Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June 6, 1944

Today is the anniversary of D-Day. One of the best accounts of that day was by Stephen Ambrose. Ambrose's scholarship has come under question — he has been credibly accused of plagiarism — but not his ability to tell a story. Here are some Goodreads quotations from the book:
  • No matter how bad things got, no matter how anxious the staff became, the commander had to “preserve optimism in himself and in his command. Without confidence, enthusiasm and optimism in the command, victory is scarcely obtainable.” Eisenhower realized that “optimism and pessimism are infectious and they spread more rapidly from the head downward than in any other direction.” He learned that a commander’s optimism “has a most extraordinary effect upon all with whom he comes in contact. With this clear realization, I firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect the cheerful certainty of victory—that any pessimism and discouragement I might ever feel would be reserved for my pillow."
  • On the edge of town, Fitzgerald saw a sight “that has never left my memory. It was a picture story of the death of one 82nd Airborne trooper. He had occupied a German foxhole and made it his personal Alamo. In a half circle around the hole lay the bodies of nine German soldiers. The body closest to the hole was only three feet away, a potato masher [grenade] in its fist. The other distorted forms lay where they had fallen, testimony to the ferocity of the fight. His ammunition bandoliers were still on his shoulders, empty of M-1 clips. Cartridge cases littered the ground. His rifle stock was broken in two. He had fought alone and, like many others that night, he had died alone. “I looked at his dog tags. The name read Martin V. Hersh. I wrote the name down in a small prayer book I carried, hoping someday I would meet someone who knew him. I never did.
  • On the beach, men saw Father Lacy “go down to the water’s edge and pull the dead, dying, and wounded from the water and put them in relatively protected positions. He didn’t stop at that, but prayed for them and with them, gave comfort to the wounded and dying. A real man of God.”