On June 6th 1944 Jim Radford, aged just 15, was serving on the HM Rescue tug Empire Larch at Gold Beach tasked, amongst other things, with building the breakwater and later the mulberry harbour there. 70 years later an 85 year old Jim stood up in front of a packed Albert Hall in London and, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, sung his autobiographical composition - The Shores of Normandy. [more inside]
Today, June 5, would be the 70th anniversary of D-Day if not for the last-minute prognostication of British meteorologist James Stagg. The planners of the Normandy landings originally designated June 5, 1944 as D-Day, basing their decision on a favorable combination of tide patterns and a full moon, which would help with pilot visibility. On the evening of June 4, however, Royal Air Force meteorologist Captain James Stagg met with Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower with a dire last-minute warning: a large storm brewing just north of Scotland would bring heavy winds, turbulent seas, and thick cloud cover over the English Channel. Ike's decision to change the invasion to June 6, on the advice of a lone meteorologist practicing an emergent and unreliable science, may have been the turning point of the war. Historian John Ross, author of The Forecast for D-Day and the Weatherman Behind Ike’s Greatest Gamble, contends, "Had Ike listened to his countrymen's predictions and launched D-day on June 5, it would have failed with catastrophic consequences for the Western Allies and world history."
In May 2008, while excavating around the castle, the archaeologists of Bristol University made a surprising discovery. They have unearthed two graves side by side. In both of them they have found the rests of the body of an armored knight, and above it in one grave the well preserved skeleton of a horse, while in the other the fragments of iron objects which, seen from above, resembled… a bicycle.[more inside]
PhotosNormandie is a collaborative collection of more than 3,000 royalty-free photos from World War II's Battle of Normandy and its aftermath. (Photos date from June 6 to late August 1944). The main link goes to the photostream. You can also peruse sets, which include 2700+ images from the US and Canadian National Archives.
"[It's] all the more staggering when you realize that more people were killed in the rehearsal for the landing at Utah beach than were killed in the actual landing at Utah beach." Operation Tiger, the disastrous secret rehearsal for D-Day, marks its 68th anniversary today.
Normandy: Then and Now Photographs of Normandy in 1944 meticulously juxtaposed with how the area looks today by French historian Patrick Elie.
Back in July 1994, a patrol of French blue helmets discovered, to their utter bemusement, a derelict Douglas C-47 "Dakota" in the midst of MiG carcasses in the Rajlovac airfield in Bosnia. They were intrigued enough to write down its serial number: Serial Nr. 43/15073 turned out to be a veteran of Normandy, Provence, Market Garden, the Bulge, and the Rhine. Now SNAFU Special is back in Normandy, where it is being restored to become a centerpiece of the Merville Battery Museum. [more inside]
“All patriots, men and women, young and old, have a part to play in the achievement of final victory.”
World War II Glider Pilots; none had ever been before and probably none will ever be again; a hybrid breed like jackasses with no need to reproduce themselves...
Gliders spearheaded many major invasions and other operations in the European theatre of World War II, including the invasion of Normandy. I had no idea, but it turns out the House of Representatives recently passed a resolution honoring the glider pilots, and there's a Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, TX. The World War II Glider Pilots Association site gives more background on the men, the planes, and the missions, as well as the memorable title quote. There's even a movie. [More Inside]
H1t3r pwnd UK, USA! A gunnery has been discovered, buried beneath a metre of iron-rich Normandy soil. It was likely part of a ruse on the part of the Axis forces: a fake gunnery was also built, less conspicuously, and it took the abuse. It was forgotten -- or the memory at least buried by the locals and those who fought there -- until recently. Now it appears to explain some puzzles about Bloody Omaha [pic].
Mont St. Michel on the Normandy coast of France is a 12th century gothic abbey purched at the top of a tiny fortified village built around a small mountain; what's most unique about the location is that due to the very gentle incline of the coast, the mountain is located on salt marsh flats at low tide, but becomes an isolated island in the sea at high tide, accessible only by a raised road (added in the 1950s). It's also one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. While there are no shortage of photos of it online, this gallery had some of the most beautiful ones I'd ever seen. For those who can't make it to France, here's a quick guide to recreating the experience in miniature. warning - last link is from geocities, good for first six visitors only
I just read an article about a one-man off-Broadway play based on the war reporting of Ernie Pyle. Meanwhile, the IU School of Journalism is reprinting three dozen of his dispatches. It is interesting that Pyle, perhaps the original embedded reporter managed to report honestly about the horrors of war in spite of perhaps a more sweeping censorship department that read everything coming from the front. Pyle's description of Normandy (previously discussed) is a classic contrasting a beautiful day on the beach, the human and material wreckage, and even empathy for German prisoners of war. And then there was some black humor of surviving near misses that could have come out of Catch 22 or Slaugherhouse 5. His unfinished final dispatch reads like poetry:
"Dead men by mass production--in one country after another--month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.
"Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.
"Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them."
D-Day was 57 years ago yesterday. It was 16 years before an article in the Atlantic finally provided Americans an unvarnished account of the carnage that was Omaha Beach that day. I'm in awe of what these 19-year-olds went through.
It's D-Day Someone at work shared this Ernie Pyle column published just 10 days after the 1944 invasion of Normandy. It put a lump in my throat. Maybe it'll do the same for you. Excerpt: "I took a walk along the historic coast of Normandy in the country of France. It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn't know they were in the water, for they were dead."
These guys need to go back and look at some movies of the Normandy invasion. [more inside]