#DDay71: June 5, 1944

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‪#‎HonorTheFallen‬ ‪#‎HonorTheSurvivors‬ ‪#‎RememberDDay‬ #DDay71

June 5th, 1944 – the Allies prepare for D-Day.

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On this day in 1944, more than 1,000 British bombers drop 5,000 tons of bombs on German gun batteries placed at the Normandy assault area, while 3,000 Allied ships cross the English Channel in preparation for the invasion of Normandy — D-Day.

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The day of the invasion of occupied France had been postponed repeatedly since May, mostly because of bad weather and the enormous tactical obstacles involved. Finally, despite less than ideal weather conditions—or perhaps because of them—General Eisenhower decided on June 5 to set the next day as D-Day, the launch of the largest amphibious operation in history.

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Ike knew that the Germans would be expecting postponements beyond the sixth, precisely because weather conditions were still poor….

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#MilitaryMonday: Late June 1944 – Normandy, France

A glimpse into what was happening in Normandy, France 70 years ago…

National Ensigns fly proudly as a pair of landing craft hits the beach somewhere in Normandy. Overhead barrage balloons protect against dive-bomber attack. US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

National Ensigns fly proudly as a pair of landing craft hits the beach somewhere in Normandy. Overhead barrage balloons protect against dive-bomber attack.
US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Clearing Normandy beaches of the tricks and devices set up by the Nazis in a futile attempt to prevent or delay an Allied landing, members of a U. S. Navy Beach Battalion uproot the spider-like obstructions intended to rip out the bottoms of our ships. Though visible at low tide, the obstructions were covered with water at high tide. US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Clearing Normandy beaches of the tricks and devices set up by the Nazis in a futile attempt to prevent or delay an Allied landing, members of a U. S. Navy Beach Battalion uproot the spider-like obstructions intended to rip out the bottoms of our ships. Though visible at low tide, the obstructions were covered with water at high tide.
US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Proving the amphibious nature of World War II, these US Navy men are stationed ashore somewhere in France to perform duties which will further the cooperation of land and sea forces. US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Proving the amphibious nature of World War II, these US Navy men are stationed ashore somewhere in France to perform duties which will further the cooperation of land and sea forces.
US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Exhausted from their rapid advance inland from the Normandy beachhead, US soldiers relax for a few minutes outside a French cafe. US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

Exhausted from their rapid advance inland from the Normandy beachhead, US soldiers relax for a few minutes outside a French cafe.
US Navy Official photograph, Gift of Charles Ives, from the collection of The National WWII Museum.

All images courtesy of The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA.

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#MilitaryMonday: 70 years ago, Ernie Pyle Dispatches from Normandy

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June 12, 1944 – Due to a last-minute alteration in the arrangements, I didn’t arrive on the beachhead until the morning after D-day, after our first wave of assault troops had hit the shore.

By the time we got here the beaches had been taken and the fighting had moved a couple of miles inland. All that remained on the beach was some sniping and artillery fire, and the occasional startling blast of a mine geysering brown sand into the air. That plus a gigantic and pitiful litter of wreckage along miles of shoreline.

Submerged tanks and overturned boats and burned trucks and shell-shattered jeeps and sad little personal belongings were strewn all over these bitter sands. That plus the bodies of soldiers lying in rows covered with blankets, the toes of their shoes sticking up in a line as though on drill. And other bodies, uncollected, still sprawling grotesquely in the sand or half hidden by the high grass beyond the beach.

That plus an intense, grim determination of work-weary men to get this chaotic beach organized and get all the vital supplies and the reinforcements moving more rapidly over it from the stacked-up ships standing in droves out to sea.

In this column I want to tell you what the opening of the second front in this one sector entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.

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June 16, 1944 – I took a walk along the historic coast of Normandy in the country of France.

It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they were in the water, for they were dead.

On the beach lay, expended, sufficient men and mechanism for a small war. They were gone forever now. And yet we could afford it.

We could afford it because we were on, we had our toehold, and behind us there were such enormous replacements for this wreckage on the beach that you could hardly conceive of their sum total. Men and equipment were flowing from England in such a gigantic stream that it made the waste on the beachhead seem like nothing at all, really nothing at all.

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June 17, 1944 – In the preceding column we told about the D-day wreckage among our machines of war that were expended in taking one of the Normandy beaches.

But there is another and more human litter. It extends in a thin little line, just like a high-water mark, for miles along the beach. This is the strewn personal gear, gear that will never be needed again, of those who fought and died to give us our entrance into Europe.

Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers’ packs. Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles and hand grenades. Here are the latest letters from home, with the address on each one neatly razored out – one of the security precautions enforced before the boys embarked.

Here are toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. Here are pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers, and bloody, abandoned shoes. Here are broken-handled shovels, and portable radios smashed almost beyond recognition, and mine detectors twisted and ruined.

Here are torn pistol belts and canvas water buckets, first-aid kits and jumbled heaps of lifebelts. I picked up a pocket Bible with a soldier’s name in it, and put it in my jacket. I carried it half a mile or so and then put it back down on the beach. I don’t know why I picked it up, or why I put it back down.

Soldiers carry strange things ashore with them. In every invasion you’ll find at least one soldier hitting the beach at H-hour with a banjo slung over his shoulder. The most ironic piece of equipment marking our beach – this beach of first despair, then victory – is a tennis racket that some soldier had brought along. It lies lonesomely on the sand, clamped in its rack, not a string broken.

Two of the most dominant items in the beach refuse are cigarets and writing paper. Each soldier was issued a carton of cigarets just before he started. Today these cartons by the thousand, water-soaked and spilled out, mark the line of our first savage blow.

Writing paper and air-mail envelopes come second. The boys had intended to do a lot of writing in France. Letters that would have filled those blank, abandoned pages.

Always there are dogs in every invasion. There is a dog still on the beach today, still pitifully looking for his masters.

He stays at the water’s edge, near a boat that lies twisted and half sunk at the water line. He barks appealingly to every soldier who approaches, trots eagerly along with him for a few feet, and then, sensing himself unwanted in all this haste, runs back to wait in vain for his own people at his own empty boat.

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Such horrible sacrifice was not in vain. Rest in Peace with eternal thanks from grateful people everywhere who love Freedom.

On the Web: Read Ernie Pyle’s columns in their entirety.

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#WarriorWednesday: A Pictorial Perspective of D-Day Then and Now

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June 6, 2018 marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious military assault in history. This is a stunning comparison of the scenes in 1944 and what those areas look like today.

American soldiers stand in the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, which was liberated by paratroopers of the 501st and 506th Regiments of the 101st Airborne Division:

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Troops of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division land at Juno Beach on the outskirts of Bernieres-sur-Mer on D-Day. 340 Canadian soldiers lost their lives in the battle for the beachhead:

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German prisoners are guarded by British soldiers from the 2nd Army on Juno Beach:

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U.S. Army vehicles driving through the runs of Saint-Lo, which was almost completely destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers:

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A Canadian soldier directs traffic in front of Notre-Dame Nativity Church in Bernieres-sur-Mer, close to where 14,000 Canadians landed at Juno Beach:

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American craft of at Omaha Beach, Normandy, during the first stages of the Allied invasion, which is near Colleville-sur-Mer:

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U.S. troops leaving Weymouth, U.K., to take part in Operation Overloard:

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A French armored column passing through Sainte-Mere-Eglise receiving a warm welcome:

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Ammunition stores in advance of the assault in Moreton-in-Marsh, U.K.:

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British Royal Marine Commandos of 4th Special Service Brigade land on Juno Beach at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer:

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The paramount courage of the Allied forces who stormed the beaches of Normandy shall not be forgotten; even as the ocean waters lap away the sands of time.

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#MilitaryMonday: #DDay70 – A Final Look

dday Landing ship put cargo ashore at low tide. Beaches are secured by the evening of June 6th. (Photo courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives) #DDay70 dday44 “Say WHAT?!” said Gen. Eisenhower during a review of the crew of USS Quincy (CA 71) in May 1944. Okay, that’s probably not what he said, but in retrospect of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I thought I’d offer you the chance to put words into the mouth of the Supreme Allied Commander as he visited a ship that would engage the enemy on Utah Beach. But wait there’s more! Quincy had a couple more brushes with history on and following D-Day. At 0537, 6 June 1944, she engaged shore batteries from her station on the right flank of Utah Beach, Baie de la Seine. During the period 6 through 17 June, in conjunction with shore fire control parties and aircraft spotters, Quincy conducted highly accurate pinpoint firing against enemy mobile batteries and concentrations of tanks, trucks, and troops. She also neutralized and destroyed heavy, long range enemy batteries, supported minesweepers operating under enemy fire, engaged enemy batteries that were firing on the crews of the ships USS Corry (DD-463) and Glennon (DD-620) during their efforts to abandon their ships after they had struck mines and participated in the reduction of the town of Quineville on 12 June. dday2 Crash

#MilitaryMonday: Band Of Brothers Soldier Passes and Leaves A Legacy Typical of The Greatest Generation

This Nov. 11, 2004 file photo shows William “Wild Bill” Guarnere participating in the Veterans Day parade in Media, Pa. Guarnere, one of the World War II veterans whose exploits were dramatized in the TV miniseries “Band of Brothers,” died, Sunday, March 9, 2014, at the age of 90. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, file)

One of the original ‘Band of Brothers,’ ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere recently passed away at 90 yrs old.

Guarnere joined Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He made his first combat jump on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France.

Guarnere earned the nickname “Wild Bill” because of his reckless attitude towards the Germans. He was also nicknamed “Gonorrhoea”, a play on the pronunciation of his last name, as seen in Band of Brothers. He displayed strong hatred for the Germans because one of his elder brothers, Henry, had been killed fighting the German Army in the Italian campaign at Monte Cassino.

Guarnere lived up to his nickname. A terror on the battlefield, he fiercely attacked the Germans he came into contact with. In the early morning hours of June 6, he joined up with Lieutenant Richard Winters and a few other men trying to reach their objective, to secure the small village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and the exit of causeway number 2 leading up from the beach. As the group headed south, they heard a German supply platoon coming and took up an ambush position. Winters told the men to wait for his command to fire, but Guarnere was eager to avenge his brother and, thinking Winters might be a Quaker and hesitant to kill, opened fire first, killing most of the unit.
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Later, on the morning of June 6, he was also eager to join Richard Winters in assaulting a group of four 105mm Howitzers at Brécourt Manor. Winters named Guarnere Second Platoon Sergeant as a group of about 11 or 12 men attacked a force of about 50. The attack led by Winters was later used as an example of how a small squad-sized group could attack a vastly larger force in a defensive position.

Guarnere was wounded in mid-October 1944 while Easy was securing the line on “The Island” on the south side of the Rhine. As the sergeant of Second Platoon, he had to go up and down the line to check on and encourage his men, who were spread out over a distance of about a mile. While driving a motorcycle (that he had stolen from a Dutch farmer) across an open field, he was shot in the right leg by a sniper. The impact knocked him off the motorcycle, fractured his right tibia, and lodged some shrapnel in his right buttock. He was sent back to England on October 17

While recovering from injuries, he didn’t want to be assigned to another unit, so he put black shoe polish all over his cast, put his pants leg over the cast, and walked out of the hospital in severe pain. He was caught by an officer, court-martialed, demoted to private, and returned to the hospital. He told them he would just go AWOL again to rejoin Easy Company. The hospital kept him a week longer and then sent him back to the Netherlands to be with his outfit.

He arrived at Mourmelon-le-Grand, just outside Reims, where the 101st was on R and R (rest and recuperation), about December 10, just before the company was sent to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, on December 16. Because the paperwork did not arrive from England about his court-martial and demotion, he was put back in his same position.

While holding the line just up the hill south west of Foy, a massive artillery barrage hit the men in their position. Guarnere lost his right leg in the incoming barrage while trying to help his wounded friend Joe Toye (who could not get up because he had also lost his right leg). This injury ended Guarnere’s participation in the war.

Guarnere received the Silver Star for combat during the Brecourt Manor Assault on D-Day, and was later decorated with two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, making him one of only two Easy Company members (the other being Lynn Compton) to be awarded the Silver Star throughout the duration of the war while a member of Easy. A third man, Gerald J. Loraine (27 March 1913—19 May 1976), received the Silver Star for his participation on D-Day, however he was a member of Service Company, 506th, not a member of Company E.
BandOfBrothers2In his autobiography, Beyond Band of Brothers; Memoirs of Major Richard Winters, Richard Winters referred to Ronald Speirs and Guarnere as “natural killers”. In making those statements about both men, Winters expressed respect, not negativity.

His son, William Guarnere Jr., confirmed that his father died at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Guarnere was rushed to the hospital early Saturday and died of a ruptured aneurysm early Sunday night, March 9th.

“He had a good, long life,” his son said.

The HBO miniseries, based on a book by Stephen Ambrose, followed the members of Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division from training in Georgia in 1942 through some of the war’s fiercest European battles through the war’s end in 1945. Its producers included Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Guarnere was portrayed by the actor Frank John Hughes.

Guarnere, whose combat exploits earned him his nickname, lost a leg while trying to help a wounded soldier during the Battle of the Bulge. His commendations included the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.

In 2007, Guarnere helped write a nationally best-selling memoir called, “Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends,” with fellow south Philadelphian veteran Edward J. “Babe” Heffron and journalist Robyn Post. William Guarnere Jr. said his father and Heffron met during the war and remained friends until Heffron died in December.

“Now they’re together again,” the son said.

Jake Powers, who operates a Band of Brothers tour company in Grafton, Mass., said Guarnere worked behind the scenes to ensure that his comrades received the recognition they deserved.

“He did more things behind the scenes for other veterans than (for) himself,” Powers said.

Rest in Peace and thank you.

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