We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Weekend Wanderings, 28 years after Beirut

28 years ago today, we had Marines deployed with weapons they could not use, with a barracks that was indefensible, in a location where it was bound to be attacked.

  • Over at One Marine’s View, we are reminded of those brave men, including comments by a Marine whose time was too short to go on that deployment. Semper Fi, Marines.
  • Thankfully, on 28 April 2008, in Ramadi, two Marines were properly armed and prevented a similar tragedy. I’ve linked to the story before, but since it is such a contrast with Beirut and my good friend, Alex Apple, was but 100 yards away, let me re-link: Commander Salamander had posted a speech and video of General Kelly’s speech on the two Navy Crosses awarded to LCPL Jordan Haerter and CPL Jonathan Yale. He linked to his source at American Thinker, who had written about it back in March of 2009 as well.
  • Paul Woodadge, who gives excellent tours in Normandy, passed along a great story of two veterans from the UK who reunited 67 years later, both assuming the other hadn’t survived.
  • The Congressional Medal of Honor Society met in Lousiville, Kentucky this year and Norman Fulkerson wrote a good article about it. (Thanks to Monika for passing it along!)


Weekend Wanderings, Columbus Day Weekend 2011

If you stood in the right field near Le Muy in southern France or near Sainte-Mère-Église in Normandy, you could have seen paratroopers rain down upon you in 1944. This week, I felt as if I was having a similar experience with paratrooper books.

  • Jim Broumley’s The Boldest Plan is the Best: The Combat History of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during WWII just arrived on Amazon and I’ve ordered my copy. I’ve been trying to find a copy of Stand in the Door: The Wartime History of the Elite 509th Parachute Infantry Batallion by Charles Doyle and Terrell Stewart, but there are few copies available, so the prices are exhorbitant. Broumley draws the extensive veteran recollections included in Stand in the Door and adds a great deal of material from other sources. He’s blogging, so you can catch up with his activities any time. Since he’s in Pennsylvania, maybe we can get him to drive down for the Dragoon event next year (2-5 August 2012).
  • On Tuesday, I got my much-delayed copy of LIONS OF CARENTAN, THE: Fallschirmjager Regiment 6, 1943-1945, which I’m very excited about. One of the challenges for me in studying WWII has been that I’ve read so little that comes from the Axis perspective. In my studies of the American Civil War, I’ve looked at both sides, examining the available forces, the tactical and strategic decisions and the aftermath. That allows a level of understanding that examining only one side can never give you. The Lions of Carentan is one of the ways I’ve been expanding my knowledge so that I can understand both sides and relate the events more effectively.
  • In the steady collapse of Borders bookstores, I often raided the sales. It was perhaps the most liberating book purchasing experience I’ve had as, with prices slashed, I simply gave a book a brief once-over and put it in my stack to buy. Normally, I take hours and read multiple reviews before committing my hard-earned cash to purchasing a book. So, I purchased a book titled “Overlord: The Illustrated History of the D-Day Landings”. It’s honestly a great book. It uses a lot of images from the Osprey series to di splay uniforms and equipment in action while providing some truly excellent maps. In each sector of Normandy, it also lists the order of battle and commanders (down to regimental level). None of the Allied-centric works I’ve read provide that information, so I find it immensely useful.
  • There’s a new American Civil War magazine out, The Civil War Monitor. It has an experienced editor (Terry Johnston, who had edited North and South for many years) and comes highly recommended (by Eric Wittenburg).


Weekend Wanderings, 4th of July Weekend, 2011

Sometimes, getting away for the holidays ends up being more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, if you stay in Washington, you get some of the best 4th of July fireworks anywhere. Back in 1881, President Garfield headed to the train station to get out of DC on Saturday, July 2nd, but it didn’t work out very well for him at all.

  • Just short of four months of his inauguration, President James Garfield (BG, USV) was gunned down on Saturday, 2 July 1881 at Penn Station in Washington, DC. Penn Station stood at 6th & B Streeet, Northwest, which is now 6th & Constitution and is the location of the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art. Garfield died on 19 September. Historians rightly place much blame on his early treatment, during which doctors probed his wound with their unsterilized fingers in an attempt to find the bullet.
  • If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for a fashion-conscious Manhattanite to experience a dose of Navy SEAL PT, check out the Thirty Vintage Chick’s What Stilettos, ‘Hump Day’ & $20 Have in Common. Make sure you also check out Cooking with the Troops, where she is directing everyone to head with donations.
  • If you’re interested in wine advice, especially if you live in Ireland, read Grapes of Sloth. My favorite post right now is Wine Merchant Can’t Really Think of suitable wine for Father’s Day Gift.
  • Sharing my interest in wine and history is Canadian Karl Kliparchuk, whose Wine With Karl at MyWinePal includes a good post on his recent visit to Juno Beach.
  • I have been studying French during my daily commute (I went from a 15-foot commute while working from home to drivng 62 miles each, so it was a sudden and dramatic change.) I recommend the Pimsleur course very highly. I’ve got the first 16 lessons on CD, but will be adding more via MP3 shortly. I really gets you right into speaking French as you would while there. I had tried just using books, which didn’t work. I had tried Rosetta Stone, which frustrated Melissa because she was sure she would never say “le chat sur la table” in conversation with a Frenchman. You can buy Mp3 lessons as few as 5 at a time, which is a week’s worth. If you’re smart you WILL study one lesson EVERY day, as it builds up fast.
  • While reading a review of Saving Private Ryan, I thought of a quote from JFK’s inaugural: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Happy birthday, America.


LCI man, Don Kemsley, oral interview

Canadian sailor Don Kemsley’s journal is must-read material and on the 6th, Sandy included a special treat – an oral interview her father gave. After dropping off British troops at Gold Beach, Kemsley’s LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) brought American troops across the Channel. He mentions my favorite fishing village in Normandy, Port-en-Bessin, which is just east of Omaha Beach. I don’t think Don had a chance to buy Calvados from the market on a Sunday morning, but he and many other veterans made it possible for us to do so. Thanks, Don!



Weekend Wanderings: D-Day Weekend 2011

On the eve of the 67th anniversary of the landings in Normandy, I thought I would share some interesting D-Day links.

  • Patrick Elie has created D-Day: Etat de Lieux to not only commemorate D-Day itself, but also to act as a collection point for information on the ceremonies held each year. It is the most reliable site to find out which towns are holding events and when. After the events, Patrick adds photos to that year’s page to bring it to life.
  • There is a webcam in the Normandy American Cemetery. While it’s not the same as being there, it is still stunning. (0800-2030, Paris time, so 0200-1430 EST)
  • The Dead Man’s Corner museum website is one of the more modern historical websites and serves one of the better museums in Normandy. It’s also where I got to meet Bill Galbraith and Manny Barrios of I/3/506 during the 65th anniversary.
  • Mark Bando’s Trigger Time is a source of extensive information on American Airborne forces. Bando has written multiple books on the subject and leads tour as well.


The Beast of Omaha
4 May 2011, 19:21
Filed under: German Perspective, Normandy | Tags: ,

In reading Richard Hargreaves The Germans in Normandy to learn the German perspective on the Normandy invasion, I came across a passage that simply rattled me. After the bow ramps came down on the first boats landing in front of WN62 on Omaha Beach….

They jumped into the cold water up to their chests and shoulders. Some disappeared under the water for a moment, and half swimming, half wading, they began to move slowly on to the beach in front of our strongpoint. At this moment there was complete silence in the bay; not one shot was fired. We had strict orders to wait until the GIs were only about 400m from the edge of the beach and were wading in water up to their knees….

Once the Americans had firm ground under their feet, they waded in two long lines, one after the other, through the water, with the left hand firmly on the pack of the man in front. Everything was so calm, so organized, that you had the impression that they were merely carrying out an exercise.

The Americans struggled forward with their weapons and packs through the high surf of the cold sea, slowly and utterly unprotected. We were well aware that the GIs below us were being led like lambs to the slaughter.

Then the firing commenced and all hell broke loose. Heinrich Severloh, who wrote that passage above, fired thousands of rounds from a machine gun and hundreds from his rifle. While his own estimates of how many men he killed and wounded is nearly as many as the total American casualties on Omaha Beach, one can be certain that he witnessed and took part in an absolute horror.

By 1959, his story was known in the US and he was nicknamed, “The Beast of Omaha”. Terrible dreams afflicted him until his death in 2006.



Weekend Wanderings: Bataan Death March 69th Anniversary
10 April 2011, 11:30
Filed under: Leadership, Normandy, POWs, Veterans, Weekend Wanderings | Tags: , ,

One of the most tragic events for Americans in World War II unfolded 69 years ago. Approximately 75,000 Americans and Filipinos who had surrendered on Bataan were force-marched to prisoner of war camps. At least 6,000 to 11,000 never reached the camps. Another example of man’s inhumanity to man….




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