107
    srv says:

    My uncle Marty. 101st, POW. Rip

  108. 108
    Sherparick says:

    @raven: Even before Atkinsons’ books I came to that conclusion. D-Day did achieve immense tactical surprise against the Germans, which probably is why it succeeded, and even then it was a “close run thing.” The best mental trick when reading history is to try to remember the contingency. On the evening of June 5, 1944 know one knew the outcome of the battle. Churchill, with the political and emotional scars of Galippolli really feared the outcome of the battle. Eisenhower prepared a message to inform the world of defeat: ‘Our landings in the Cherbourg-Haver area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.

    ‘My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.

    ‘The troops, the air, and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.’

    “Our landings in the Cherbourg – Le Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.

    ‘My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.

    ‘The troops, the air, and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.’

    ‘Our landings in the Cherbourg-Haver area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops.

    ‘My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.

    ‘The troops, the air, and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.’

    Read more:

  109. 109
    opiejeanne says:

    @Phoebes: My FIL served in the Aleutians and never shut up about WWII.

    My dad wouldn’t talk about it too often; he saw combat, landed in Normandy a few days after D-Day, but was the radio operator and said that while he was shot at many times, never fired his gun. Said the closest he came to shooting anyone was a newly minted officer who wouldn’t give the password when Dad was on guard duty late one night.

  110. 110
    Bill in Section 147 says:

    @Phoebes: My dad’s food experience went the other way. He was in the Army before the war and served as a bomber co-pilot in the Pacific at the beginning. He was on some pretty small specks of coral and there was not enough transport for decent supply. Pretty near a year without fresh fruits and vegetables. We always had a salad with dinner.

  111. 111
    gbear says:

    My father was in the Navy stationed in the Pacific during WW2. He served as a ship’s cook (so us kids often had shit on a shingle for lunch on days that he’d make lunch, & we all thought it was great!)

    He didn’t talk much about being in battle, but he did have a story about a ship’s commander who ignored a storm warning and almost lost the ship (they were fully sideways for a few moments) and the closest he came to being injured is when a new kitchen guy didn’t follow the rules about securing knives and one came flying past him in the kitchen.

    There are pictures of him in a grass skirt with a big smile on his face, so some of the time must have been safe and enjoyable. He had quit school to enlist, so when he got out of the navy, he had to go back to his high school to finish his senior year. His little brother was a classmate. He found that having to comply with high school rules to be humiliating. He hated it.

  112. 112
    raven says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: “When Trumpets Fade“, A Walk in the Sun”, The Big Red One, and most of all “The Thin Red Line” that came out the same time as Pvt Ryan. Talk about opposite films, TTRL is based on James Jones book about Guadalcanal and has an incredible cast. It is described as “a meditation on life and death” and, like all Terrence Malick films it is beautifully filmed. Must see, no rah-rah bullshit.

  113. 113
    🌷 Martin says:

    @kindness: My wifes dad lied about his age and signed up at 16. He was a frogman and did underwater demolitions and stayed in until 52. He had great stories. Unlike most of my relatives that were involved in the shooting, his work was a little less scarring. But our family photo album has a great set of photos he took from the deck of his ship at Iwo Jima the day that they took the summit. You can’t really tell what’s going on – smoke everywhere, lots of activity all over the place. But you can tell it was a hell of a thing.

    After the war he was involved in the nuclear testing in the pacific and has some photos of those tests as well. After the war he returned to Needles to hang out around the above-ground testing in Nevada. God only knows how he stayed alive as long as he did.

  114. 114
    Mike in NC says:

    @kd bart: Stevens was best known for his comedies before WW2. Afterwards he never made another comedy and sought to tell “important stories”.

  115. 115
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Good movie.

  116. 116
    raven says:

    @opiejeanne: My dad was the only one of three brothers to go even thought they were all on the same ship when the war started. My oldest uncle hated the “Japs” all his life even though he spent the war at Navy Pier. My old man spent 4 years out there. When he came home he was a high school coach in Southern California and I always remember how he respected the Japanese. He said “I’d watch the Japanese kids in practice and when they started to falter I knew I pushed hard enough”.

  117. 117
    raven says:

    @Bobby Thomson: Funny thing was my old man got all mad when it came out. “I’m not going to see some goddamn movie about the Army of Guadalcanal. the Marines took the island”. I had to talk to him a long time to get him to believe that the 25th Infantry Division got “Tropic Lightning” from their almost year long campaign to take the uplands.

  118. 118
    LanceThruster says:

    “The Victors” is a good movie about the war in Europe.

  119. 119

    @raven: Thanks for the recommendations.

  120. 120
    Hieronymous Mantitty says:

    @Betty Cracker: why do rednecks such as yourselves masturbate about this sort of thing so much? @raven: seriously it’s always the dumbfucking southern cracker shitbags. always.

  121. 121

    @kd bart:

    I have that book, but haven’t read it yet. Before the war, Stevens directed some great comedies and musicals (like “Swing Time”) but after the war he refused to do anything but dramas. It really changed him in major ways — his while family said so.

  122. 122
    Chris says:


    Thanks! A commenter does love to hear that.

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    BTW what was the Republican Party of the WWII era like?

    A bit harder to answer that than it would be nowadays, because parties were much more loose and decentralized coalitions back then, and each of them had liberal and conservative elements. The Republican establishment might’ve been conservative, but you still had a meaningful progressive faction.

    What the conservatives of the WWII era were like – IIRC, conservative Republicans were, indeed, big fans of the fascists, but Southern Democrats, not so much.

    @Suffern ACE:

    I do wonder about what today’s Congress would do. I think I don’t have a sense about what the 1940s Congress was like

    Thanks to the utter shellacking that they’d taken at the polls since the Great Depression, plus the fact that said shellacking had come with a none-too-subtle threat of revolution, I imagine they were much less likely to be intransigent. Conservatives got their mojo partially back after 1937 and Roosevelt’s defeat in the court-packing scheme (and pretty much presented an isolationist brick wall where foreign policy was concerned), but that went away after Pearl Harbor – given how widely loathed they were in public opinion, I can’t imagine that sabotaging the war effort would’ve gone well for them.

  123. 123

    My paternal grandfather commanded a LST in the Pacific (supposedly knew JFK). My maternal grandfather was already a bit old for WWII and work in yards building submarines.

  124. 124
    LanceThruster says:


    Beautifully scored too. This guy does a great job on the music and images.

    This Paul Fussell essay is a must read too.

    I got the chance to meet Gen. Paul Tibbets (pilot – Enola Gay) and gave him copy of it. He had not seen it before.

  125. 125
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @raven: You know, it’s getting sad when I read “Today’s shooting” not as just “The shooting that happened today,” but as “The shooting that happened today, after the shooting that happened yesterday, before the shooting that will happen tomorrow.” This may be the best of all possible worlds from the points of view of the NRA, the gun dealers, and the ammosexuals, but holy fuck, its getting to be an awfully dreary place for the rest of us.

  126. 126
    Chris says:


    He also make a strong case that Roosevelt was correct in going against the “generals” by not going directly to Europe but instead invading North Africa. Obviously he was right, we had to learn how to do what we were doing and above all we had to learn how to hate and kill the enemy.

    I finally read Ricks’ book “The Generals,” about the big U.S. Army generals from the pre-World War Two era all the way to today, about a month ago.

    It’s amazing how much of his analysis comes down to “in World War Two, we held the brass accountable, we didn’t take shit from them, and we weren’t afraid to fire them if they couldn’t perform as ordered, and we basically haven’t done that since.”

  127. 127
    Tinare says:

    My dad entered France sometime after D-Day. That’s how little he taked about his experiences during WW II — I don’t know exactly where he entered or exactly when. After he died, my uncle told me that he had been in the Battle of the Bulge, and that was the first time I heard that.

    The only time we really talked about the war was when I was going to go and study for a semester in the UK when I was in college. He told me he had been stationed in Bournemouth. And that was pretty much all he said.

  128. 128
    Chris says:


    It’s worse than that. I just could not envision today’s congress forming an alliance of any sort with the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany.

    That too. Look at how utterly unwilling we were to deal with Iran for the last decade and a half despite the fact that the people we were at war with were their two biggest enemies in the region (Saddam Hussein and the Taliban).

    Maybe, if the countries involved were as powerful as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union instead of third world regional powers, our Repubs would start taking things more seriously. I wouldn’t want to put money on that, though.

  129. 129
    Paul in KY says:

    @Chris: Pres. Truman wasn’t afraid to fire them when they became insubordinate.

  130. 130
    Mike in NC says:

    @Sherparick: Ike’s D-Day memo is on display in the National Archives.

  131. 131
    hoodie says:

    @raven: I was more thinking that people latched on to the whole D-Day/Battle of the Bulge thing because it wasn’t like jungle warfare. My dad was never pissed about how the Pacific didn’t get the recognition, but he didn’t like how people were generally clueless as to how gruesome it was. He once told me about two unarmed Japanese soldiers that got on a chow line in Okinawa because they were starving, and the some of the Marines in the line lit them up until they were basically hamburger. He came back after 5 years away from home (joined in ’39) riddled with malaria and weighing about 120 pounds.

  132. 132
    raven says:

    @LanceThruster: That’s great

  133. 133
    canuckistani says:

    My grandfather missed D-Day as he was escorting convoys across the North Atlantic on board the armed yacht HMCS Grizzly. The Atlantic crossings destroyed his health and he died not long after the war. I still can’t imagine the hardships he lived through.

  134. 134
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I assume you’ve seen A Bridge Too Far, which is about Operation Market Garden. Highly recommended.

  135. 135

    @Bobby Thomson: I am not sure. I do remember seeing the The Bridge on the River Kwai, but I have forgotten most of it.

  136. 136
    skerry says:

    My parents were born in 1939, so no WWII service there. My father was early in Vietnam support – air crew on Guam. Both of their fathers were too old to serve.

    My mother-in-law worked during the war at a factory that made Jeeps. Rosie the Riveter.

    My father-in-law was Army Air Corps. I don’t know what his job was or the details of his time in Europe. He somehow ended up in a German POW camp. He never spoke about his service with one exception. He told me about a buddy in the camp who got a splinter in a thumb. It got infected and the guy died. That’s the only story he ever shared and that’s about the extent of it. He never shared anything with his son (my ex-husband, who served 4 years of hazardous duty in Omaha, Nebraska in the 1970s).

    When my father-in-law’s camp was liberated, the Army took pictures of all the POWs. They mailed the photo home to his mother with a letter telling her that he was alive and well. She looked at the photo before reading the letter and fainted. She thought he was dead. He had lost so much weight (weighed 144 at enlistment and was well under 100 when freed). I have seen that photo and compared it to his enlistment photo. The difference is remarkable – doesn’t look like the same man.

    He was a real SOB and had significant PTSD, but it went untreated. RIP, Bill.

  137. 137
    JPL says:

    @raven: A friend had on the local fox station and yesterday they identified the Roswell shooter as an African American, but they were wrong. It’s a tad more difficult to do that with this one, since he’s been identified as a sovereign citizen.

  138. 138
    NCSteve says:

    My Dad was in the Marines in the Pacific. His brother dropped with the 82nd Airborne and was killed in the Battle of Normandy in July, 1944. He’s buried in the Brittany American Cemetery in Saint-Lo. The stories of my aunts and uncles about the day the news of his death arrived, their initial knowledge that one of their brothers had died and uncertainty only over which one, still haunt me.

    My uncle was an abstraction to me, but the wound his death left in my dad’s very large family never truly healed–that was very apparent. None of them ever really got over it, unless it was my Dad, who’d done and seen things you and I can’t even imagine at Guadalcanal and Pelileiu–he carried his own trauma in his own way for the rest of his life, and I can’t tell you today how much was for his brother and how much was his own experiences.

    For Chickenhawk bastards like Cheney and his spawn, and Bloody Bill Kristol and Fred Hiatt, dead and wounded soldiers are just numbers on a page or, at best, clean, bloodless movie casualties dying gloriously to trumpets and strings. To the neocon warmongers, their lives are cheap, just a cost of doing business to be spent like pocket change on a pack of gum.

    My intense, seething hatred for the neocons comes directly from having grown up in a family whose members knew how much war truly costs. They at least had the solace of knowing the price had to be paid and that something of some kind of value was received.

  139. 139
    Trollhattan says:

    Something a bit like this.

    “President-for-Life Cripplebutt the First Blows Allied Invasion
    Mistakes Normandy for Calais and hands Krauts sure victory”

    –Fox in the ’40s News

    Article would probably go into analysis of whether the French are even worth rescuing and why are we committing all this government spending at a time we can’t we buy all the gasoline and sugar we want, since the markets demand it.

  140. 140

    can we move nat’l donut day to another day? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  141. 141
    Trollhattan says:

    @Long Tooth:

    My old man, being an Iowa boy, of course signed up for the Navy and hit the Pacific on a CV in time for the war’s final year. Some year.

    Gosh, seventy years, and next month, a full century since the initial “War to end all wars,” all while we’re tracking a century and a half since our very own Civil War.

  142. 142
    scav says:

    odd how wars and generations and families get tangled up and expectedly split or miss each other. WWII seemed to be skipping my lines nearly entirely (one gunner pacific theater, so wonderfully inarticulate in his letters home that I could only read them in a mock Ken Burns voice. third sentence. “Well, I best be getting to my other correspondence. thanks for the box.” Then I hit my mothers extended cousins and they’re all jumping out of gliders over France (well, one in the 82nd Airborne, others less specified so far).

  143. 143
    Seanly says:

    Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and The Dead” takes place in the Pacific Theater. While Mailer didn’t see much combat, the book is riveting & very engrossing – the chapter where the unit has to drag a howitzer up a muddy hill always stands out in my mind.

    I’m not sure why my dad’s father didn’t serve unless it was that he had children already. He was a blue collar Irish immigrant so would’ve been just the sort to get drafted.

    My mom’s father graduated from college in 1942 and went to work for Grumman as a metallurgist (nowadays called materials scientist or engineer). He had been in the ROTC in college, but had a medical exemption and then was designing warplanes. When I asked why he was in ROTC at Lehigh he said you were either in the Marching 97 band or in ROTC and he couldn’t play any instruments. I don’t know much of his WWII work with Grumman – the projects he was most proud of were in the 60’s. His birthday was June 6 coincidentally.

    As a teenager I did meet a career Army vet. He joined in 1936 and trained on horse as part of the 1st Cavalry. He ended his career when he fell out of chopper in Vietnam and broke his back. During WWII he was in a tank destroyer outfit – most of the stories he told where of the more humorous type. He also served in Korea and told about how the Chinese infantry would swarm the tanks – they had grapeshot shells to fire at friendly tanks but occasionally in the heat of battle they’d load in an antitank round & destroy their own buddies.

  144. 144
    Juju says:

    My mother’s brother, my uncle, served and survived D-Day, but was shot by a sniper while directing traffic two days later. He died four days after that, and is buried in the military cemetery in Normandy. I have seen the local paper news reports that my grandmother clipped from the papers, about my uncle’s death, the telegram with the news, and the gold star that my grandmother was given to display. I have been trying to convince my mother and her surviving sisters to make a trip to visit her brother’s grave, which she and her sister’s have not seen. The sisters are 80,81, and 82. I hope they visit the grave before it’s too late. Her brother was ten years older than she was.

    One of my cousins did get a chance to visit the grave, and took pictures and sent copies to all the aunts. Even in snapshots like the ones my mother was sent, you get a feel of the magnitude of the loss from D-Day. The cross markers go as far as the eye can see and beyond the bounds of the pictures.

    My uncle was shipped to Europe from Camp Butner in NC. I live in NC and I was able to visit what is left of the camp. That was interesting.

    I hope I get a chance to see the ceremonies sometime today.

  145. 145
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Let’s see…dad was in the Coast Guard, but served in the Pacific as a landing craft driver. His brother was in the Army, and was at the Remagen battle on the Rhein. On my mothers side, one of her brothers was in the Signal Corps (yay!), another was in Airborne (not sure which division he was in), and the only surviving brother was too young to serve during the war itself, but later was in the Army as well.

    My mother’s fiancee 70 years ago was at D-Day, in the landings. He didn’t come back, which is why I wound up with my dad.

  146. 146
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Trollhattan: “Forces of the Fatherland repel invasion by mongrel hordes of Normandy, Festung Europa saved from mudpeople.”

  147. 147
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    my father was served pork for breakfast, pork for lunch, and pork for dinner. When he came home in ’44 and married my mother, he decreed “no pork, ever!”

    I had a friend who joined the Navy towards the end of the War and had the same experience, except with lamb. Lamb was the only meat on the ship he was on; they had it every meal, and he got so he couldn’t even tolerate the aroma of lamb.

    I found this out early in our acquaintance when my husband and I invited Jerry and his wife to Easter dinner, and I proudly served the traditional — you guessed it — leg of lamb!

  148. 148
    beth says:

    @NCSteve: My uncle survived D-Day but was shot by a sniper two days later. My father met up with his unit a few weeks later, not knowing his brother had been killed. That’s one of the few stories he ever told us about the war – how he found out his brother had died. All the other stories were lighthearted ones about trying to find fresh eggs in France and giving out chocolate bars to kids in England. He said the rest of it was too terrible to talk about. He hated war and could never understand people who re-enacted the Civil War. “Wasn’t the war horrible enough the first time around?” he’d say. Whenever I see Cheney or Kristol or McCain practically drooling at the thought of another war, I remember my dad and hope there’s enough people like him in the world.

  149. 149
    Long Tooth says:

    @NCSteve: “You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it..”.

    William Tecumseh Sherman 1864

  150. 150
    Juju says:

    @NCSteve: Did your uncle ship out of Butner?

  151. 151
    Trollhattan says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    Le sigh, yours is probably closer.

  152. 152
    Trollhattan says:

    Couple nights ago, BBC World Service ran a story of an American survivor of Omaha Beach visiting a French village he helped liberate, where today they still welcome him and his mates as heros. Apparently members of the unit would visit every ten years and there are now a scant few, but the tradition is spanning generations so the descendants of both the villagers and the troops will keep it alive. It was both charming and disarming to hear the emotions expressed by both.

  153. 153
    gogol's wife says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    They Were Expendable
    Command Decision

  154. 154
    Jeremy says:

    Republicans back during FDR’s time were anti- internationalist. They didn’t believe in getting invloved in international affairs. That began to change in the late 40’s and 50’s when Eisenhower and the moderate wing of the party were firmly in control.

  155. 155
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Sherparick: Gavin and Ridgeway were both with the 82d; Taylor was with the 101st.

  156. 156
    Ruckus says:

    My abhorrence is chicken. I do eat it occasionally for lunch, because everyone wants to go to El Polo Loco. Can’t cook it at home, although I’ve tried.

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  158. 158
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    I love chicken when someone else cooks it, but I really dislike the smell of raw chicken, so almost never cook chicken myself. Probably stems from assisting in the slaughter and plucking of many chickens when I was a kid. Some aromas linger in an unpleasant and visceral way for many decades.

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  160. 160
    Roger Moore says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    I do wonder about what today’s Congress would do.

    Up to Pearl Harbor, I think they would have behaved about the way they have been: trying to trip up Obama any way they possibly could. But after Pearl Harbor, I think they would have reacted about the way Congress did after 9/11. Given a choice between fighting amongst ourselves and fighting outsiders, we’ll rally around the flag and beat up those outsiders. We know we can go back to our internal disputes after the external threat has been neutralized.

  161. 161
    Soonergrunt says:

    Two uncles on my mother’s side took part in the initial landings. One with 1st Inf Div, one with 29th Inf Div. One of my dad’s uncles took part with 1st Inf Div. All three of them fought all the way across Europe and then came home.
    My dad’s dad was a Railroad employee at the start of the war, and as such was forbidden by law from leaving his job and enlisting. He was bitter about this for years. My mom’s dad was drafted in 1944, and went overseas to the Pacific theater after Japan surrendered, but he still spent over a year fighting japanese guerilla fighters in the jungles of the Phillipines.

  162. 162
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Roger Moore: Are you kidding? The bastards in the House would have introduced articles of impeachment if this country had suffered a major attack during Obama’s presidency.

  163. 163
    LanceThruster says:


    Wow. For the record that “Partnering With Eagles” site has some serious Reich Wing nonsense.

  164. 164
    Long Tooth says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): @Jeremy: Wendell Wilkie being the exception to that rule of thumb. Granted, he came out of nowhere to capture the 1940 republican nomination for the presidency, and to nowhere he returned as far as the GOP was concerned. Still, as speechwriter Robert Sherrod later related, he witnessed FDR genuinely angered by a snide remark made at Wilkies expense by a close (unnamed) advisor. Roosevelt made clear he would brook no insult of Wilkie in his presence, as the Kansas republican had played a pivotal role in combatting the isolationist movement.

  165. 165
    beltane says:

    @Soonergrunt: Or during Bill Clinton’s administration for that matter. Rallying around the flag is something that half the country is only capable of doing when a Republican is president.

  166. 166
    Someguy says:

    In fairness to the Western efforts re: the Soviet 20:1 casualty rate, a lot of that was due to Stalin’s immense stupidity and paranoia. He purged his generals and defense establishment repeatedly prior to fighting with Hitler, was really only interested in frontal attacks, and was happy to squander lives in lieu of developing an industrial base. Stalin also sent troops forward into battle without rifles, assuming they’d pick one up off a dead German or a dead comrade, and he put machine gun battalions at their backs to ensure they went forward. At the same time, the Germans captured millions of Soviet troops, and exterminated them on the spot, or let them die a slow death of starvation and/or overwork.
    The Soviet contribution was huge, but the stupidity of it was boggling, as if Roosevelt had decided to stop German troop trains by dropping NYC subway cars full of commuters onto the German trains…

    My family saw WWII from the seats behind home plate. One great uncle was in the Scots guards, he returned to poverty as most brits did. Another was in the RAF, a fighter pilot who somehow survived the Battle of Britain and made it to the end of the war, dying on the last day. My family in the U.S. – two great uncles in the airborne divisions (82nd, 101st) who dropped on June 6 and fought through to VE Day unharmed, one helped liberate a concentration camp, they returned to life as a barber and a salesman. One great uncle in the Marines, never knew him, made Master Sergeant during the war and survived it, couldn’t have been good, but he lived another 30 years and ran a jewelry store. God-father served in three campaigns in the Marines as a grunt Sergeant, also returned to life as a salesman. He couldn’t talk about it and even into his 80’s would just cry a lot about the friends he lost when the subject of WWII came up.

  167. 167
    ellie says:

    @AliceBlue: My uncle was in Merrill’s Marauder’s in CBI. The only thing he said about it was at night in the jungle, when the tigers would roar the whole ground would shake.

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  169. 169
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Juju: The President spoke at the American Cemetery at Collville-Sur-Mer. There are 9,387 graves there.

  170. 170
    LauraPDX says:

    I spent Memorial Day this year watching almost all of the episodes of “Victory at Sea,” which was required viewing for my siblings and me when we were young (we watched the reruns; we were too young for the original broadcasts). The narrator comes across as a bit of an avenging angel, and the script is just a bit over the top, but the films were still compelling, and quite moving at times. The most emotional for me were the scenes of planes returning to the carriers after an air battle, the pilots either injured or exhausted, and their planes crashing on deck, or falling over the sides after all that effort. Although the Japanese were definitely portrayed as the enemy, some of the captured films gave an insight into what the war was like from their side as well. Each episode is only 26 minutes long, so there is no in-depth examination of the battles – I finished each one wanting to know more.

    My own father entered the navy at the very end of the war and was sent to the Pacific; he was among the original occupying forces after the surrender, which included a stop in Hiroshima. He snapped a couple of pictures of the complete destruction, but said overall it was too horrific to even contemplate and he was glad to leave the area. My mom enlisted as a WAVE, and served as an aerographer’s mate, putting together weather reports for the Pacific fleet. Her most vivid memory of the war though is getting courts-martialled for being outside after sundown on the day President Roosevelt died! She didn’t know that that sundown was a time, and had nothing to do with whether the sun was still in the sky or not (she was acquitted).

  171. 171
    Tokyokie says:

    @ellie: My grade-school principal was a second lieutenant with Merrill’s Marauders. He’d tell his schoolchildren some reasonably innocent tales like about the time he and his men ate raw snails plucked off the underside of a bridge while a Japanese patrol passed over it, and we’d al shudder, eliciting a chuckle from him. It wasn’t until much later that I realized he was chuckling over what he hadn’t told us rather than what he had.

  172. 172
    phein39 says:

    My Uncle Stan was a member of the Lincoln Brigade, wounded in Spain. He was old enough to know why they had left Slovenia for Pittsburgh in the first place, but that fascism had to be fought. One of his younger brothers, my Uncle Joe, was on the beach on D-Day (can’t remember which one, can’t ask him now), and he’d always said it was worse than the time he’d spent on a Georgia chain-gang as a teenager.

    My father was too young (eleven years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked), but my mom and her sisters worked at the ammunition plants in St. Louis during WWII.

    My parents met in the Air Force during the Korean War, and although they wanted better things for their children that didn’t stop them from signing the papers when I joined the Army at 17.

    At no point did any of them ever act like what they had done was exceptional. As many above have pointed out, you did what was called for, that’s just the way it was. Some served in some ways, some in others, or supported those that did.

    I think that’s why the whole “Thank you for your service” bit bothers me. It’s not just that the people saying it think your choice was not ordinary, but that they reject the notion that they had a duty to serve in some way: being informed, voting, providing actual (not jingoistic) support, something, anything. We’re not all in it together anymore, and now the lives of volunteer servicemembers are toys for Andrew Sullivan to play with.

  173. 173
    scav says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): Not AWOL! Does this mean he’s lost all honor and right to have a celebration? Police might be endangered looking for him! Call off all d-day events!! ( yes, low-hanging faux fruit. )

  174. 174
    NCSteve says:

    @Juju: No idea. He was out and married and living his own life when the war started. The entire family was oddly unaware of the fact he’d been in the 82nd until someone finally made it over to France and saw his tombstone.

    This has rattled me a bit since we made the discovery. Somehow, the fact that he was in a famous “crack” unit held no significance whatsoever to my grandparents and their kids. I suspect part of it was just simple grief, part of it was that the concept of “airborne” had no meaning to them at the time and acquired nothing afterward. It was only those of us in the next generation who found it significant.

    But I don’t really know what you mean by “Butner.” Do you mean “Bragg?”

  175. 175
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:


    I think that’s why the whole “Thank you for your service” bit bothers me. It’s not just that the people saying it think your choice was not ordinary, but that they reject the notion that they had a duty to serve in some way: being informed, voting, providing actual (not jingoistic) support, something, anything. We’re not all in it together, and now the volunteers are pawns for Andrew Sullivan to play with.

    I tend to feel the same way about “Thank you for your service.” It ends up seeming complimentary and dismissive at the same time.

    @scav: I went with AWOL to give someone just that chance. You’re welcome.

  176. 176
    dmbeaster says:


    Yeah, it is a little sad that the basic facts about WWII are not known. The Russians pretty much single-handed defeated the Germans, and took horrific casualties in doing so. Stalingrad was definitely a turning point, but the Russians were aggressively counter-attacking a year before that. Stalingrad (Operation Uranus) itself was the feint in force, with the main effort further north known as Operation Mars. It was a total failure, whereas the Stalingrad counter-attack was an unexpected huge success (enhanced by Hitler’s no retreat order).

    The D-Day invasion was followed on June 22, 1944 by Operation Bagration in which the Russians destroyed three German armies, which was the greatest defeat of German arms in history, and dwarfed Stalingrad.

    Compared to the scope of action in the East, the western theater really was small potatoes. None of that diminishes the dramatic importance and gallantry of D-Day, as well as the sheer difficulty of trying to invade a continent by sea. But that is its proper place in the overall scheme of history. The Russians would have overrun Germany by the end of 1945 or 1946 on their own.

  177. 177
    chopper says:


    great uncle fought in the pacific. was at iwo jima and was there when the flag was raised (the first time, not when they repeated it for the cameras).

    other old relatives fought there and in europe but my family tends to be quiet and there was never any effort to get any of their stories. they didn’t want to talk about it i’m sure, but for history’s sake it’s unfortunate.

  178. 178
    dmbeaster says:


    I think that’s why the whole “Thank you for your service” bit bothers me.

    Yeah. What really matters is doing what is necessary to really show your thanks. Like funding the VA adequately instead of exploiting problems with it as a political football, or undercutting it in order to send VA dollars to crony capitalists in order to “privatize” it.

  179. 179
    scav says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): Somebody had to jump in, honor demands it — the thread is winding down. The whole everybody had a part to play, might also play back into why NCSteve’s more immediately involved relatives didn’t find the ‘crack’ unit so impressive. All the units had missions, had successes and losses and roles.

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    Juju says:

    @NCSteve: Camp Butner was a major military staging camp. It is about 40 miles north of Durham. This might help.

  181. 181
    raven says:

    @Juju: It’s like Camp Toccoa! Curahee!

  182. 182
    NCSteve says:

    @Juju: Hmm. Didn’t know that. I’ve been here a long time, but the family is from Kentucky. The result being that when I hear “Butner” I mostly think “prisons” and “mental hospital.” Unfair of me, I know.

  183. 183
    raven says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): I had a West Pointer, Major, 2 tours of Iraq tell me that Tuesday. I felt like a woim.

  184. 184
    Tokyokie says:

    @Juju: There are a lot of former military installations stateside that are no more. A main thoroughfare here in Fort Worth is Camp Bowie Road, though Camp Bowie itself, a training facility for the 36th Infantry Division during World War I, is long gone. Similarly, about a mile from my house and about a block east of Interstate 35W are the remnants of a World War I pilot training facility. I think all that remains of it is an old shack and a couple of survey markers. Such former installations I’m sure dot the countryside, and I don’t just mean the bases closed down through the BRAC process.

  185. 185
    Calouste says:


    I think that by the time of D-Day, the Soviets had already gone further from Stalingrad towards Berlin than the whole distance from Normandy to Berlin.

    It of course goes against the usual myth-making, but D-Day was planned (between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at the Tehran conference) as a way to pull German forces from the Eastern Front.

  186. 186
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Any other recommendations for WWII movies besides the one Mnem recommended?

    When Trumpets Fade– only film that’s been made about the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.

  187. 187
    Hungry Joe says:

    I believe that on D-Day my staff-sergeant father was a radio operator on an Army Air Corps base in Belem, Brazil. Not long after that he was shipped to Memphis, TN, where he trained radio operators. People would stop in the street and demand to know why he wasn’t fighting overseas. He’d say, “I go where they send me.”

  188. 188
    Cermet says:

    And all those soldiers owe their lives and the success of the landing to the Russian soldiers who fought the vast majority of the German war machine and tore its heart out at frightful cost (the Russian’s – including civilians! engaged no less than 70% of the Wehrmacht and SS.) So, those men that came ashore on D-Day, while brave and determined, depended on the Russian army’s success. That too, should never be forgotten on D-Day, either.

  189. 189
    Roger Moore says:

    I’m not kidding. I sincerely believe that a really serious attack on the scale of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor would get enough people looking at the foreign enemy that attacks on the President would be political losers. I’m sure a teabagger Congressman or two would talk about impeachment, but they would discover that those attacks wouldn’t fly.

    The biggest thing would be that the media would get war fever. They’re happy to relay teabagger attacks today because there’s a lack of real, exciting, easy to cover news for them to latch onto, and Washington horse race crap is an endless source of material. The prospect of a WWII-scale war would give them something much better to latch onto, and the Washington media whores would discover they had no audience or one that was willing to call them what they are.

  190. 190
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @raven: Did your truck go where it was supposed to go? If so, you did your job.


    other old relatives fought there and in europe but my family tends to be quiet and there was never any effort to get any of their stories. they didn’t want to talk about it i’m sure, but for history’s sake it’s unfortunate.

    My grandfather may have talked about the war with his brothers and his friends, but he did not do so very much with his family until I joined the army. He had a lot of advice – experienced sergeant to young lieutenant stuff, incredibly useful stuff too – and a bunch of stories. I think that he decided that I needed to know, but that the others didn’t need the burden. (Thanks, you cranky old bastard.) Now that my grandmother has died and her house is being emptied, my dad has a lot of the letters that Gramps sent home. Not a lot of talk about bad things; rather a couple of funny stories, assurances that he is alright, and questions about what is going on back home.

  191. 191
    raven says:

    @Hungry Joe: I mentioned that my dad was the only one of three brothers to go. His one brother was deemed important to the recruiting/admin effort so he stayed at Navy Pier. People would come and beg him to help get their kids in the Navy. He’d see them later and they’d give him that same shit “What are you still doing stateside”? I have many of the V-Mails sent between them and I can feel the agony my uncle felt with his baby brother in the shit.

  192. 192
    Carrie says:

    My dad was there the day after, i believe…
    He did a recording for Veterans affairs here in Canada recounting his years during WWII. There’s a transcript on line as well as the video. I watch it a couple of times a year and bawl my eyes out.

  193. 193
    scav says:

    @NCSteve: @Juju: For the little it’s worth, my mother’s cousinoid from the 92nd (is it military standard to use 92d?) trained in Camp Clairborne, LA and later transferred to Fort Bragg, NC, from where he embarked for overseas duty. No idea when he officially joined the 92nd. He’d originally be from Indiana, if that makes a difference.

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    raven says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): Yea but that “thanks for your service” made me wobbly.

  195. 195
    Juju says:

    @NCSteve: My mother, who is from Culver Indiana, has letters written to her from her brother while he was stationed in Camp Butner. I read those letters, not really making the connection myself, until we moved to NC. I got a chance to explore Butner because I went to a funeral in what was once the military church, but is now a catholic church. It’s an interesting area, if you enjoy semi-obscure military history.

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  197. 197
    Trollhattan says:

    When I was a kid probably every dad on the block, to a man, had been in the war. Our uncles all served, too. Today, I know exactly one Iraq-Afghanistan vet. One.

    The public is at a loss as to how to acknowledge these folks when we run into them. It’s no longer an ingrained part of our culture.

  198. 198
    Roger Moore says:


    At the same time, the Germans captured millions of Soviet troops, and exterminated them on the spot, or let them die a slow death of starvation and/or overwork.

    This is a key point. A lot of the non-Russian Soviet troops started the war with weak national loyalty and surrendered in droves. When Soviets figured out that being captured was a death sentence, their resistance stiffened. They still suffered terrible casualties, but the massive surrenders of the first year of the war didn’t repeat.

  199. 199
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @raven: Was that in an FA unit? I spent a year as Battalion Ammo Officer/Ammo Platoon leader. Easiest job I had in the army. I had a platoon sergeant who took care of everything; gave me the stuff I needed to sign and made sure I knew just enough of what he was doing so I could brief the brass and keep them out of his hair. We won Corps level awards for things and all I had to do was look pretty and get the brass out of his AO as quickly as possible. I read a lot during that year.

  200. 200
    raven says:

    @Trollhattan: I make it a point NOT to say it.

  201. 201
    Juju says:

    @scav: My uncle was from Culver Indiana.

  202. 202
    raven says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name): The Major I chatted with was a Redleg and I noticed that they have gone back to just the crossed cannon’s. We were a 105 unit but had that missile.

    Ammo was weird, we were pretty much the bottom of the barrel since it didn’t take a great deal of smarts to drive to the ASP, load the ammo, drive back to the fort, unload and stack it in the bunkers and then take it all out to the field and shoot it.

    Here’s my home movies, you might like to see the live fire at about 10:57.

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    Chris says:

    Random question about those World War Two movies. Anybody know if they ever made a movie about the (far less often discussed) landings in Provence that August?

  204. 204
    WaterGirl says:

    @Hungry Joe: I see where you get your practical side!

  205. 205
    raven says:

    @Chris: This film, Days of Glory (2006 film) is about an Algerian outfit that fights in Italy and then the South of France;

    The troops of the 7th ATR are transported to France to participate in Operation Dragoon to liberate the south of France.[3] While aboard ship, a white cook refuses to give tomatoes to black soldiers. Abdelkader calls for equality but the mutiny is averted when Martinez and the company Captain assures everyone will be treated the same.

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    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: Where’s your hat, soldier?

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    raven says:

    @WaterGirl: Cover, I was a raggedy ass 17 year old kid with a shitty attitude. I was ok in the field and when we had a mission but a lousy garrison trooper.

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    chopper says:

    @Roger Moore:

    it was a smart move by russia. if the germans held on to these guys they would have been bogged down in dealing with massive numbers of POWs. if the germans kill them instead, it stiffens the resolve of the actual russians left over to fight until the last man.

  209. 209
    scav says:

    @Juju: Cousinoid would have been from Starke co, but I don’t know the exact family history enough to know if they were San Pierre or North Judson or some other nearby hamlet at the time.

  210. 210
    Roger Moore says:


    The D-Day invasion was followed on June 22, 1944 by Operation Bagration in which the Russians destroyed three German armies, which was the greatest defeat of German arms in history, and dwarfed Stalingrad.

    The Battle of Normandy was almost as devastating for Germany as the Destruction of Army Group Center. It involved the effective destruction of an entire Army Group- the main German units still existed on paper after the battle but had negligible real strength- and caused almost as many casualties and loss of equipment. Unlike Bagration, it pushed the front lines almost to the German border. Yes, Bagration was a worse defeat, but it was a quantitative rather than a qualitative difference.

  211. 211
    Chris says:


    Thanks! I’ll look for it.

    And now, a random fact about the Battle of France: according to the French documentary I just finished watching, one of the ways De Gaulle convinced Eisenhower to head for Paris after the city rebelled against the Germans, was by pointing out that the longer you left things in the hands of the resistance, the stronger the communists (huge element within resistance ranks) would get.

    Man. Say what you want about De Gaulle, but did he know how to get an American’s attention or what?

  212. 212
    gogol's wife says:

    All glory to the Russian people, but it should be pointed out that they were invaded. They didn’t cross an ocean to participate in the war. And their government began as Hitler’s ally.

  213. 213
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    John Keegan’s Six Armies in Normandy is a pretty good look that the Normandy campaign from D-Day through the liberation of Paris.

  214. 214
    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: You were certainly a young pup in that photo! So glad you made it through in spite of your age!

    Edit: I imagine it was quite a trip for your fellow soldiers to watch you go from young pup to grown-up in a very short span of time.

  215. 215
    raven says:

    @Chris: It’s actually quite sad. After the war many of the Algerians stayed in France. When Algeria gained their independence the French government took away their pensions.

  216. 216
    raven says:

    @WaterGirl: There were plenty of young guys, just not quite as young as me. I’m in touch with a couple but more of the guys I was in the Nam with than Korea.

  217. 217

    @WaterGirl: Also too, cute!
    @raven: You look blonde in your photo, so why are you raven? Or is it the name of one your dogs?

  218. 218
    KS in MA says:


    One of my uncles “flew the hump” too. My dad (stationed in Connecticut) helped write the mechanics’ manuals for the P-38 and other fighter planes. That’s where he met my mom, who helped draft the illustrations.

  219. 219
    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: I think it’s crazy that we send our young boys off to war. You looked about 14! But I know how you got there, and it’s hard to argue that you made the wrong choice since you have a pretty damn good life.

  220. 220
    raven says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Yea, my long lost cocker. He was a great doggie. Raven

  221. 221
    raven says:

    @WaterGirl: No one else would do that stupid shit.

  222. 222

    @raven: He looks noble and wise.

  223. 223
    raven says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: He had the heart of a lion and took the cancer treatment with great dignity.

  224. 224
    Chris says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    And their government began as Hitler’s ally.

    This. The Russian Front doesn’t get nearly enough attention in the West, but I always take the “Russia did the bulk of the work” thing with a couple grains of salt;

    1) Most obviously, comparing the fate of Soviet-occupied Europe vs American/British/Canadian-occupied Europe after the war, I for one am thrilled that my other country was one of the latter. Which doesn’t mean I think the Anglos were saints, there’s a nasty side to the Western war and aftermath that we don’t like to talk about as well – but there’s no comparison with what it would’ve been if it had been the Russians who rolled in. Even accounting for all the romanticization since the end of the war, there’s a reason the French call it “the liberation” and the Poles… don’t.

    There’s a good argument to be made that America/Britain/Canada didn’t save France and the other countries from the Nazis so much as save them from the Soviets – and I’m totally okay with that, and still every bit as grateful.

    2) The Soviets signed an alliance with Hitler. They actually took the cooperation to the point that they were co-invading Poland and splitting it up between them. Again, I’m not saying the Anglos (or French) were saints. All the big players enabled the rise of fascism to some extent – and pro-fascist sentiment in the West, especially among conservative elites, is a topic you’ll regularly find me bitching about. That said, I can’t think of any Western government that went as far as Stalin in cooperating with Hitler.

    The Soviet Union easily paid the biggest price of the three big allies, but to put it bluntly, their government probably worked harder than anyone else’s to put them in that hole in the first place before they started digging themselves out.

    None of that invalidates the point that they both took horrific losses (far more than anyone in the West) and inflicted the bulk of the damage on the German army, but I still like to add these footnotes.

  225. 225
    WaterGirl says:

    @raven: That’s exactly what I was thinking, I just didn’t know quite how to say it.

    Edit: on another subject… Finished the first of the two bletcley circle stories last night. I had no idea the British had done that to their soldiers. We have apparently been selling out our soldiers for a long time.

  226. 226
    Chris says:


    And then wondered why all the Algerians were rebelling.

  227. 227
    WaterGirl says:

    Is anyone else feeling kind of melancholy after all this talk of war and sacrifice and family members who are now gone?

  228. 228
    Long Tooth says:

    @Someguy: A well known WW2 autobiography is entitled Curahee!*, and was written by a trooper who jumped with the 101st into Normandy. He fought all the way with the division, through Holland and the Ardennes, and on into Germany. One night shortly after returning home to Cleveland, he decided to grab a beer at a local saloon. There he was refused service, because he wasn’t 21 years old yet.

  229. 229
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @Chris: Algérie Française! A cry that led to a lot of fucked-upedness.

  230. 230
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:


    I’ve had this conversation multiple times. Other considerations are that the US was fighting on multiple fronts while the Soviets fought on one very long front (vs. Germany) and one very short front (vs. Finland), the US had to greatly expand and support a navy (extremely expensive), US citizens were making materiel for the Soviets and then using that navy to get that materiel to the Soviets.

    There’s a scene in Band of Brothers that explains our central role in WWII very well.

  231. 231
    Ruckus says:

    Sitting at the VA one day a rather large man sitting across from me started talking. Asked me where/when I served. Nothing unusual so I asked him the same question. He hadn’t served unless you count Rikers Island. That’s the prison in NY. Had been there for 30yrs, didn’t say why, nor did I ask. After another 15 min or so we parted ways and he said thanks for your service. Like always when someone says that it felt, I don’t know, maybe phony. I don’t think it was or usually is but it strikes me that way. Maybe because it wasn’t a choice that most of us really had. It was for most, the least worst of a crap situation.

  232. 232
    scav says:

    @WaterGirl: Um, given the current society that is indulging in a spate of open carry we shoot our own self-indulgence? with a side of pre-emptive thou shalt not celebrate neighbors’ son’s returns? I don’t quite know what mood to manage. I’m actually rather glad my Pacific Theater Old-school gun-nut great-uncle with Macular Degeneration valiantly protecting his downstate town from rumbling Commie Tanks in the 80s died before he had to contemplate what his beloved GOP did to his much-relied upon VA.

  233. 233
    texasdem says:

    @Phoebes: My dad was a fighter pilot in the South Pacific–probably survived only because he got a bad case of malaria and was sent back to the US to recover. After that, he was a liaison with British forces in Australia and India. When he came back, his rule was “no mutton, ever”. It took 30 years for him to even try lamb.

  234. 234
    Ruckus says:

    I know that I’ve said this before but Raven looks like my cocker, Bud’s twin.

  235. 235
    bemused senior says:

    My father flew P-47 missions on D-Day. Here is more about his life, and pictures he took during WW-II.

  236. 236
    Ruckus says:

    Yes. I always do.

  237. 237
    Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name) says:

    @bemused senior: Cool. I like that there is a dog pic in there.

  238. 238
    WaterGirl says:

    @scav: You said you don’t quite know what mood to manage. Me, too.

    Yesterday was apparently my angry day. I think I typed more swear words on BJ yesterday than I have (collectively) in my whole life! But then Baud makes me laugh out loud and other good things happen in my life, so I am just trying to roll with it all.

    But damn, watching all this hate can get discouraging.

  239. 239
    Glocksman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus (the first of his name):

    My maternal grandfather was also too old to be drafted and worked at the Chrysler ammunition plant during the war.
    After the war he went back into banking and was President of the Newburgh State Bank when he died in 1964.

    I was born in 1967.

    One of the things I never got to ask him was why he took part in the strike at the plant over hiring blacks.
    Setting aside the issue of striking at a war plant during wartime, I would have liked to known if he was a genuine racist or just ‘went along’ so to speak.

  240. 240
    Chris says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    The “multiple front war” thing is the one that gets me, especially when you consider that however “little” America did to help out on the European front, the Soviets did even less to help us out on the Pacific front.

    Great Band of Brothers clip, forgot all about it. Supposedly, Ike once named the five pieces of equipment that won World War Two… and all five of them were logistics, not weapons (I remember the jeep and C-47, not the other three). Ford and General Motors, indeed.

  241. 241
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Chris: Yeah, but the main reason the USSR made an alliance with Hitler was that the USSR was completely unprepared for war with Germany. Stalin was desperately trying to establish an alliance with the UK and the US, but politicians in both those countries were trying to work deals with Hitler in order to buy time for themselves, and were also supremely unwilling to align themselves with godless Bolsheviks. Stalin would have been happy with a treaty with the UK, but knew that Hitler had a dagger pointed straight at him, so he had Molotov engineer a pact with Germany instead of waiting for the West to come around. The partition and occupation of Poland was meant to provide the USSR a buffer on that border. In the event it didn’t work out for Stalin. The whole thing was a lot more complicated than “Evil Germany stabbed the evil USSR in the back”.

  242. 242
    Comrade Colette Collaboratrice says:

    @Juju: @PurpleGirl: I’ve visited Colleville-sur-Mer a few times – once on the 55th anniversary of D-Day. The reverence with which the young Marines who guarded the cemetery greeted the returning vets was lovely. They spoke to them as awestruck boys would if Superman casually showed up at their Little League game.

    What stuck with me the other times, besides the endlessness of the field of graves, is the gradient from noise to silence. Lots of French kids are taken there on school outings, and they – and many of the other visitors – get off their buses chattering and laughing as any kids would. As they move into the cemetery and begin to absorb what’s around them, the voices dwindle, then stop. At the far side, there’s only a hush, and the sea.

  243. 243
    dimmsdale says:

    @cmorenc: …and, I would suggest, not one of them gave a tenth of a s**t about being able to open-carry their service rifles into the supermarket or the Horn & Hardart, just ’cause they could.

  244. 244
    Tehanu says:

    My husband’s uncle was at D-Day on Day 1. My uncle also flew the Hump, but for being on the fringes, nothing beats my dad’s story: sent to the Belgian Congo to build airfields to link with the British in Kenya; about the time that fell through, being hospitalized with some kind of jungle rot, while his unit went to Tobruk and was wiped out; transferred to Cairo, then Tel Aviv, Basra, the Persian Gulf, Tehran, and Northern Persia, relaying radio messages between Cairo, the Russians, and the CBI command. I’ve never met any other WWII veteran with a service record quite like it. Alas, there are all too many veterans now with Persian Gulf experience.

  245. 245
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Chris: @Chris: I remember the quote as “The Jeep, the Dakota, and the landing craft were the three tools that won the war.” Don’t recall anything about any others.

  246. 246
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    @Chris: The USSR wasn’t capable of doing anything in the Pacific theatre until 1945; everything was tied up fighting the Germans. We weren’t inclined to have them help, either. One of the reasons the atomic bombs were used against Japan was to try to force an end to the Pacific War before the USSR could get involved.

  247. 247
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Comrade Scrutinizer:

    Stalin’s later actions- ignoring UK-provided intel of the Nazi buildup for Barbarossa- tells me that Molotov-Ribbentrop was something other than just a marriage of convenience. The Soviets were trying to rebuild the Tsarist empire in the West.

  248. 248
    Roger Moore says:

    I would extend what you said a bit further.

    1) A lot of the “The Soviets did the bulk of the fighting” reaches that conclusion by focusing exclusively on the land war in Europe and Africa. It ignores the war at sea and the war in Asia and the Pacific. Germany was very substantially constrained by their need to import raw materials, and the UK/USA blockade did a lot to keep them from getting what they wanted and needed. At the same time, the UK/USA navies and merchants marine were fighting and dying to bring vital supplies to the Soviets. Toss in the less effective air war, and it’s clear that the UK and USA were fighting damned hard. Meanwhile, the Soviets were doing nothing about Japan, which soaked up a lot of effort from the USA, UK, and (especially) China. So yes, the Soviets did the vast majority of the fighting if you ignore all the parts of the fighting that they didn’t contribute much to. As far as the dying part, a lot of that can be laid at the feet of callous and incompetent Soviet leadership.

    2) In the lead-up to the war, the Soviets were obviously trying to play the fascists off against the democrats in the hopes their class enemies would kill each other off. I’m sure the war would have happened without that, but the Soviets clearly weren’t helping. After they stabbed Poland in the back, they continued to help Nazi Germany as part of their deal. They continued to sell critical supplies to Germany even as it was increasingly clear they were the next target, literally up to the day the Axis invaded. They brought a lot of their problems down on their own heads.

  249. 249
    Roger Moore says:


    Like always when someone says that it felt, I don’t know, maybe phony.

    A big problem is that words are really inadequate. You don’t want to go away from something like that without somehow acknowledging that the person served their country. At the same time, any simple thing you can say to try to express your thanks is going to wind up trite and cliched because it is simple and anyone can repeat it without thought or meaning.

  250. 250
    johnny aquitard says:


    None of the vets ever, ever spoke of their wartime experiences

    I had an uncle on my mother’s side who had been a marine in the s. pacific during the war. He’d been on Guadalcanal and on Iwo Jima and a number of other islands.

    My uncle mentioned it to me exactly once, when I was about ten. I had made one of those little plastic models, it was a sherman tank or something, and it had come with a couple of molded plastic infantrymen. And I remember proudly showing the thing to him and telling him the instructions say the US infantrymen carried two differnt kinds of guns, an M-1 carbine and an M-1 Garand (I pronounced it “Grand”), and wondered what was the diffence.

    First thing he told me was, it’s called a rifle not gun (as many have noted here). And he said the M-1 Garand wasn’t just any rifle. (and he pronounced Garand so it sounded like “Gairnd”). It was, he said, one of the best. He had spoken slowly, in such a way that it made quite an impression on me (no doubt as I remembered this to this day).

    And as any 10-year-old know-it-all would do, I asked him how he knew all that.

    That’s when he told me he had been a marine in the pacific war. He had lied about his age to join the marines when he was 16. He was 21 when the war ended. He said had been on a number of the islands, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, two which I’d heard of even at age 10, the others I hadn’t.

    He told me a story when he was on one of the islands. He said after it had been declared secured he was doing guard duty because none of the islands were ever really cleared of japanese. He said one night he had this bizarre feeling that someone was hiding in this wrecked concrete storage bin. Everyone had told him it’d been checked a bunch of times, and anyway no one could even fit in it even if they wanted to hide in it.

    But he couldn’t shake the feeling and yet he said he felt foolish to keep going on about it after everyone told him there’s nothing there. So he waited all night, watching. And in the middle of the night 2 japanese soldiers came silently out of the bin, and he was waiting for them.

    And that was all he said to me about the war. Never said what happened to those soldiers (although when I got older I realized he shot them). He never mentioned any thing about the war again, or even that he’d been a marine.

    I didn’t even know my uncle had been decorated until just before he passed away. I went to his house and for the first time I saw a bunch of medals arranged in the china cabinet. I knew my aunt must have put them there. I know he wouldn’t have. I recall saying to him that I hadn’t known he’d been decorated. He shrugged and said they gave them to everybody, then walked away.

    I do believe he made my aunt put them away after that.

    I learned later, after he’d died, that he had never talked to anyone about the war. Not my aunt, not their children, nor anyone. When I told my aunt about the hiding japanese soldiers, she’d never heard that. Apparently I was the only one he had mentioned anything to, and that was exactly once, when I was a kid.

  251. 251
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @catclub: Late to the party but…

    The npr blip did mention the Russians actually lost 20 times as many soldiers as the US did,

    I heard that segment too and thought the report was well done, but she (the reporter) was a little sloppy in saying that the “Russians” suffered those losses. It was the Soviets that had those huge losses.

    This piece at the BBC is quite interesting, given 70 years ago and recent events:

    The Kremlin has long minimised the role of the United States, Great Britain and France in the war effort. It focuses instead on remembering its far greater losses – the nearly 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians who perished during the war.

    In leading the Soviet Union to victory and attempting to legitimise his harsh rule, Russian leader Josef Stalin turned the war effort into primarily a Russian struggle, one that is still celebrated every May. (Indeed, official use of World War Two nostalgia is a hallmark of the Putin era.)

    The sacrifices of other Soviet ethnic groups were less noted, despite the fact that Ukraine and Belarus suffered proportionately much greater losses than did ethnic Russians. According to official Ukrainian data, between 8 million and 14 million Ukrainians lost their lives. Of the 42 million people living in Ukraine before the war, only 27 million were alive in 1945. Many Soviet generals were Ukrainian, and the country Ukraine was the largest contributor to the industrial resources of the USSR.


  252. 252
    opiejeanne says:

    @raven: My dad must have seen plenty because would only tell us the funny stuff, and a little of the close calls he had, but nothing really upsetting. He had passes to the Nuremburg Trials (I still have them) and didn’t go. His own dad was really annoyed about that because it was historical, but Dad said he didn’t have the stomach for it. I have a photo of Ike coming out of a meeting in Nuremburg after the war, taken by one of Dad’s roommates. He is dressed in khaki and there isn’t a single bit of decoration on him. If you didn’t know it was Ike you wouldn’t think he was anyone important.

    My FIL was on Shemya, arrived after the Battle of Attu. The most excitement he had (from what I could tell) was listening to Tokyo Rose, but to hear him talk about the war you’d think he stormed Hitler’s bunker. The Tokyo Rose story was this: his crew had just painted the chapel white, including the steeple, and that evening or the next she came on the radio and thanked them for the great target. I have no idea if it’s true but it’s a good story.

  253. 253
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Which is exactly why I think it feels like it from the receiving end, no matter what the sender intends.
    I usually just say “You’re welcome.”

  254. 254
    dmbeaster says:


    Couldn’t agree more, although the 1939 pact cannot be called an alliance. It was a thieves’ bargain based on expediency. Both expected to break it when it suited them. The Russians then spent the rest of the war being paranoid about the West making a secret deal with the Nazis after they had done so themselves.

  255. 255
    opiejeanne says:

    @NCSteve: My husband is named after his father’s cousin, who was killed during the war. For some reason I have the letter sent to his parents. It’s a form letter, and a terrible thing to read.

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