It's D-Day
June 6, 2001 8:11 AM   Subscribe

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."
posted by GaelFC (14 comments total)
Ernie Pyle was the man. Don't let another day pass before reading Brave Men or Here Is Your War.
posted by whuppy at 8:39 AM on June 6, 2001

Remember too Keith Douglas, the one great English poet of the second war, who died in Normandy soon after the landings.

(And if you're British, and need some motivation to vote -- even if it's to spoil your ballot in disgust -- well, there are greater sacrifices in the name of democracy than that walk to the polling station.)
posted by holgate at 9:09 AM on June 6, 2001

the rest of that site has some great articles and pics...highly recommend taking a while to browse. Definately holgate is correct...being able to leisurely do things like vote or squabble about politics is a Luxury.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:47 AM on June 6, 2001

Excellent link, GaelFC. While I am already tired to tears of the WWII nostalgia craze, it is important to remember what actually happened and not the overly-romanticized version we've been spoon fed by Messrs. Brokaw, Spielberg, and Bruckheimer recently. Ernie Pyle told it like it was.
posted by briank at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2001

Articles like that make me thank my lucky stars I never had to participate in WWII.

And give a quiet prayer of thanks for those who did it for us.
posted by Dagobert at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2001

"Brave Men" is a very disturbing book, very much worth reading. Pyle was an amazing man, and his personal life was a bit of a tragedy. He was married to a woman who was emotionally very disturbed, and he actually divorced her because of it. But he couldn't live without her and they remarried. In his book, all you'll see in his references to her is the love.

He talks much in the book about how men who have been in combat become resigned to the idea that they're not going to survive. This comes up again and again. And then as you read further you find that he is beginning to think that about himself; he talks about his near misses, and about his friends (other reporters) who have been killed or wounded.

And he didn't. He was killed in the Pacific during the Okinawa campaign. At least his death was quick. When you're hit in the skull with a machine gun bullet, there's no pain. Knowing how he died before you read "Brave Men" makes his words poignant. He had leave during the war, but he didn't get to go home afterwards to sit on the porch in New Mexico with "That Girl".
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:27 PM on June 6, 2001

D-Day was quite an operation, but Americans, says Benjamin Schwarz, have trouble admitting that we were "very much the junior partner" in WW II, "fought primarily by Stalin's Soviet Union."

88% of all German casualties, he says, were inflicted by the Russians.

p.s. I too am a great admirer of Pyle's, and love his Home Country, a pre-Charles Kuralt U.S. travel book he wrote while working as a newspaper columnist in the late 1930s. (It was published posthumously in 1947.) The last chapter is especially good.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:35 PM on June 6, 2001

While I am already tired to tears of the WWII nostalgia craze

Yes it's a craze and one that will hopefully soon pass.
posted by lagado at 5:36 PM on June 6, 2001

No, Pearl Harbour, the movie is craze... this.. this is something to remember so that it'll never happen again
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 9:13 PM on June 6, 2001

I agree. Let's remember what an exploitative mess the movie "Pearl Harbor" is, so that no-one ever disgraces the memory of brave soldiers and sailors like that again.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:41 PM on June 6, 2001

My wife and I took a day trip to the D-Day landing beaches during our honeymoon this past October. The tasks these guys took on was amazing. That visit really brought WWII to life. Having the forethought looking at those cliffs that you did not have a great chance of making it alive to the next day took amazing courage. Taking a walk though the cemetery after was really incredible.
posted by vanderwal at 10:15 PM on June 6, 2001

There's never been a "craze" of WWII sentimentality. Disney's aggrandization of it is pure comercial masquerade. Plenty of blockbuster WWII movies have been made without the trite appeal to democraphics that the movie pearl harbor sunk itself to. Agreed PWA_BadBoy, more intelligent exploration from the entertainment industry would not only be welcome but even more so warranted after the history miseducation of pearl harbor, lest we ever forget.

I'm putting Mr. Pyle's works on my wishlist. Thanks for the link GaelIFC!
posted by crasspastor at 12:50 AM on June 7, 2001

It seems Ernie Pyle was the first great American weblogger (that I know or can think of at least). I can't tell you how glad I am for this link. I'd never cognizantly known of Ernie Pyle before now.
posted by crasspastor at 1:11 AM on June 7, 2001

The BBC reported yesterday from Normandy, where a number of D-Day veterans had come to see the premiere of Spielberg's 10-hour rendition of Band of Brothers. And they were generally happy with it, saying it was less sensationalised and sentimentalised than Saving Private Ryan, and for once at least acknowledged the involvement of non-American troops in the liberation of France.

Although Tom Hanks was quoted as justifying Hollywood's adjustment of history: "We know we have missed details. We have rearranged times. We have altered geography and in so doing we have shrunken history by making history fit onto our screens and to our purpose."

Which makes me reflect somewhat bitterly that the big studios can, apparently, produce more even-handed treatments of WW II when they make the effort: just not when they're looking for summer box office numbers. And that's actually worse than just accusing them of being incapable.

But this is beside the point: better, if you have living relatives who fought in those battles, to ask them for memories that they're prepared to share, that you can keep precious and pass on. And even if they're fictions of a sort, at least they're not ones made to sell popcorn.
posted by holgate at 6:01 AM on June 7, 2001

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