I’m feeling myself pulled into history with this fascinating unraveling of my Dad’s letters from the war. What I discovered on the back of the photo above was his handwriting from a later time describing his involvement: “Drafted in 1942 – Oct’45. Landed Omaha Beach D + 6 days. There were 5 official battles in WWII – I got 5 battle stars. Ended war as 1st Sgnt of outfit.”
So, after conferring with Richard’s Dad, I learned that “D + 6” means that he landed at Omaha Beach six days after D Day. This helps explain the contents of the letter that follows and tells me that the next few letters I read will be before his company actually crosses the channel.
I’m also including this account from Wikipedia of the landing at Omaha Beach on D Day as a reference and gratitude that my Dad was not one of the first guys to land there, or he may not have been around to write these letters (and bring me into the world!!). I feel great reverence for those brave soldiers who gave their lives that day:
“Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing US troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles; later landings bunched up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits off the beach. This caused further problems and consequent delays for later landings. Small penetrations were eventually achieved by groups of survivors making improvised assaults, scaling the bluffs between the most heavily defended points. By the end of the day, two small isolated footholds had been won, which were subsequently exploited against weaker defenses further inland, thus achieving the original D-Day objectives over the following days.”
I imagine this is a day that will go down in history – but you probably know more about it – and sooner than we did. (One whole sentence has been crossed out – here is my best guess of what this says as I can almost make out some of the words ” We were expected to ship out by the activity most of the night and this morning, but didn’t hear anything definite”) …. until about 10:00 AM when we were out on the parade grounds having another – guess what – formal inspection! When Karen someday asks me what did I do in the war, I’ll say “Well, Cutie, I carted my barracks bag around, mostly – and laid out my stuff to be inspected.” Of course, we also had another hike today. Pretty rugged. Fast. Soaking wet with perspiration when we got back – and it’s not warm out. When the hell do they have summer over here? Tonight we listened to a loud speaker account of what’s going on. Sounds a bit gigantic, doesn’t it? Feelings here (as at home, I suppose) are mixed. Cheering – at first – then realization that it’s a lot of hell for a lot of guys – but relief that we’re still waiting in chow lines, and griping about dozens of insignificant things rather than wading ashore. As somebody said – ” a G.I. is a guy – every guy – in the Army who says, ‘GI wanna go home'”. Hey – you know what would taste good? Those choc covered marshmallow cookies! Ain’t I crazy? but I love you – Rollie