Today is the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, the pivotal breaching of Hitler’s “Sea Wall” that marked the final phase of the Second World War. The Normandy beach landings on June 6, 1944 were critical to the success of Operation Overlord, the Allied plan for wresting France, then Europe and beyond, from Nazi Germany’s malevolent grip.
Here are some links that remind us of that chaotic time and the determined bravery of those who fought:
“Cross-Channel Trip” is a firsthand account of the D-Day invasion by A. J. (Joe) Liebling, a reporter for The New Yorker magazine. It was published in three parts, beginning on July 1, 1944. It’s an interesting read – beautifully written, but also selectively crafted for a wartime readership. Liebling doesn’t shy away from hard facts, but he doesn’t dwell on them either. Waiting for action to begin, he writes:
The general plan, I knew, was for planes and big guns of the fleet to put on an intensive bombardment before the landing. A couple of weeks earlier I had heard a Marine colonel on the planning staff tell how the guns would hammer the pillboxes [gun stations], leaving only a few stunned defenders for the Infantry to gather up on their way through to positions inland.
“We’re lucky,” the commander said. “This beach looks like a soft one.”
And here is Liebling on witnessing the landings:
A number of men, who had evidently just left her [a landing boat], were in the water, some up to their necks and others up to their armpits, and they didn’t look as if they were trying to get ashore. Tracer bullets were slipping around them and they seemed perplexed. What I hate most about tracers is that every time you see one, you know there are four more bullets you don’t see, because only one tracer to five bullets is loaded in a machine-gun belt.
Roger Angell expanded on Liebling’s account this week in his post “D Day Addendum” on the New Yorker books blog.
The veterans profiled in “Remembering D-Day with their Brothers-in-Arms” could be any one of the young, wise-cracking soldiers from the New York City area that Liebling wrote about in 1944.
These interactive D-day: then-and-now photographs dramatically pair archival shots from Operation Overlord with present day photography of the same locations.
Here are four of my own related posts; the Ghost Army (23rd Headquarters Special Troops, 4th Platoon, Company D) landed in Normandy just 8 days after D-Day to continue its secret missions on behalf the Allies.
Noted | The Ghost Army: the arts and artists of deception
Guggenheim Museum | Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe
Noted | Saving art in wartime (The Monuments Men)
Neue Galerie | Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937
Finally, this (very) temporary public art work, The Fallen, was installed at the D-Day landing beach of Arromanches in Normandy last year in honor of International Peace Day. 9,000 silhouettes were traced in the sand to represent the lives lost between the tides on D-day. While the silhouettes were washed away with the incoming tide on the same day that they were created, pictures of the project attest to the undeniable losses that D-Day, so critical to the Allied victory, wrought.
- Note that “Cross-Channel Trip” is only accessible by New Yorker subscribers. You can sign up for a one-month trial subscription, with immediate access to the article, here.