Thursday, July 6, 2017

Normandy Journal: Strangers Drowning

photograph of Omaha Beach by Hallie Cohen
La pointe du Hoc was one of the vantage points from which German artillery and snipers were able to repel the invading allied forces on D-Day. Here is an inscription on the wall of the La pointe du Hoc memorial from one Sgt. Antonio Ruggiero of the Second Ranger Battalion,  “Dear God don’t let me drown, I want to get to do what I’m supposed to do.” "No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great, duty," was the motto of the legendary Big Red One, the First Infantry Division." Sacrificing one’s life for a cause has become almost a quaint notion. Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning which posits extreme benevolence as an anomalie may be a litmus test of the current state of civilization. 34,000 men landed on Omaha beach on June 6, 1944. Charlie, Dog, Easy and Fox were code names used for some of the sectors. Out of those 2700 died (and there were undoubtedly many drownings of those soldiers who didn’t know how to swim), 5800 were wounded. In the first wave Company A of the 129th Division's 116th infantry from Bedford, Virginia was comprised of 30 men of which 22 were casualties. When you stare down at Omaha beach you realize that the invading force were sitting ducks, literally--to the extent that they emerged sometimes neck high from the landing craft which couldn’t afford to come closer to shore and had to negotiate the cold rough waters before even reaching the beach. Following that they had to climb to their targets who were shooting at them from above. Everything that could have gone wrong occurred early that morning including the fact that the air cover that was supposed to provide support missed its target by 50 yards due to the an artificial cloud of smoke that had been sent up with the idea of obfuscating the enemy’s vision. When you visit Omaha you're not only haunted by the death, you’re diminished by the bravery. After visiting Omaha and the other invasion beaches, take the thirty kilometer trip to Bayeux and see the story of how William the Conquerer earned his title. There’s a curious and haunting similarity to the self-sacrifice by both the Norman and Saxon armies hundreds of years before, told, like the subtext in a foreign film, by the fallen bodies which lie along the base of the tapestry.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.