Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Normandy Journal: The Pegasus Bridge

General Richard Gale's uniform (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
In one of the films shown at Memorial Pegasus in Ranville, Prince Charles describes D-Day as the largest amphibious landing in human history. The taking of the Pegasus Bridge was where it all began. If the allies could secure control of the river crossings they would be able to ferry supplies to the troops. At Arromanche-les- Bains you can look down the mulberries prefabricated by the British who created a man-made harbor. Supply side economics? Like at lot of things that happened on D-Day including the fact that Rommel was not given the authority to respond immediately to the enemy, the allies had both good luck and a good deal of bad luck on their side (especially when it came to the elements). Operation Deadstick in which three gliders tied to the back of aircraft landed near what is now known as Pegasus Bridge was the hinge upon which the whole success of the Normandy mission depended. As you ride along the roads of Normandy near the invasion beaches of Omaha, Juno, Utah, Gold and Sword you will see signs like Operation Overlord, L’Assault and there are monuments to regiments like the Green Howards and one Stanley Hollis who was the only soldier to receive a Victoria’s Cross for his bravery on D- Day. What is stunning is how different the world is today. The British, French and Americans shared an incontrovertible sense of moral purpose. By the 60’s De Gaulle who made his first return to French soil at Courseulles was vilified by student revolutionaries, who now looked at the leader of the  Resistance as a reactionary. And none of the allied excursions either in the Cold War or afterwards in Viet Nam would come close to exuding the same integrity as Normandy. The uniform worn by the British General Richard Gale together with its U.S. Legion of Honor Medal awarded by General Omar Bradley now has its own glass display case at Memorial Pegasus, but one can't help lamenting the fact that it's hard to imagine any of our current leaders walking in his shoes.

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