D-Day Remembered 71 Years Later

Posted on: June 6th, 2015 by Will Rodriguez 13 Comments
A fully Equipped paratrooper armed with a Thompson submachine gun M1, climbing into a transport plane 5-6 June 1944. Center of Military History. U.S. Army

Today is the 71st anniversary of D-Day, one of the largest amphibious invasions in history.  Besides being a prime number, there’s nothing special about the number 71 so you won’t see the wider coverage we enjoyed last year except for some stuff maybe on the History Channel.  It’s admittedly a tough subject.  In the 71 years since this almost indescribably important event, D-day has been taken apart in every way imaginable.

Last year, I featured a picture of the landing from the perspective of the troops coming off the landing craft and a clip of what I consider the most accurate media portrayal of the landing on Omaha beach, the opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan” in an article on GruntsandCo.

This year I thought I’d showcase what I think is the most accurate media portrayal of paratroopers jumping om D-day from the series “Band of Brothers”.

For what it’s worth according to the Geneva Convention you can shoot combatants using parachutes if they are coming down to attack you.  You can’t shoot them if they are abandoning a stricken aircraft.  Without seeing the plane, I’ve never figured out how to make out the difference in the heat of combat.  What about if paratroopers are jumping out of a damaged airplane still with the intent of attacking the enemy? Sorry, I digress.

We are all fascinated by the incredible bravery displayed by so many that day and celebrate an infinite number of blessings because of their sacrifice.  Had they not done what they did, there is no telling what additional evil would have been visited on this world by a regime that systematically murdered 11 million humans, (six million Jews and five million “others”) and according to new research may have killed up to 20 million.

About 2000 Americans died on Omaha beach alone, over 4500 on that one day, June 6, 1944.  Over 400 thousand died in WWII.  Bring it forward we have lost about 10,000 Americans to radical Islam (counting those who died on 911), an evil compatible with the hate espoused by Nazism.  Radical Islam is as strong if not stronger today.

For me it evokes how John Steele may have felt as he hung by his chute helpless from the church steeple of Saint Mere Eglise .  Watching his friends die in the courtyard below and knowing more were about to land.

Monument_to_John_Steele

Food for thought as we read the headlines…

 

(A clarification reference D-Day casualties was added after this article was published.)

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LawyerHandle

    I found this BBC D-Day documentary on YouTube. It’s pretty good as the BBC knows how to do documentaries… Something we don’t get on US TV much anymore.
    I checked for even Saving Private Ryan yesterday on the TV but there was nothing. Pretty sad.
    http://youtu.be/WV_6kvyFLBo

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …You know, I see the photos of the paratroopers waddling up to the aircraft and somehow getting aboard.  No help for it.  You have your basic combat load… a parachute… a reserve chute.  You have extra ammo to keep you going until you (hopefully) link up with forces coming ashore.
    .
    …Then of course you have supplies that are not meant to be carried around, but rather left at a small impromptu “dump” where your company can distribute as needed.  Anti-tank mines would fall into this category.  
    .
    …One source of what a lad might carry aboard an aircraft on June 5/6th:
    .
    http://looserounds.com/2013/06/05/ww2-paratrooper-basic-load-for-the-normandy-invasion-d-day/
    .
    …Now all of the above makes some kind of sense.  But then I look at photos of American infantry already on the ground in Afghanistan and already linked up with their units… and in some cases it appears that they are ready to waddle onto aircraft…
    .
    …For those not familiar with the story:  In the first 48 hours of the landings, one division HQ had a report of their men capturing four Japanese soldiers.  This was something of a puzzlement.  The only Japanese soldiers known to be in Nazi occupied Europe were high ranking diplomatic/observer types. 
    .
    …Eventually four common soldiers brought in.  Somebody found who spoke some Japanese.  These soldiers spoke various amounts of Japanese, but were actually Koreans.  Korea had been in Japanese hands for roughly 50 years and not well treated. 
    .
    …The men had been conscripted into the Japanese Army (some Koreans as infantry… others as labor troops… the vast majority of the handful of “Japanese” captured at Tarawa were actually Korean labor troops…)  These lads were captured by the Soviets at Nomanhan/Khalkin Gol in 1939 and ultimately were shoved into Soviet units.  Later captured by the Germans, they were absorbed into German units.  
    .
    …At Normandy, they naturally took the first opportunity to surrender.  Returned home at the end of the war, the lads would likely have been swept up into the Korean War five years later… their side determined by geography.
    .
    -YP-

  • Txazz

    On the 6th I sure did remember D-Day.  The vid of paratroopers was tough to watch.  It still is horrifying to think of the deaths that first day and what we have today because of those sacrifices.  Just mind boggling.

  • Txazz

    LawyerHandle will watch these – BBC does know how to make a doc.

  • aGrimm

    Will: it hit me a little harder this year also.  Don’t know why.  Our battalion lost 14 during my time in Nam and I knew four of them.  I posted to our community’s Facebook to ask a special prayer for they and their families and got some fine comments in return.*  I recommend doing this as it is probably not a bad way to get people to think about the true meaning of Memorial Day and it felt like a good way for me to honor our fallen.

    FYI: here’s a couple links to statistics of our KIAs and WIAs for all of our wars.  Although relative to the numbers of service members, in terms of total body counts they fall out as follows: WWII @ 38.5%, Nam @ 21%, Korea @ 13.6%, and on downward from there.   I was under the impression that Korea and Nam had better rates of survival but the WIA and KIA ratios are not all that much different than previous wars though twice as good as the AR, with all averaging roughly a 3:1 ratio.  However the GWOT has a nearly a 10:1 WIA to KIA ratio. A wonderfully telling statistic about how battlefield medicine has dramatically improved and our military’s willingness to put resources into this effort.  

    http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf
    http://www.defense.gov/news/casualty.pdf   
    * not counting the couple of well meaning, but ignorant of what Memorial Day is about, responses of “thanks for your service”.

  • aGrimm

    PS: in citing the above statistics, I am ignoring other in-theater (non-combat) deaths. I am not and do not wish to diminish those losses.  The Civil War had nearly twice as many in-theater deaths as combat deaths principally (I believe) attributed to disease, accidents, and exposure.  Note that for the Civil War, only the Union’s WIA to KIA ratio (2:1) can be calculated as the number of Confederate WIA’s is unknown.  I was surprised to see that the Civil War comprises only 5-6% or our combat KIAs.  Nevertheless all of the deaths represent service to our country that deserve honor and respect.

  • aGrimm

    Oh crap, I was looking at the wrong stat on my worksheet; Nam =7.3% of our total KIAs in US history.  Mea Culpa.

  • aGrimm

    LiveFyre timed me out: to repeat/continue:
    Oh crap, I was looking at the wrong stat column on my worksheet; I
    was looking at the % number  of service members in each war. Mea Culpa.  The KIA percents are as follows. 
    AR
    = 0.7%; 1812 = 0.35%; Mexican = 0.27%; Civil (Union & Confederate) =
    33%; SpanAm = 0.06%; WWI = 8.2 %; WWII = 45%; Korea = 5 %; Nam = 7.3 %;
    DS = 0.02%; GWOT = 0.8%;  In descending order of highest to lowest KIAs: WWII, Civil, WWI, Nam, Korea, GWOT, AR,1812, Mexican, SpanAm, and DS.

  • YankeePapa

    aGrimm ,
    .
    …For many years the number of fatalities (total, both sides, all causes) in the American Civil War was listed at roughly 600,000.  Research within the last decade indicates that the true number is more like 700,000.
    .
    -YP-

  • aGrimm 
    “However
    the GWOT has a nearly a 10:1 WIA to KIA ratio. A wonderfully telling
    statistic about how battlefield medicine has dramatically improved and
    our military’s willingness to put resources into this effort.”
    FWIW I think Body Armor is more responsible than medical advances for that statistic.  You see we’ve always had medicine and while we have invented some awesome medical dicices and increased medical training this is the first war where the average vanilla ground pounder was wearing armor that actually stops bullets. Many people are surviving gunshots and explosions that if they hadn’t been wearing body armor would have killed them.

  • aGrimm

    YankeePapa aGrimm Thanks.  I’ll have to do some more homework.  Given the numbers you are citing, it is curious that the VA’s numbers only add up to ~ 430K.  But then it is the VA…  : )

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …I just saw a two hour Nova documentary re Normandy.  Covers everything from Mulberry harbors to hedgerows… sunken ships to surviving veterans.  Much more recent veteran… university professor who was a Ranger officer… retired as a Major after 20 years had some interesting insights.  Worth the watch…
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zE8g6jL7fc
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …Just watched Normandy 360.  Average GI wading ashore had between 75-90 lb load.  This is what one would expect from an “administrative” landing… not a combat assault.  The British had loaded their Tommies the same way on day one at the Somme in WWI.

    .
    …Aside from those whose landing craft sank… causing many of them to drown because they could not quickly shed such a massive load in time… those who survived were also in rough shape.  
    .
    …Picture walking a couple of city blocks.  No sweat.  Now picture walking a couple of city blocks in chest deep rough water… Now picture doing it under fire.  Fear makes even the easiest things hard… and hard things harder.  Most who made it to the beach were exhausted… both physically and mentally. But there was no safe place to rest.  
    .
    …SLA Marshall in “THE SOLDIERS LOAD” mentions how many in the first waves were “shattered” by physical exertion combined with mental stress.  Omaha Beach was not “stormed…”, it was, in the early stages… drizzled on…

    .
    … The aerial bombardment that was to have softened up the defenses killed not one German soldier… most ordinance landed in the fields behind the fortifications… some as far as three miles inland.   Rocket fire mostly landed in the water.  Naval gunfire was more accurate, but the Germans had placed a vast amount of steel reinforcement in their concrete bunkers.  The Allies had blueprints… but somehow it was not taken into account.  
    .
    …Marshall pointed out that one regiment whose commander insisted on his unit going in combat, not “cargo” mode turned in the best performance in the first hours.  They did a better job of linking up with other elements and were far more responsive to commands under fire than other units.  
    .
    …You think that somebody would learn from this.  Nope.  Most American units still treat their combat infantry like mules.
    .
    -YP-