Omaha Beach – 6-6-1944

Into The Jaws Of Death

Since the first documented photograph by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, people have been taking countless pictures using various media. From the most iconic panoramic shots to the current trend of “selfies” on our cell phones, the amount of photographs available for viewing is infinite. This vast amount of pictures is why it can be so difficult to narrow down to one single image for further exploration.

In the process of scouring the internet for an image for discuss I came across multiple images, both heartbreaking and anger inducing. The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” has been widely attributed to Frederick Barnard and it is absolutely correct. The ability to capture a single moment in time, out of context, is an incredible feat of technology. That technology, coupled with the watchful eye of a skilled photographer, has resulted in numerous images that evoke strong emotions and discussions.

I would like to discuss a specific image from history that “spoke” to me. The above picture was taken on June 6, 1944 during the Normandy Invasion, more specifically the offloading of the 16th Infantry’s Company “E” on Omaha Beach. Although there were several insertion points, it is generally accepted that Omaha Beach was the most difficult and dangerous entry point due to its hilly terrain and lack of sufficient cover. Casualties from both the water’s depth and the German fire from high vantage points along all six miles were constant. Estimates put the total casualties during the morning’s raid at over several thousand.

Continue reading Omaha Beach – 6-6-1944

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

I think that as a generation entertained by movies and flashy things, it is becoming exceedingly difficult for us to grasp the concepts of sacrifice and valor….I will be the first to admit that growing up in the 80’s was not a bad time….There were tube socks with colored stripes on them, there were tight-rolled jeans, there was Back To The Future, and Ronald Reagan…..The 80’s was the time that I was growing up, completely ignorant of the fact that four decades previous, there was a certain group of people who had been faced with one adversity after another…..The Great Depression and then World War II…..

If you haven’t read my previous Book Reviews, then you probably don’t know that my reading has taken a turn towards the Pacific battlefront in World War II….I’m sorry but the brutatlity and barbarics of the Japanese just astounds and amazes me…..I have read each book ( Flags of Our Fathers, and In Harms Way) with a certain fascination and morbid curiousity as to how the Japanese could be so hateful yet so proud of killing either themselves or our American soldiers so heinously….It just baffles the mind…..

Anyway, “Ghost Soldiers” is the story of an absolutely insane rescue mission to save 500+ POW’s, some of whom were the survivors of the Bataan Death March (several click-worthy links included here, here, and also here )….The mission was headed up by Henry Mucci and Robert Prince and involved over 100 Army Rangers along with several dozen Filipino guerillas raiding the POW camp at Cabanatuan to free several hundred fellow soldiers who had surrendered to the Japanese and were being treated horrendously….

The author, Hampton Sides, writes the story with a “novel” feel to it….I had an impossible time putting it down and what made it even more poignant is the fact that it is a true story of these men (prisoners AND the liberators) who were made of something special, some kind of moral fiber that is absent in alot of people these days….We have become spoiled and have absolutely no idea how good we truly have it….The generation that grew up 50 years ago are the people that we should be listening to, the people who have the best advice because so many things we find of great importance are trivialities to them….They’ve seen worse, they’ve experienced worse….

So now that my self-loathing rant is complete what are you waiting for? Go out and get this book and read it…..As a sidenote it appears that there is a movie being made about this whole story…

Thanks to Jennifer and Jim for letting me borrow this book!

In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton

After my previous foray into World War II storytelling with “Flags of Our Fathers”, I was advised to try reading this book….As a Navy veteran it was so funny to hear alot of the exact same slang that I used in the mid-to-late 90’s was the same as that used in the 40’s….I guess some things never change…..

Well you didn’t click on this review to hear about my Navy stuff…..

Before I get much further into this, let me say one thing; Captain McVay got screwed. Yep, that’s right. He got the serious shaft and because of it, ended up committing suicide. I think that people can only take so much hatred and animosity aimed towards them before it’s just too much. Although his men fought to clear his name (and still do to this day), he died by his own hand too soon, because life dealt him a bad hand of cards the last 20 years of his life. It’s a true shame because according to the interviews with the surviving crew of the USS Indianapolis, he was a stand-up guy and an excellent Captain.

The USS Indianapolis was a ship that lost 75% of its officers and 80% of its enlisted men over the course of several days….They were torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58 on July 30th, 1945 and within 12 minutes were at the bottom of the ocean…..Things go from bad to worse….Originally about 300 of the crew died within minutes of the submarine strike and the other 900some ended up in the water, coated with oil from the sinking ship….Out of these 900 men, they floated in various groups seperated several miles from one another….These groups, at the beginning, when they were in a completely sane (sane but frightened) state of mind, tied themselves together so as to not drift too far apart….Well after a couple days of shark attacks (average was 50 men a day being sucked under by sharks) and dehydration (some finally succumbed to drinking the salty sea water, only to be pacified for a short time. Due to the saltiness and the fact they were so dehydrated, they “imploded” violently within a couple of hours), they started to hallucinate and see Japanese enemies all around them (their shipmates that were tied to them)…..There is a tale in the book of several sailors holding another under the water because he whipped out his knife and began killing all the “Japs” around him….These men cried screams of agony as they drowned their shipmate but it was the only way to get him to stop killing, he was irrational…..

The book starts from the time the ship left port, carrying “Little Boy”, (the bomb used in Hiroshima) all the way up to the court martial and Captain McVay’s suicide 20 years later….The book discusses all the different parties involved in the ship’s tragedy and lays no blame anywhere, just presenting the facts….It is obvious that the author feels for Captain McVay though, shoot I do too…..

I enjoyed this book, I really did….I was on the verge of tears last night while reading the final chapter (I haven’t cried in a book in quite some time), because it was just so hard….Very few of us have ever faced those kind of odds, those types of tragedies…..The only caveat, as I was explaining to a coworker, was the author seemed to end every section with a dramatic statement….The book was dramatic enough without an extra little jab in the side every couple pages (“Then the sharks came and fed.” / “But the nightmare was only beginning.” / “Little did he know that his words were truer than he could have ever known.”)

Anyway, DEFINITELY worth a read….I didn’t know anything about the Indianapolis and for that I feel that I have lived my life as a lesser person….Knowing about it now, and possible future research, means that I have a little bit more in my life and my knowledge base has increased by just a thread….READ THIS BOOK….

posted Fri, 10-22-04

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley

You know, I have never really been a big history buff. I’ve honestly never been interested in military history and never really held an interest in previous world wars so it seems a little strange that I’m talking about this book. I bought this book because I was desperately trying to find something to read a couple years ago. I just finished the second reading of this book and enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

James Bradley was the son of John Bradley, one of the famous flagraisers in the photograph on the book’s cover. You recognize the photograph, it’s been displayed in so many ways and in so many places that it is an integral part of American displays of pride throughout the 20th century. Well, this book lays to rest alot of the myths surrounding the picture and gives the life stories of all 6 flagraisers before joining the Marines and fighting on Iwo Jima…The 6 flagraisers were; Mike, Harlon, Ira, Doc, Franklin and Rene. I don’t put their last names here because after reading this book, James Bradley has given such a thorough story of their lives that you feel like you knew them personally. If a book on the glories of war is what you’re looking for, then this is not your story. This story is narrated with a very anti-war sentiment. It is graphic in scenes, it is tearjerking in others. This story is an amazing read and should make you appreciative of what you have. Unfortunately, too many people alive today have no idea the sacrifices that our previous generations have made for us. These same people prefer to live in a bubble and be completely self-absorbed, giving no thought to those from an older generation that have seen and heard more than we would ever want to.

Have you thanked a Veteran today? If not, you should. Upon finishing my first read 2 years ago,I happened to see a gentleman wearing a hat that displayed the fact that he was a Veteran of World War II in the Pacific. I walked straight up to him and thanked him for his sacrifices. Go thank one yourself, it’s crucial for us to appreciate those people. After reading this book and seeing how vicious the Japanese soldiers fought, you’ll be left shaking your head and will be truly happy for what you have.