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June 6, 2011 6:51 AM   Subscribe

67 years ago today, 150, 000 allied troops landed on 5 beaches on the coast of France that were defended by Rommel and about 60,000 troops of the Nazi Wermacht. Today is the D-Day landings anniversary. Lest we forget.
posted by dazed_one (62 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
My uncle parachuted in. I applaud this post, and am tryiing to kick myself in the nuts to to avail, for not looking at my calendar. Thank you dazed.
posted by timsteil at 6:56 AM on June 6, 2011


timsteil: Leg #1 knee forward to a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to the #2 standing leg. Swing #1 lower leg towards balls rapidly. You'll curse me later.
posted by jaduncan at 7:00 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled.
posted by valkyryn at 7:03 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


My dad's older brother Al was on one of those landing craft that day. Got half his right hand shot off and almost bled-out lying there in shock. Never talked about it.
posted by octothorpe at 7:03 AM on June 6, 2011


The cemetery above Omaha Beach
posted by Trurl at 7:07 AM on June 6, 2011


I had no idea about the horrors suffered not just at the landings but during the push into France until I read this book.
posted by Summer at 7:07 AM on June 6, 2011


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posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:08 AM on June 6, 2011


We should never forget.
posted by timsteil at 7:19 AM on June 6, 2011


> We should never forget

I'm sure that scene pales in comparison to the actual horror of the landing, but it still makes me sick watching it. I almost wish the whole movie was just three hours of the initial landing assault that lays naked the stupid horror of war and none of the weird fabrication that came after.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:38 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I was in 11th grade, the grandfather of one of my other students, who was at Normandy, came to talk to our history class about his experiences. He sobbed openly when he talked about storming the beaches and seeing what he thought were sand dunes, but were instead "waves" of corpses of those who had gone ahead of him. It was an experience which marked me deeply.
posted by dhens at 7:40 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I grew up in one of the planned communities designed to help the WWII veterans come home, purchase houses, and chase the American Dream.

My memories are of men in their mid-fifties or so, their hair sprinkled with silver, walking around main street, or quietly reading magazines in the library, or grilling in the park. Not all of the men of that age fought in the War, of course, but they're the ones that stood out in the black and white pictures of the town's history with a small "v." next to their name. Then I remembered that's how my father remembers the men of the Great War and how we've nearly lost the first-hand memories of that time and place.

It makes me sad to think that I'll live long enough to see those men from my childhood, whether they landed on the beaches of France or fought in the North African desert, fade down to two dozen, one dozen, and less, until they've all finally passed on.
posted by burnfirewalls at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks dad.
posted by tula at 7:42 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Melismata at 7:43 AM on June 6, 2011


My Mum still remembers the sound of planes flying over southern England. She and her family were awakened early by the noise and knew the push has begun. She remembers people being very quiet and determined as they went about their day and most folks dropped into a church at some point.
posted by pentagoet at 7:44 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Xoebe at 7:47 AM on June 6, 2011


My Mum still remembers the sound of planes flying over southern England. She and her family were awakened early by the noise and knew the push has begun. She remembers people being very quiet and determined as they went about their day and most folks dropped into a church at some point.

My gran was shot at by the Luftwaffe. The bastards.

We owe a huge debt to the people who went through it for us. I can't imagine what the world would look like if they'd failed.
posted by Summer at 7:59 AM on June 6, 2011


As a young girl in Belgium during the war, my mom was hidden from the Nazis by the nuns at a convent in the Belgian countryside. Her understated recollection of D-Day is this: We heard the Americans had landed, and I knew I was safe.

Thank you.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:00 AM on June 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


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posted by longdaysjourney at 8:03 AM on June 6, 2011


horselover: I hear you hear you about how much it pales. Imagine being 19, and having no idea what you are doing other than it is the right thing. FWIW. my uncle never talked about it either past the point he jumped in.

Biggest place this hit me was on old Route 66, interviewing a guy about gas stations he had run. Old fart, has a million of everything, and I see a little glass jar full of sand. Bad fading masking tape, that says "Omaha Beach." I asked him about it.

He says

"You should carry some sardines. Every damned German I killed or captured had two tins of them in his pockets. Coupla crackers and them, you can go all day. Its all I had to eat for 8 days. It kept me going. we were in France someplace."
posted by timsteil at 8:04 AM on June 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 8:07 AM on June 6, 2011


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posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on June 6, 2011


My uncle Leo, who just recently passed away, was involved with the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. He never wanted to talk about those. But you can be Damn sure I put decoration on his grave on Memorial Day. I salute you, Sir!
posted by TDavis at 8:18 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ils sont revenus: The Sainte Mère Église Paratrooper Windows.

1944, Omaha Beach LST

“We bring you now a special broadcast of historic significance: The first Jewish religious service broadcast from Germany since the advent of Hitler.”

The War Graves Photographic Project
posted by zamboni at 8:36 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is also important to keep in mind that Operation Overlord was the largest single undertaking in the history of human warfare. Only at that time and under the precise circumstances prevailing in 1944 could it ever have succeeded. Nuclear weapons now guarantee that, even if the vast sea and air fleets that supplied and carried out the invasion were in existence and could be deployed, the invasion force would be destroyed. Even in the absence of nuclear weapons, only becasue the Allies had complete air superiority was the D-Day invasion fleet able to remain intact. And this air superiority rested entirely on the availabily of intact and safe bases in Britain.

THe Normandy invasion was a unique achievement. Those who planned and executed it--at every level, from the GIs and Tommys to the brass hats and logistical specialists and the seamen and airmen--deserve immortal glory for making it happen. May their memory be honored today and every on 6th of June to come.
posted by rdone at 8:41 AM on June 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Ever listen to George Hicks' report from the U.S.S. Ancon, right at the beginning of the invasion? I've never heard something so immersive and incredible.
posted by Jinkeez at 8:45 AM on June 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Jinkeez: "Ever listen to George Hicks' report from the U.S.S. Ancon, right at the beginning of the invasion? I've never heard something so immersive and incredible."

Thanks for posting that - I've never heard it and you're right, it's incredible.

WW1 is very nearly entirely out of living memory and it won't be all that long before WWII goes the same way. Hopefully posts like this, passed on memories and recordings like George Hick's report will go some small way to preserving what must be remembered.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:53 AM on June 6, 2011


The fact that we are rapidly running out of WWII vets is the main reason why we should have a massive land invasion of a different country every 25 years so that every generation can be "the greatest one" and our society will never forget the lessons and horrors of war.
posted by Renoroc at 8:59 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Didn't take long for this thread to get Godwinned, did it?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on June 6, 2011


I remember talking to a friend after seeing Saving Private Ryan.

"Why didn't they bomb the beach before going in?" she asked.
"They did. For hours and hours. But you can't do it too much."
"Why?"
"Because the way to defend a beach invasion is to try and slow them down as much as possible on the beach, but still allow them to land. Then you smash their weakened force with fast-moving armor on the ground. If you bomb the beach for too long, you're giving the enemy time to position a force to react to your landing. D-Day was successful precisely because the Germans were caught looking the other way, and couldn't react fast enough."
"Oh."
"Yeah, there was a big-ass head fake involved."
"But ... but that means the guys got into the boats knowing it wasn't the best possible scenario."
"Pretty much, yeah."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:11 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


> "But ... but that means the guys got into the boats knowing it wasn't the best possible scenario."

Also, attempts at getting heavier tanks and artillery units on the beach failed.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:12 AM on June 6, 2011


Summer: Mum was shot at by the Luftwaffe, too. She and my father were chased a la "North By Northwest". It happened more often than anyone ever admitted.
She kept her bullet-riddled coat for years until it fell apart.
posted by pentagoet at 9:16 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Better link about the tanks at Omaha beach)
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:16 AM on June 6, 2011


D-day? is that the day we went around ringin' those bells and warnin' those germans?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:28 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by BillBishop at 9:29 AM on June 6, 2011


My mother's birthday is June 5. She was annoyed because her party was cancelled. [/all I got]
posted by jokeefe at 9:37 AM on June 6, 2011



My mother's birthday is June 5. She was annoyed because her party was cancelled. [/all I got]


That gave me a good small laugh. Sometimes we need a little laughter when remembering such a day.


Jinkeez: "Ever listen to George Hicks' report from the U.S.S. Ancon, right at the beginning of the invasion? I've never heard something so immersive and incredible."

Thank you for posting that link.
posted by zombieApoc at 9:42 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by pemberkins at 9:44 AM on June 6, 2011


Percy Howard: I'd seen the coast, yes. I'd seen the planes. I'd seen the shells starting and then everything was just so noisy and so crowded that you wondered how anything would… Even in the air, and the noise was horrific. That moment is when you really realized then, when shells started landing and things were blowing up, you realized then it was for real. I've always said you either grew up that day or you didn't grow up at all.

I felt fear, yes. Anybody who says they weren't afraid, I don't believe, because the commotion and the noise and the shells landing, and mines being set off, you had to be afraid, but you wanted to get on to shore.




Daniel Goniea: And then probably the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in the my life, and ever hoped to see, was we woke up about 4:00 in the morning, about the time, I don’t know what time it was, but with this loud roar and we went out and looked and these planes were going overhead. Each plane was pulling two gliders. And it was just like that. And then after, later on, they were coming back, minus the gliders of course, and it looked like a big conveyor belt. You wouldn’t think there would be that many planes in the world, let alone in England. This went on and on and on for
hours. It was really spectacular.




In case you didn't catch it the first time; the Canadian "Memory Project", stories from the Second World War is... a treasure of oral histories.

Operation: Overlord

D-Day - Omaha Beach

D-Day - Normandy Landings
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posted by infinite intimation at 9:51 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine what the world would look like if they'd failed.

The Red Army would have occupied all of Germany and who knows what else in Europe. The Nazis would still have gone down, but the Iron Curtain would have fallen much further west.

The people of what was West Germany (and Denmark? the Netherlands? Belgium?) owe their freedom to those who fought on D-Day.

Here's to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:17 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then I remembered that's how my father remembers the men of the Great War and how we've nearly lost the first-hand memories of that time and place.

The last US WWI vet died in February. From the article:

With his death, researchers said, only two of the approximately 65 million people mobilized by the world's militaries during the Great War are known to be alive: an Australian man and a British woman, 109 and 110 respectively.
posted by blind.wombat at 10:25 AM on June 6, 2011


We heard the Americans had landed, and I knew I was safe.

I think it's worth mentioning that it was very much a joint effort.
Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on 6 June came from Canada, the Free French Forces, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces also participated, as well as contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Most of the above countries also provided air and naval support, as did the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Navy.
It's also worth reading the "Deception" part of that article. There were lengthy espionage campaigns to convince Germany that the invasion would be to the north or the south, so that they'd think Normandy was a feint to distract them from the real invasion and they'd hesitate to respond with any major movement of troops and armament.
posted by Zed at 10:33 AM on June 6, 2011


I was at the WWII Museum in New Orleans yesterday. I only had a couple hours to see it before I had to catch my flight, but I'm glad I didn't miss it. It was very well done and very, very moving. It had some amazing photographs and things like a soldier's helmet, worn on D-Day, with a dent in it from a bullet. They even have a couple of Higgins boats, which were built in New Orleans.

Then they had a film, Beyond all Boundaries, that pretty much brought tears to everyone's eyes, including my own.

I was only in New Orleans for a couple of days, but I'm really glad I was able to make the museum.

I wish more people of my generation attempted to understand what those folks went through.
posted by bondcliff at 10:50 AM on June 6, 2011


Before the war, my great -Uncle Willy was a german radio operator for the Graf Zepplin. When I asked about his actions during the war, they said he wasn't in it, yet I still wonder if that was a cover.. I might never know.
posted by uni verse at 10:54 AM on June 6, 2011


One of the most poignant lines I've read (and I'm paraphrasing badly here, someone please correct me if you know the line) come from a book on D-Day that I have sitting on my shelf at home.

One was about a one lone press correspondent that stood watching the last planes fly towards France that evening. As Eisenhower stood peering up into the sky, tears were in his eyes . And, as the last plane of a blacked out formation flew over one of our allied ships awaiting departure for the invasion, it's tail light flashed out in morse code three shorts and one long...the letter "V" - for Victory.

The other was about a devout captain or a major in one of the boats going across the channel and was concerned about the upcoming days ahead and he prayed in the words of Jacob Astley, "O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, please do not thou forget me" and slept.

My grandfather was at the Battle of the Bulge and never spoke of what he saw with the 2nd Armored Division with any of the family but he was a great man and when offered payment for helping someone in the town he would always refuse and simply say "give me a good name". I miss him and the world is not quite as nice as it was when these gentlemen were in it. Apart from politics, apart from silly reasoning, apart from the bad things you can find in anything, I hope our military of today is as well meaning and courageous as these guys were then.

Thanks for the post.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:18 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]



"Because the way to defend a beach invasion is to try and slow them down as much as possible on the beach, but still allow them to land. Then you smash their weakened force with fast-moving armor on the ground. If you bomb the beach for too long, you're giving the enemy time to position a force to react to your landing. D-Day was successful precisely because the Germans were caught looking the other way, and couldn't react fast enough."


In addition, too much naval bombardment tended to obscure the landing sites with smoke, which made things difficult.

And of course there's the story about the Panzers not being allowed to mobilize without approval from der Fuhrer, who was fast asleep.

Guess it's about time for me to have my annual "Longest Day" movie marathon and raise a glass to some real heroes.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:46 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mother's birthday is June 5. She was annoyed because her party was cancelled. [/all I got]

That gave me a good small laugh. Sometimes we need a little laughter when remembering such a day.


My mother tells a few other stories about the war (she was born in Birmingham): how she was just a few months too old to get a gas mask with Mickey Mouse ears attached, sitting in the air raid shelters drinking tea and, when my brother and I were complaining about having to go the dentist, having cavities drilled without novocaine. She tells these stories because the other ones-- being separated from her older sister for most of the war, the people down the street who were bombed out and killed, the claustrophobia of the Anderson shelters-- are perhaps a bit too painful.
posted by jokeefe at 11:49 AM on June 6, 2011


It wasn't so important. The war was basically lost already for Germany. Look at the numbers. In Europe it was basically a German-Russian war.

Also, an interesting take from Buchanan
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:02 PM on June 6, 2011


> It wasn't so important. The war was basically lost already for Germany.

That's nice. Are you saying that a Soviet occupied Western Europe was better than the actual outcome?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:03 PM on June 6, 2011





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posted by mmrtnt at 12:23 PM on June 6, 2011


The war was basically lost already for Germany.

It was lost in 1939 for that matter. The Soviets while brave and in possession of decent weapons did not have the power to take Germany. Alot of the Soviet deaths were needless and I blame Stalin.

In Europe it was basically a German-Russian war.

between the summer of 1941 to 1943, when the allies landed in Italy/Siciliy, perhaps. We invaded Europe in 1943, the main push was in 44' but was planned for 43' but look at the numbers. You also discount the secret/phony war and the Battle of Britain, it's loss would have no doubt meant an axis invasion.
posted by clavdivs at 12:44 PM on June 6, 2011


an interesting take from Buchanan

For an intelligent take on the "the war in the West didn't matter" trope, see "No Simple Victory" by "Polish national historian" Norman Davies.

As to the Buchanan book, I liked it better in the original German.
posted by rdone at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2011


It wasn't so important. The war was basically lost already for Germany.

In retrospect, it was important partly because the war was basically lost already for Germany. The end of the war was bad enough for the Germans -- millions of ethnic Germans were killed or went missing, and over ten million were displaced. America and the Commonwealth were absolutely instrumental in aiding the survivors. If the Soviets had reached Berlin alone, unfettered by a Europe which had been entirely unwilling to help, I very much doubt there would be a nation (or, quite likely, much of a remaining ethnicity) which could be called "German" today.
posted by vorfeed at 1:20 PM on June 6, 2011


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posted by Flood at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2011


It is also important to keep in mind that Operation Overlord was the largest single undertaking in the history of human warfare.

Not even close. The Allies invasion force was 175,000 men (39 divisions). On June 22, 1944 the Soviet Union launched Operation Bagration a massive offensive "involving 1,245,000 men, 14 combined-army armies, one tank army, 124 out of 168 rifle divisions committed to the attack, 2,175 tanks supported by 1,355 self-propelled guns, 24,000 guns and mortars, four 'air armies' with 5,327 aircraft, plus a further 700 heavy bombers of Long-Range Aviation." The diversionary attack before this assault--involving 41 divisions, 800 tanks and 10,000 guns--was larger than the Normandy landings. By July 2 the Germans had lost 25 to 28 divisions and 300,000 men. They lost between 4,000 and 9,000 at Normandy.

Germany had 58 divisions in France, Belgium and Holland, and 239 divisions on the Eastern Front. (The Afrika Korps had two German divisions and eight Italian divisions. The Germans had 26 divisions in Italy after the Allies invaded in September 1943.) In September 1944--three months after D-Day--Germany had 700,000 soliders on the Western Front and 4.3 million on the Eastern Front.

The Soviets while brave and in possession of decent weapons did not have the power to take Germany.

Germany lost 4,000,000 men on the Eastern Front (plus 3.3 million POWs), 72% of their total losses of 5,533,000.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


And of course there's the story about the Panzers not being allowed to mobilize without approval from der Fuhrer, who was fast asleep.

Well, there was also the Nazi time traveler that traveled to the future, changed his mind about the Third Reich, then returned to 1944 and told Hitler to focus his forces at Calais.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:57 PM on June 6, 2011


Let's not give the Soviets too much credit. If it weren't for an obscure American Professor of Archeology, Hitler would have gone to war with the best enchanted items.
posted by boubelium at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The troops that hit the beach were not the substance of Operation Overlord: years of preplanning, supply and training made the landing possible. No giant armada of ships was involved in Bagration, which was ground combat supported by tactical air force. (To be sure, vast supplies of US and Allied material--shipped at great cost from North America--also helped make Bagration a success.)

Not to play at semantics, but Bagration was not a "single undertaking." Rather, it was an entire campaign that lasted for five months and comprised hundreds if not thousands of individual combat actions, land and air. There is no doubt that Bagration, in its entirety, was instrumental in defeating the Wehrmacht on the Ostfront, but it was the culmination of three nightmare years of the most savage form of war, and must be counted as a continuation of the staggeringly destructive process set in motion by Fall Barbarossa in 1941. In contrast, the coordinated effort needed to institute the Second Front at that place and on that single day was unique in human history, and is destined to remain so.
posted by rdone at 3:24 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]



Deaths in Individual Battles and Campaigns
  1. Operation Barbarossa: battles of Bylorussia I, Smolensk I + Moscow 1941 1,582,000
  2. Stalingrad September 1942–31 January 1943 973,000
  3. Siege of Leningrad 1941–27 January 1944 900,000
  4. Kiev July–September 1941 657,000
  5. Operation Bagration 1944 450,000
  6. Kursk 1943 325,000
  7. Berlin 1945 250,000
  8. French Campaign May–June 1940 185,000
  9. Operation Overlord 6 June–21 July 1944 132,000
  10. Budapest October 1944–February 1945 130,000
  11. Polish Campaign September 1939 80,000
  12. Battle of the Bulge December 1944 38,000
  13. Warsaw Rising 1 August–1 October 1944, excluding civilians 30,000
  14. Operation Market Garden September 1944 16,000
  15. Battle of El Alamein II October–November 1942 4,650
Norman Davies, No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945, p. 25. (In some cases Davies' numbers are significantly lower than Wikipedia's.)
posted by kirkaracha at 3:44 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eisenhower - "Our landings in the Cherbourg-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 troop, the air [force] 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."
posted by unliteral at 5:09 PM on June 6, 2011


Wow. Where else but Metafilter could we have a "your favorite invasion sucks" contest.

Today is June 6th, the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy by the allies, the most famous of all D-Days. Can we just be in awe of this one operation, admire the men who planned it, be grateful for the men who fought in it and agree that without it the world would be a very different place?

Thanks, veterans.
posted by bondcliff at 6:50 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


D-Day: remembering the backstory Before the 'greatest generation' ever landed on the Normandy beaches, they had long been casualties of the great depression.
posted by adamvasco at 1:08 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks kirkaracha for laying out the numbers.

The Soviet Union lost 28,000,000 people in 4 years of war.

They lost 1000 men, every hour. And this every day, every week, every month, every year.
(As a comparison: As of June 6, 2011, there have been 2,433 coalition deaths in Afghanistan as part of ongoing coalition operations (Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF) since the invasion in 2001.)

Maybe without the help of the US, Germany could have hoped for a stalemate with the Soviet Union.

There is actually an interesting recording that was made secretly when Hitler was talking to Mannerheim from Finland about the war with Russia. English Transcript.

"If somebody had told me a nation could start with 35,000 tanks, then I'd have said: "You are crazy!"
posted by yoyo_nyc at 4:14 AM on June 7, 2011


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