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  Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA)

December 29, 1983, Thursday

SECTION: Ideas; Samuel Eliot Morison; Pg. 17

LENGTH: 1271 words

HEADLINE: A man who relived history to write about it

BYLINE: Christopher Bowden, Special to The Christian Science Monitor



Dream dreams and write them
Aye but live them first.

Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison

''I have no imagination,'' Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison once said. ''I can't write about a battlefield until I've been over it, nor about sea warfare unless I've taken part in it.''

Perhaps this modest admission by one of America's foremost historians best explains the admiral's innovative approach to his subject matter.

In the tradition of American historian Francis Parkman and Thucydides of ancient Greece, the admiral, who won seven battle stars in World War II, believed the only way to write history was to live it. Morison's research carried him around the globe - to the paradaisical West Indies, the stormy Straits of Magellan, and to war-strafed Normandy and Okinawa during World War II. Under sail, he retraced the stormy routes taken by Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, and other New World explorers.

During his career, Morison wrote 48 books, two of which (his biography of Columbus, ''Admiral of the Ocean Sea'' and ''John Paul Jones'') were awarded Pulitzer Prizes.

Other prominent works include his 15-volume ''History of US Naval Operations in World War II,'' and ''The Oxford History of the American People.'' In the latter, Morison traced the major events in the nation's history from prehistoric times to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In the preface to ''Admiral of the Ocean Sea,'' Morison declares, ''You cannot write a story out of these fifteenth and sixteenth century narratives

that means anything to a modern reader, merely by studying them in a library with the aid of maps. Such armchair navigation is both dull and futile.''

Four-hundred and fifty years after Columbus made his historic voyage to America, Morison decided to make history again by sailing the route as the leader of the Harvard Columbus Expedition. ''My attempt,'' he said, ''was to try to see through Columbus's eyes . . . just as if I had been beside him on the quarterdeck.''

In planning the Columbus expedition, Morrison drew upon nearly 20 years of ''armchair navigation.'' He hoped to authenticate the journey as far as possible. He sailed in a 140-foot schooner, which was designed to approximate the sailing conditions of Columbus's ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

Morison described sailing up to San Salvador and seeing the same sight Columbus had seen 450 years before. Morison wrote in his log, ''Why, you can even figure out where he must have gone ashore. You don't know where he went ashore, but as a seaman, you know he just couldn't have gone ashore any place else.''

Dr. Henry Wade, Morison's colleague at Harvard, remarks, ''The Columbus enterprise could not have been made by just any old salt. In preparing for this journey a thorough knowledge of Latin, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese was requisite because a tremendous amount of research had to be done in preparation for the sail and the book which followed.''

The end result was the writing of ''Admiral of the Ocean Sea.'' George Gloss, the proprietor of the Brattle Book Shop in Boston (which Morison used to frequent), says, ''This book and so much of Morison's work is a favorite with our clientele because he provides the reader with an intimate sense of time, place, and person rather than a docket full of statistics.''

Morison was, in fact, as much concerned with the character of Columbus as he was with the journey which changed the complexion of world history. In writing about Columbus, Morison explained, ''This dualism (the man of the Middle Ages and the modern man commingled in Columbus) makes the character and career of Columbus a puzzle to the dull-witted, a delight to the discerning.''

Dualisms pervaded the nature of Morison as well. He was a scholar and a sailor, a man who lived in the same elegant Beacon Hill town house all of his life yet traveled to some of the most remote and primitive parts of the globe. It was not unusual to see the admiral sporting riding breeches in the morning and a top hat and tails at the opera in the evening.

Even during his lifetime, the Boston-born man of letters was regarded in monumental terms - referred to as ''admiral,'' ''professor'' or ''doctor.'' He was a professor at Harvard University for nearly half a century, during which time he produced an average of one book a year. In 1954, after he and his wife returned from a summer in Mount Desert Island, Maine, his wife remarked to some friends, ''Yes, we had an easy summer of it. All Sam did was write the ninth volume of his naval history, a short history on Christopher Columbus, and a third book about the Peabody Museum in Salem.'' In an effort to vindicate himself, Morison replied, ''I really did very little; Columbus and Peabody were short works, 50,000 words each. The newspaper people rattle off 50,000 words in a week.''

Although much of Morison's work related to the sea, there was also a bit of the landlubber in the admiral. He was the official historian at Harvard, writing the ''Tercentennial History of Harvard College and University'' for the occasion of the institution's 300th anniversary.

He authored ''One Boy's Boston,'' an insightful and charming account of the city he knew as a boy. In his description of Victorian Boston, one can almost hear the horsedrawn fire wagons clattering down cobblestoned Charles Street. His vignettes also reveal the formal customs observed by the ''proper Bostonians'' of the day. Morison writes, ''On the street, boys were supposed to wear gloves, or at least carry them in their hands, like their elders. I remember Grandfather looking out of the window and, seeing his classmate Edward Everett Hale gloveless, remarking, 'There goes Ned Hale, as usual without gloves - can't he learn that a gentleman always wears gloves?' ''

This sense of tradition and formality also permeated the admiral's sense of scholarship. to here JB Morison emphasized the importance of a ''traditional education,'' posing the question, ''What was the nature of the scholarship of these leaders of the early Republic?'' Answering his own question, as he so often did, the tall, aquiline New Englander said, ''Its rudiments were, first, a thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek literature, which opened to them the treasures of antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. They read Plato, Aristotle, and Polybius, and followed them up in later life with Aquinas and Bellarmine, Calvin, and Montesquieu. They pondered long and deep about the relation of man to society, the nature and art of government.''

Morrison pointed out in a lecture, ''When the American Revolution broke, it was led by scholars; and, in the shape of the federal Constitution, it was triumphantly crowned by scholars. Sam Adams, it was said by his Tory enemies, 'got at the Whigs and Tories by the Greeks and the Romans.' ''

In a 1960 Monitor interview Morison said admonishingly, ''The average history student in graduate school today cannot even read French or German. Unless he makes a great effort this restricts his work to English or American history - and not even all of that.''

Morison also found that a working knowledge of a second language is sometimes useful in extricating oneself from a noisome situation.

Fascinated by a map in the Vatican library, Morison once drew up a chair to examine it. A party of American tourists came along and began asking him questions. Morison turned to them and said sharply in Italian, ''I am sorry but I do not speak English.''

  St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)

June 5, 1994, SUNDAY, FIVE STAR Edition


LENGTH: 1991 words


BYLINE: Harry Levins Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

THE WEATHER FOR D-Day low clouds, high seas - was rotten, barely one click to the right of unacceptable.

Which meant it was perfect.

You see, the Germans had let their guard down. The wind and rain convinced them that the Allies would stay home that day.

In fact, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had already put the landings off a day, until Tuesday, June 6. If bad weather lingered that day, ships would start to run out of fuel, and the invasion would start to fall apart.

But before dawn on June 5, Eisenhower's weather expert promised that the storm would ease the next day. Eisenhower nodded and said, "OK, let's go."

His words fell short of majesty, but they set history in motion. From the Sky and the Sea

The paratroopers went first, three divisions, to nail down the flanks.

In the east, British paratroopers planned to grab key bridges, all to block any German tanks rolling in from the east.

Soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division, wearing their Winged Pegasus shoulder patches, grabbed one such bridge and held it against heavy odds until after noon of D-Day.

To this day, the span bears the name Pegasus Bridge.

In the marshy west, on the other flank, U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions planned to jump inland.

Their aim was to seize the high-and-dry causeways leading from the beaches, plus other dry ground. Otherwise, the Germans could flood it, cutting off the forces landing on Utah Beach. The paratroopers also aimed to keep the Germans from sealing off the neck of the Contentin Peninsula.

As usual, the plan was tidier than the reality.

Low clouds scattered the American planes, whose pilots scattered the paratroopers. Some drowned in the swamps; others roamed around, hopelessly lost. Very few formed up on the ground as intact units.

But messiness has its uses. The Germans thought it was all part of a careful plan to blanket the entire Contentin with paratroopers. The Germans chased ghosts and shadows all night.

Although the paratroopers found things equally confusing, by dawn, enough of them held enough of the right ground. They made things relatively easy for the soldiers landing on Utah Beach.

At four of the five invasion beaches, the assault went according to plan, or as close to it as these affairs ever get.

True, the Germans at Juno Beach had turned seaside houses into ugly little fortresses. But once the Canadians hacked through that line of houses, the going was easy, or as easy as it ever gets, because the land behind the beaches is relatively flat.

The British and Canadians had less faith than the Americans in sheer momentum. The British laid on a much longer naval bombardment than the Americans, and they brought their troopships in closer. That was risky business, but it spared British and Canadian soldiers the long, choppy ride that made so many Americans miserably seasick before they got one foot ashore.

The British had fretted at length about casualties from mines and obstacles. So when they crossed to Normandy, they took along an oddball menagerie of armored vehicles designed to swim in the surf, or cross ditches, or explode mines, or perform other chores.

The Americans found these vehicles eccentric - "the Funnies," everybody called them - and had politely declined to accept anything but some swimming tanks. That was probably a mistake, because a few of the Funnies would have come in handy on Omaha Beach.

Mostly, the biggest problems on the Canadian and British beaches were high waves and traffic jams. One of warfare's sorry rules holds that everything takes longer than you thought, and the British were taking forever to move inland.

Some of it was the inevitable confusion. But a big part was the emotional inertia.

For months, these combat veterans had heard what a hell they would face on the beach. Now, they were there, alive and untouched. Many felt that simply by surviving, they'd done their day's work. Why stroll about and draw fire?

So the British and Canadians stopped short of their D-Day goal, the city of Caen. The Germans in Caen would give the British a bloody six weeks in which to rue their dawdling.

Far to the west, on Utah Beach, the GIs of the 4th Infantry Division landed without much fuss. The day's casualties came to slightly more than 200 - fewer than the 4th had suffered in April, when German torpedo boats flung torpedoes at a maneuver off the English coast.

On D-Day, the terrain helped a lot. Unlike Omaha Beach, Utah Beach has no high ground as a backdrop. That spared the GIs at Utah from anything like the rain of fire that came down from the bluffs at Omaha.

Also, because of the high waves, the Navy launched the swimming tanks for Utah from only two miles offshore, instead of from four miles out, as planned. Twenty-eight made it ashore - a big boost.

Many of the bombers assigned to plaster Utah Beach were medium, twin-engine jobs. They flew lower - and thus bombed a lot more accurately - than the heavier bombers assigned to Omaha Beach.

Even so, much at Utah went wrong, as things always do.

For instance, wind, waves and bad navigation dropped most of the GIs far from their assigned landing spots.

They wouldn't know until later that at the assigned spots, German soldiers waited in strength. Where the GIs stood, few Germans blocked the way.

Some officers asked the 4th's assistant commander, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., whether he wanted everybody to move to the assigned spots.

Roosevelt studied his map, shook his head no and said, "We'll start the war from right here." Take the High Ground

The Germans had nowhere near enough concrete and cannons to erect a true "Fortress Europe." But their killing zone at Omaha matched their propaganda.

Naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison would later call Omaha "the best imitation of hell for an invading force that American troops had encountered anywhere. Even the Japanese defenses of Iwo Jima, Tarawa and Peleliu are not to be compared."

The Army originally planned to use green divisions like the 29th Infantry, a National Guard outfit, saving the seasoned soldiers for the follow-up wave. But in the end, nobody dared trust everything to rookie warriors.

So the Army turned again to the 1st Infantry Division, "The Big Red One," already a veteran of assault landings in North Africa and Sicily. For a third time, the Big Red One would have to stare into hell.

The hell started with the ride in - 11 1/2 cold, wet and seasick miles. The Navy wanted to keep the troopships out of range of German guns, but the choppy ride to the beach in the small landing craft was an awful way to go to war.

To support the infantry and combat engineers, 32 swimming tanks started waddling through the whitecaps. All but five sank like stones. Many of the barges hauling in artillery pieces also foundered. The GIs had only the guns aboard the warships to call on.

Clouds blinded the heavy bombers. Mostly, the bombs fell far inland, killing only dairy cattle. (Normandy's fat dairy cows would suffer terribly that summer; photos from the campaign invariably include dead Holsteins, their legs jutting skyward.)

For the soldiers, death began at the low-water mark. The Germans had assumed the Allies would land at high tide, to cut down the amount of open beach that the soldiers would have to cross. To disrupt a high-tide landing, the Germans had planted obstacles starting at the low-water mark, all to blow up landing craft, or tear out their guts.

When Allied planes spotted the low-water obstacles in February, planners swallowed hard and decided to land the soldiers at the low end of a rising tide. That would make backing the landing craft off an easier chore; more important, it would expose the high-water obstacles.

But dropping the GIs that far out forced them to cross 200 to 300 yards of open sand, under fire from the Germans on the bluffs.

Those who made it could shelter behind a strand of stones called shingle, or at least behind those stretches not under mortar fire. The shingle gave, but it also took away; it blocked the way for vehicles, at least until bulldozers could plow it away.

Next, the GIs had to work their way through the barbed wire and mines of the shelf, a strip of dry-sand beach about 200 yards wide. All the time, the Germans on the bluff were shooting at them.

Worse, the Germans had placed some machine guns along the bottom of the bluff. These guns fired laterally, down the length of the beach, with their bullets never rising more than a man's height above the ground.

Most bullets land in a pattern like water splashing from a slightly elevated garden hose; this pattern is called "plunging fire," and it's deadly for people caught in the cone. German fire from the blufftops, up to 170 feet above the beach, was plunging fire.

But the fire from those beach-level machine guns - the stream of bullets that never rose above a man's height - was of a type called "grazing fire." It's deadlier, because nothing can cross a line of grazing fire without being hit.

The GIs called in naval gunfire and dug deeper. Many felt too numb to move. The German fire simply chopped apart Company A of the 29th Division's 116th Infantry. (Company A included 35 men from Bedford, Va., population 3,800; on that dreadful day, Bedford lost 20 of its 35 sons.)

By mid-morning, things looked so grim that Omar Bradley began to think about the unthinkable: a withdrawal. Nobody had drawn plans for a withdrawal, and the confusion of trying to back off the beach under fire would have been fatal, as Bradley later confessed.

The original plan for Omaha Beach had called for the GIs to seize five "draws," or pathways off the beach for tanks and trucks. But the value of the pathways was equally obvious to the Germans, who poured most of their concrete bunkers alongside the draws.

After a few hours of death and futility, everybody realized that the draws were death-traps, at least in a frontal assault. The GIs would have to go around the draws, climbing the steep sides of the bluffs.

Although the bluffs seem uniformly sloped, when seen close up, the land actually wrinkles and folds. To a soldier with pluck, the ground offers just another cover and concealment on the way to the top.

One or two or three at a time, those soldiers found their courage and crawled up onto the bluffs.

They drew strength from leaders like Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, who told his men, "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach - the dead and those who are going to die. Now let's get the hell out of here!"

They did. By afternoon, at a cost of 2,200 casualties, the GIs had carried the bluffs - and the day. Awaiting the Other Shoe

The German army had one of its rare bad days:

Key commanders were absent. Rommel had gone to Germany for his wife's birthday, and others were far away at a map exercise.

Somebody at Omaha reported up the chain of command that the Americans there had been repulsed. So the Germans sent their tanks elsewhere, rather than rolling them at this most fragile link in the chain of Allied beaches.

Hitler was sleeping in, and nobody else could release the armored reserves. So much for German efficiency.

The alarms from the beaches lost their edge of urgency as they worked their way up the chain of command. No German was sure this was The Real Thing.

The Allies had outfoxed the Germans with phantom armies and phony plans. In Scotland, a handful of radio operators had duplicated the broadcast traffic of many divisions; in England, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. had paraded about, posing as the commander of a group of fictitious field armies.

The Germans bought it. On June 6, and for more than a month afterward, they concluded that Normandy was just a prelude to something bigger - a landing in the Pas de Calais.

By the time the Germans finally woke up, their hour had passed. 
  The Denver Post

June 5, 1994 Sunday 1ST EDITION


LENGTH: 1927 words

HEADLINE: Many awaited, few surprised by invasion

BYLINE: Charles E. Glover, Cox News Service

More than 155,000 American, British and Canadian troops begin landing on the Normandy coast of France between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., June 6, l944 - one of the most significant dates of the 20th century.

The long-awaited D-day is finally here.

At 9:35 a.m., British time, the BBC broadcasts a message from London, telling the world of the massive invasion under the leadership of U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces.

"Anne Frank heard about it in a Dutch attic, Joe DiMaggio heard about it in center field and James Dean heard about it in an Indiana classroom," says playwright and novelist Steve Kluger. " Yet no one was surprised A cross-channel leap into France was not only necessary, it was inevitable."

At home, Americans flock to churches and synagogues to pray for sons, husbands, fathers and brothers. Sports events are canceled and some businesses close for the day.

An armada of more than 5,000 vessels - from battleships to small craft - supported by 10,000 warplanes, transport the Allied soldiers to France in the greatest amphibious operation in the history of warfare.

As the 60 separate convoys - 21 American and 39 British - leave English ports, Eisenhower, feeling like the loneliest man in the world, writes a note and puts it in his wallet.

It reads: "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 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."

Sometime later, Ike gives the note to Capt. Harry C. Butcher, his naval aide.

The first Anglo-American warriors to land on French soil are paratrooper-pathfinders, who begin dropping behind Adolf Hitler's Atlantic Wall at 12:15 a.m.

The pathfinders put down electronic beacons to mark the drop and landing zones for the more than 18,000 paratroopers and glider men due to begin arriving in the next 40 minutes.

The British 6th Parachute Division lands near Caen on the Orne River. The American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions come down behind what the Allies call Utah Beach. The paratroopers' assignment is to secure both ends of the 50-mile-long beachhead and block enemy reinforcements.

Robert Leckie reports in his book "The Wars of America" that German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, defender of the Atlantic Wall and one-time "Desert Fox," tells his aide, Capt. Hellmuth Lang, "We'll have only one chance to stop the enemy and that's while he's in the water struggling to get ashore.

"Believe me, Lang, the first 24 hours will be decisive. For the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day."

Rommel works frantically to strengthen the defenses of the first line of resistance to Hitler's Fortress Europe, flooding the farm country behind several landing beaches. Many of these flooded zones become death-traps.

The number of airborne troopers who die in the flooded areas will never be known, writes Cornelius Ryan in "The Longest Day." He adds, "Survivors say that the marshes were intersected by a maze of ditches seven feet deep, four feet wide and bottomed with sticky mud. A man plunging into one these ditches, weighed down with guns and heavy equipment, was helpless. Many drowned with dry land only a few yards away.

"Hundreds of men," Ryan says, "found themselves in small fields, surrounded on all sides by tall hedgerows. The fields were silent little worlds, isolated and scary."

"Americans came together in the night in countless small fields and pastures drawn by the sound of a toy cricket," Ryan writes. "Their lives depended on a few cents' worth of metal.

"One snap of the cricket had to be answered by a double snap. Two snaps required one in reply. On these signals, men came out of hiding to greet one another."

Men of the 82nd Airborne capture Ste. Mere-Eglise, the first town taken in France. Meanwhile, 101st Airborne troopers push down "Purple Heart Lane," fighting their way toward Carentan and a link-up of Utah and Omaha beaches.

The seaborne invaders land at Utah and Omaha beaches in the American sector and on Gold, Juno and Sword in the British zone.

Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley commands the American First Army at Utah and Omaha and Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery, overall ground forces commander, leads the British Second Army at Gold, Juno and Sword.

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of the German armies in the West, believes the Normandy assault is a diversion, and that the major Allied effort will be made across the Straits of Dover toward Calais, only 20 miles across the English Channel.

Von Rundstedt's views are confirmed by an elaborate Allied hoax that establishes a dummy army and phony airfields and embarkation ports in Southeastern England. The ficticious First Army Group, called Army Group Patton by the Germans, will pin down the German 15th Army and its more than 200,000 men until mid-July.

Powerful pre-invasion Allied air attacks are "ineffective," according to Bradley, because of overcast skies. He says the bombs fall inland "killing some French civilians and many cattle, but few Germans."

However, few Luftwaffe (German Air Force) planes are seen.

After a 40-minute naval bombardment of Utah and Omaha beaches, landing craft carry the 4th Infantry Division to Utah, and the First and 29th Infantry Divisions to Omaha.

Fortunately, the Navy lands the 4th Division some 2,000 yards away from where it is supposed to be, and beyond the reach of major Nazi gun emplacements.

Led by Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., 59, son of the 26th president of the United States, the infantry drives into the valleys or draws that provide access inland. Roosevelt is awarded the Medal of Honor for valor. He dies in his sleep of a heart attack less than a month after D-day.

In what Bradley calls "one of the great heroic feats of the day," American Rangers scale the 120-foot-high Pointe du Hoc to knock out six monstrous 155mm guns, which, Bradley says, "by themselves could fatally wreck our invasion forces."

When the Rangers get to the top, they find no guns - only telephone poles acting as dummies. A Ranger patrol finds four of the six guns set up in a field to cover Utah Beach. The Germans had removed them so casements could be repaired.

The Rangers destroy the giant cannons by spiking them with thermite grenades. With only 197 casualties - 60 of them drownings - Bradley calls Utah "a piece of cake."

Omaha Beach is an early disaster. Faulty Allied intelligence does not reveal the presence of the mobile and battle-hardened German 352nd Division dug in the 100- to 200-foot bluffs overlooking Omaha. U.S. commanders expect to confront only the emplaced and immobile 716th Division.

Rommel's defenses at Omaha are particularly diabolical. Naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison reports, "Off shore and under the water were steel frames, 7 by 10 feet, with waterproof mines lashed to the uprights. ... Closer to the beach, but under 8 to 10 feet of water, were sharpened wood or concrete poles angled toward the sea, with about every third one mined.

"At the edge of the beach and on the beach itself were obstacles made of three 6-foot steel bars welded together at right angles, looking like giant jackstones. Almost all were mined. The land between the seawall and the bluffs was crisscrossed with anti-tank ditches and heavily mined."

Scores of 75mm and 88mm mobile German guns are positioned to fire a flat trajectory of death and destruction at the landing craft and the exposed GIs. Enemy machine guns emit a nonstop chatter at anything that moves. The Nazi guns cover every square foot of the beach.

Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall writes, "On this two-division landing, only six rifle companies (about 180 men apiece) were relatively effective units. ... Three times that number were shattered or foundered before they could begin to fight.

"The churning sea runs red. Most of those who wade into the shallow water are quickly knocked down by a bullet. Weakened by fear and shock, they cannot rise and drown in a few feet of water."

Ten minutes after landing craft put ashore Able Company of the 116th Regimental Combat Team, all officers, save one, are dead, and every sergeant is either dead or wounded, Marshall says. "By the end of 30 minutes, two-thirds of the company is gone.

"Able Company is leaderless. No one gives any orders. The survivors have not fired a shot. Merely to stay alive is a full-time job. By the end of an hour, a number of survivors have crawled to the foot of the bluff, into a narrow sanctuary out of the line of fire.

"There they lie all day, some wounded, all exhausted and unarmed, too shocked to even talk to one another. No one happens by to offer water or succor."

Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, assistant commander of the 29th Division, shouts to his men, "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die. Now let's get the hell out of here."

Ernie Pyle later writes in his book "Brave Men," "Men were sleeping in the sand forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn't know they were in the water, for they were dead."

Other bodies, Pyle says, sprawl grotesquely in the sand along with "sad little personal belongings strewn all over those bitter sands.

"There in a jumbled row, for mile on mile, were soldiers' packs. There were socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles and hand grenades. There were the latest letters from home.

"There were toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. There were pocketbooks and bloody abandoned shoes.

"The most ironic piece of equipment marking our beach was a tennis racket. It lay lonsomely in the sand, clamped in its press, not a string broken."

Bradley considers stopping the invasion at Omaha, and evacuating the men on shore. Those thoughts end when he receives a message at 1:30 p.m., saying the GIs are advancing to the base of the bluffs.

Historian Morison reports that Navy Rear Adm. Carleton Bryant, seeing the disaster on Omaha Beach, gets on the radio and orders his gunfire support ships to "get on them!"

Eight sleek destroyers charge toward the shore, guns blazing. They risk running aground time and again, and several scrape the sandy bottom.

There are no spotters. The ships fire at muzzle flashes from German guns. The destroyers, some moving to within 800 yards of the beach, unload more than 5,500 five-inch shells on German positions.

When Maj. Gen. Leonard Gerow, commander of the Fifth Corps, reaches the beachhead, his first message to Bradley is: "Thank God for the United States Navy."

Casualties at Omaha are estimated at 2,000 killed, wounded or missing. The exact number will never be known.

At nightfall in the British sector, Canadian and British troops are firmly astride the vital Caen and Orne bridges. However, they do not capture Caen as Montgomery boasted they would. Caen, defended by the 21st German Panzer (armored) Division, will not be taken for some time.

At the end of "the longest day," the Allies have 156,000 men ashore on 80 square miles of Normandy. They are but a vanguard of more than 2.5 million men yet to come.

The casualty toll for D-day is about 10,000 killed, missing and wounded. Despite the risks and dangers, Operation OVERLORD had succeeded.
Articles too lengthy to fit on the Irish Elk blog.

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