Today 6 June 2010 is the sixty sixth anniversary of Operation Overlord/Neptune which is commonly referred to as D-Day. On 6 June 1944 the largest Amphibious operation in history commenced on the Normandy coast of France and was the beginning of the end for Nazi forces in Europe. The combined fighting force of the amphibious operation was comprised of American, Canadian, English, “Free” French and Polish fighting men.

D-Day was a one of the most complicated military operations in the history of the world. In the most basic sense it was a three part operation. First around midnight 25,000 Airborne troopers organized under the American and British airborne commands began vertical envelopment operations in support of the planned amphibious assault scheduled to begin 0630hrs local time. That is when the brave warriors of the combined free forces of the west assaulted Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches. The bravery these fine men showed on this day can never be spoken of enough. To wade ashore under withering small arms, artillery and mortar fire to attack reinforced enemy strong points is so brave that I can’t even begin to imagine what it took to get yourself out of the assault craft.

The third prong of the attack consisted of Glider operations(another exercise in having a bellyful of guts) and the operations code named Glimmer and Taxable that were deceptive operations to convince the Nazi that that Pais De Caille and not Normandy was the primary objective. The Nazis bought into this hook line and sinker and realized to late that the main assaults were to the south.

The purpose of this post isn’t to go over the order of battle for D-Day but to talk about one mans involvement in the operation as way to talk about all the brave men who fought that day. I’m going to talk about my grandfather who was a member of 2nd Ranger battalion even though he was in his late thirties when WW2 started.

The Old Man was typical of his generation and wouldn’t say squat about his service even though I annoyed him relentlessly to tell me stories. Most of what I learned I got from his friends, my grandmother and shamelessly looking through boxes in the closet and books. I learned that the Old Man was cited for bravery during WW2 three times and that was, unlike today, a rare thing. He also got a purple heart near the end of the war.

On D-Day the 2nd Rangers assaulted the Point-Du Hoc area of Utah Beach in the first wave. 200 Rangers scaled the cliffs of Point Du Hoc without any climbing gear while carrying weapons and ammunition in order to take out 88mm cannons that was menacing the beach and ships in the water.

Among those that scaled the cliff was the Old Man. After scaling the cliffs The Rangers were cut of from help and supplies and had to withstand several very determined assaults by Nazi forces to recapture the artillery. Rangers stood tall and defeated all the Nazi threw at them.

If the Rangers hadn’t completed the mission there was a very good possibility that the landing at Utah Beach might have turned out differently. If even one of the beach assaults failed or took much longer then projected D-Day might not have worked and the allied forces could have been pushed back into the ocean. If that happened we could all be speaking German today and celebrating Hitler’s birthday. That is if wasn’t for the guts, will and determination of American, Canadian, English, French and Polish forces.

The last sentence above the reason for this post to put a human face on one man involved in D Day. Now I am not singling the Old Man for praise or to hold him up as somebody special, far from it. I can hear his raspy voice in my head telling me to stop now!(which I heard A LOT because as a kid I was usually doing something way stupid. Not much has changed as an adult) and I know many people here had grandparents involved in/affected by WW2. I’m not claiming any special niche or anything like that. I did this to recognize everybody’s family and every countries sacrifice. I wanted to say thanks I feel I owe the men that fought that day for what they accomplished sixty six years ago.

Grandpa this is for you up in Ranger Heaven even though my ticket is punched for that place I won’t be joining you or Uncle Mike but as a former member of 2nd Ranger I am justifiably proud to say RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!


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About Xiphos0311

Sporadic genius but mostly IDGAF.

60 responses to “OPERATION OVERLORD 6 JUNE 1944”

  1. xiphos0311 says :

    Everybody please go and read and post on ThereWolf’s excellent article. I published this without looking and I realized I undercut his post for which I apologize ThereWolfe for my thoughtless action.

  2. Tom_Bando says :

    Good post, Xiphos. Pont du Hac there-very tough, very scary, etc.

    By D-D of course, the Russkies were on their way to the Bug River and Warsaw etc-post Kursk and Stalingrad, so I’ve always felt it was pretty clear Hitler was doomed whether it had worked or not. We were in Italy etc as it was.

    Dealing with counterfactuals is always dicey at best here-and of COURSE very very good that it DID go as planned-but-well you see what I mean, I hope.

    I had a couple great uncles that were there, I do believe. Pretty vicious.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      If D Day failed or was significantly altered and without the prospect of a two front war and by fighting on ground much closer to Germany, I think it was quite possible that the Nazi could have stopped or considerably blunted the Soviet thrust.

      It’s all academic though but once in a strategy game I did do the above but the other players were sort of lame so I blame it on them more on any skill I might or might not have.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Certainly no one wanted D-Day to fail. And Stalin got what he’d been screaming for over 3 years-a 2 front war.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        yep but in order to get that two front war North Africa and Italy had to happen first. Especially Italy it gave a third front and air bases to attack from.

        Cutting the Jerry’s off from Africa cut them off from resources that they needed.

        Everybody always forgets about Italy and North Africa which is a shame since they were extremely violent and vastly important.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      I had a friend who was a veteran of the Italy campaign, long since passed away, he talked about the hills and mountains, up and down back up, the terrain just being brutal. And the italian meats. Said he and the guys ate pretty well when they got a chance.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I’ve read a lot about the Italian campaigns and visited some of the battlefields and walked the hills. Parts of Italy reminds me a bit of Afghanistan.

  3. ThereWolf says :

    No problem at all, Xi. I’m not fussed. Thanks very much for the mention here.

    I usually watch ‘The Longest Day’ on or around the 6th every year but I’ve not been able to set aside the time this time around – which is annoying. It’s an anniversary I feel the need to recognise in my own way each year.

    The Point Du Hoc assault was an incredible achievement. Those guys must’ve got balls the size of Jupiter.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Wolf I wanted to make sure that you understood it was entirely unintentional on my part. I should have checked but I got a head full of steam going and went ahead and published. I figured nobody was going to have anything up today.

  4. kloipy says :

    My Grandfather was there too Xi. Maybe they fought along each other

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Do you know what unit your grandfather served with Kloipy? maybe we can hear something about him?

      • kloipy says :

        i’m not too sure Xi. His name was Victor Shoff (my last name is different as my dad’s mother re-married and took that name which is now mine). He was absent from my and my father’s life for a long time so most of the info we have on him is hazy. I’ll see if I can do some digging

  5. Jarv says :

    My grandfather served in North Africa and Italy- would never talk about it either.

    A few years ago we discovered an old photo album of his and the meticulous guy had chronicled his tour of duty- he’d dated all photos as well.

    It was funny, because aside from the (very) occasional shot of a tank or something the vast majority of the photos looked like him and his mates on holiday.

    My other grandfather was in the merchant navy and would talk far more freely about what he saw in the pacific.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      So your grandfather helped chase Rommel out of Africa? They did good work there.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      most of that generation wouldn’t say word one about what they did. It’s a shame that people nowadays can’t or won’t copy their reticence.

      So it seems that your Grandfather was as meticulous as The Old Man. Mine had photos dated, with names and locations, all organized chronologically including some very nice shots of the English countryside. Of course that photo book was in the bottom of a box under other boxes in the back of a closet.

      • Jarv says :

        Sounds exactly the same. we found them at the bottom of a trunk under a load of shit in the attic.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        One of my great uncles was at the Bataan death-march, was a POW for over 2 years, closer to 3, didn’t make it back. He died on one of those awful prisoner ships that Japan used to move their POWs to Taiwan and places W. to keep them outta reach of the Allies.

        There is a book called ‘Death March’ which has him in a couple of group shots of the camp, and there’s a couple mentions of him, what he was like and how he died. Pretty moving. You look at the pix of the POWs I can pick out his family hairline a mile away. My grandfather-his brother-is still around and certainly got much use outta the book.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      That’s something else there Jarv. Amazing.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    My dad couldn’t sign up. As a teenager he contracted osteomyelitis (sp?) in his leg. At the time, there were no anitbiotics to treat this infection and surgery involved cutting right to the bone and leaving an open wound for the infection to drain. It required daily cleaning and dressing, plus he couldn’t bend the leg properly.

    He tried out anyway. Army first, then Navy, then the RAF. In each medical they took one look at his leg, apologised and sent him on his way. He hated seeing his brothers and friends go off to war while he stayed home “like a spare prick”.

    He ended up ‘fire watching’ during the Blitz – which was basically running around with a bucket of water looking out for German incendiary bombs.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Your father did important work that can not be discounted since the Nazi tried to blow up/burn down England.

      Everybody during WW2 served some function and they all are equally important and all led to victory.

      • Continentalop says :

        What you said is why I love WWII movies. Everyone could have helped out and most did.

        There is a 50’s movie called Violent Saturday that has a scene that touches on this. Vic Morrow character is an engineer and his work is considered vital for the war effort so he can’t enlist or be drafted, but a neighbor kid’s dad was awarded a Silver Star. The neighbor holds no grudge and respects what Vic Morrow’s character did during the war, but Vic’s own son is ashamed and doesn’t understand he was also doing his duty and doing his best to help the war effort.

        That was truly a different era. Not a perfect era, but in many ways I consider it a better generation of people despite their obvious flaws.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Hey, I’m proud of what he did. Manchester was a big target, particularly Trafford Park where there were a lot of munitions factories, plus the Ship Water Canal was a major transportation route. He was stationed right next to it and German bombs aiming for Trafford Park were always hitting the surrounding areas.

        He did his bit, no doubt about that.

  7. kloipy says :

    My father’s step dad was also in WW2. He was at the Battle of Blitzkreig. He never talked about it either. I’ll see if I can get some pictures up from my other grandfather’s days in Korea. I’m sure you guys would dig them

  8. Continentalop says :

    My granddad was at Normandy as well. He manned a pillbox and that is how he earned his Iron Cross.

    I kid, I kid.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      Conti that reminded me of a line from the American version of the office. Dwight Schrute said it and it makes me laugh.

      “I come from a long line of fighters. My maternal grandfather was the toughest guy I ever knew. World War II veteran. He killed twenty men and then spent the rest of the war in an Allied prison camp.”

  9. ThereWolf says :

    My mum tells a story about when she was stationed in London. She was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and this one night remains etched in her memory, she still gets very emotional recounting it.

    She woke up, something she didn’t do if the air raid sirens weren’t going off, she’d sleep right through. She could hear the German bomber engines, but they were distant. Bugged about waking up, she got out of bed and went to the window. Seemed peaceful enough but then she saw a parachute gliding down from the sky, silent and on the end of it was a metal drum. Don’t know what they were called but the Germans filled them with explosives, nails, shrapnel, any shit that will do you harm. It was dropping onto the barracks over the road (she was housed in a terraced row).

    She shouted “Wake up!” to her room mates then ran to the phone in the hall to call the nightwatchman. She got as far as “Get the men out now…” then heard a deafening ‘boom’. She doesn’t talk much about what she saw in the aftermath – too horrific for words – but she does tell of going back to the room. The window had blown in. They were in bunks and the girl in the top bunk got speared by a big shard of glass, straight through her, through the bunk but just stopped short of the other girl underneath.

    Mum always wonders if she had woken up a few seconds later; she would’ve been standing in front of the window when it blew in. You can tell it really messed with her head.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      O wow. That’s amazing Wolf. That could be put into a good film a scene like that. Harsh memories.

      • ThereWolf says :

        It’s weird to see her clam up about the aftermath. Obviously she went over there to help where she could. You can almost see what she saw that night just looking in her eyes – know what I mean? She doesn’t have to say a word.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        That’s a powerful story Wolf thank you for sharing it. Like I said above everybody was affected by WW2. The population of the UK more so then the USA/Canada because of proximity and because the native English back bone.

  10. redfishybluefishy says :

    Yeah, I had my Kalamazoo grandpa and his 3 brothers all over there in WWII for the USA. They weren’t all on the front lines, but they did their part. One lost his leg. None of them talk about it, but it’s curious that my gramps’ photos also look like a vacation with buddies. I guess you have to have an outlet when things are that tense.

    Unfortunately, my other grandfather fought for the Nazis. He was a young, stupid German, and didn’t know any better. He got his, though – he was a front-liner and apparently he had more than a few run-ins with the Russians where he was the only survivor. He came back out of it all a nutbag and an alcoholic and so he emigrated to the USA by way of Canada.

    All I can say is thank goodness D-Day was a success.

  11. Tom_Bando says :

    Russian Front-a major war within a war. Your grandfather in Germany may not have had a choice?

  12. redfishybluefishy says :

    Yeah, not much of a choice, unfortunately. Do or die.

    The Russian front sounded pretty horrid. He died when I was six, but I remember him clearly so I got a lot of stories over the years to explain why he was such a mess.

  13. redfishybluefishy says :

    I have to say, there’s a lot of interesting stories on this wall.

    • xiphos0311 says :

      That was what I was planning/hoping would happen when I created the post this morning Fishy.

      • redfishybluefishy says :

        Good call, Xi. And great post. I’m not much for war but, as always, you remind me that the military can be a very good thing. Thank you.

      • ThereWolf says :

        Yeh, top post, Xi. Hopefully you’ll get some more traffic passing through and more memories.

  14. ThereWolf says :

    I’ve got a lighter one; mum was out walking one day and she sees these two officers coming towards her. Apparently, you had to salute on the move, you didn’t stop. Anyway, she straightens her back and salutes. As she does, a gust of wind knocks her cap off!

    They docked her 3 days pay for “saluting an officer while improperly dressed”.

    Harsh. Have to admit, I pissed myself laughing when she told me that one.

  15. tombando says :

    Haw! that’s funny Wolf.

  16. tombando says :

    Xiphos you ever know of anyone who was at the Anzio landings? Talk about a brutal landing–

    • xiphos0311 says :

      As a matter of fact Tom I did. there was an old retired Navy Master Chief that lived in my condo complex in San Diego he drove Higgins boats in WW2 as a 17 year old and was at Anzio. He was a great guy and was the most profane dude I ever met.

      I thought I was the most profane but compared to him I was a Sunday School teacher and a piker. He also knew roughly a billion dirty jokes he was a great guy.

      Everybody in the complex hated us since they were all yuppie scum and used to run away in fear and shame when we got to ranking on each other in the courtyard about the Navy/Marine Corps. We had some fun BBQs.

      • tombando says :

        Dang. Sounds like a winner right there. Those higgins boats looked barely sea-worthy from their design etc clunk clunk clunk over the waves—but they certainly did their jobs. I’m w/ you-I donno how they could wade ashore w/ all that hell coming down at’em. Yikes. James Arness was there.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        yeah Tom was a good guy I was sorry to hear of his passing in 2005. He always refereed to Higgins boats fondly as balsa wood shit floaters.

        At one landing his boat quit and was well within range of artillery so he grabbed his rifle and tin pot and went ashore to fight with the Infantry.

  17. M. Blitz says :

    Wow, great posts from everybody….My grandfathers were little kids during WWII (both fought in Korea), but my granddad’s dad did. He left the family not long after he got back, and I don’t really know much about him besides that he fought.

    My grandma’s dad had come over from Poland in the 20’s and spent the war printing war bonds, siring my grandma and sinking into a deep depression over the fact that due to poor health, he was here and not there. He was something like 15 when he came over and pretty much his entire family (except the uncle in MA he’d been sent to live with) was in Warsaw, parents, siblings, cousins, etc. A lot of ’em didn’t make it.

    This is a massive understatement but a HUGE debt of gratitude is owed to all who fought and resisted.

  18. xiphos0311 says :

    I’ve been thinking about the Old Man a lot today which to my shame I haven’t done a lot of lately. When he was dying he told me to forget about him and go about my life and be a good person(sorry Old Man I’ve failed there). Yeah like that would ever happen he was larger then life by a factor of a billion.

    I’ve been thinking on how profoundly the war affected him. Things like how he only touched a rifle twice after 1945 and both of those time were when he was teaching me how to shoot.(I put meat on the table since I was 7 and was responsible for curbing the predator population around the ranch) How he never ever yelled and hardly ever raised his voiced at me even though I repeatedly deserved it.(granted he got shot in the throat so it was hard for him)

    I remember the days he would get the sadness in him and spend hours in the exercise ring with the horses. This was usually around the time of my Uncle’s death. He was also a Ranger died in Vietnam in ’71. The old man would mumble that he thought that kind foolishness was all over after WW2 but you can’t stop humans from being dumb.

    The Old Man he was one interesting dude and if I can somehow be half the man he was my time on Earth will be well spent. I’m nowhere near yet.

    • tombando says :

      He sounds like he was something else. Can’t imagine going through that stuff at 19, say, then living w/ it inside your mind and memories for the next 50 or so years. Has to be just so hard, and no wonder that he and many others just chose not to talk about it.

      ’71 was the same year my second cousin was killed in Vietnam. He was a stars and stripes reporter who’d been turned down by every branch of the service-flat feet, near sighted, etc. He had to write his congressman(prob. was Ed Muskie) to make them take him in. Which is so odd considering the draft and the riots etc…but anyways…he went in.

      He was in a copter that had mechanical failure and crashed, donno how long he’d been in-country or what. His brother-younger by some years, later joined up in the Marines and has been in for life, is something like a Lt Colonel now. So they did keep up the tradition despite a loss.

  19. tombando says :

    Warsaw, heck all of Poland was ground zero for the Nazi elimination of the slavic people as a force. They wanted to turn what was left into serfs and make’em just dig canals, sewers and work the fields. Period. Never learn, never build, never write, never nothing. I don’t Uncle Joe was any better towards Poland either, not really. That was a terrible place for a country to be in back then.

  20. Barfy says :

    Thank you everyone that wrote here sharing stories and memories of friends and family that were involved in the military. Reading them brought a tear to my eye and a smile too. (Thanks ThereWolf’s mom.) The world’s a dangerous place but made a little safer for us by the brave men and women in today’s armed forces. And most importantly, thank you to the many men like Xi’s grandfather, those that fought for us and to those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

  21. DocPazuzu says :

    Great write-up. The importance of this event and the bravery of the allied men and women involved in the operation cannot be overstated. It wasn’t simply the liberation of Europe from Nazi oppression which was on the table (even if that had been reason enough), but that every square mile of territory wrested from Hitler’s grip by the western allies was one less square mile the Soviets could could put under their own iron boot.

    On my dad’s side of the family I had three great-uncles who were Marines and fought in the Pacific under horrific conditions, one great-uncle who was a co-pilot on a B-17 over Europe and a step-grandfather who was a combat infantryman in Europe and was among the American troops who liberated Dachau (my biological grandfather was a NYC fireman during the war). According to my father, they were somewhat talkative after the war, but only when either drunk or in the grip of very odd moods. In the decades that followed they became increasingly silent and during their last years would never talk about their experiences.

    My dad related enough of their stories to me so that I had a life-long respect for them and held them in awe as larger-than-life heroes, in a way because I understood that for men to have gone through what they did and give no hint of being anything else but wonderful, gentle, loving and upstanding human beings required a type of mettle I’ll spend the rest of my life doubting I could ever have. They truly were the greatest generation.

    This is why I become almost apoplectic with rage when I read some of the bile vomited forth online in places like Gingertown, where relativists, neo-nazis, Marxist-Leninists, psychotics and assorted fucktards of all stripes attempt to minimize what was at stake during WWII and that the imperfections and sometimes bloody histories of the Allied nations somehow made them on par with the truly evil nature of the Axis — or worse, that the evil of Nazi tyranny was either exaggerated or fabricated. Scum of the earth.

    • tombando says :

      Exactimundo, PaZooz. I’ve no real time for the second guessing on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Look at what we were contemplating-another year or so of war, 100’s of 1000’s more casualties, Russia prob. invading Japan and more of China at the same time, more conventional bombing, more destruction of Japan–it’s not like any of the options to Truman or Marshall or whomever were Good, easy, or Clear.

      Guys who fought their ways to Berlin or Prague or Rome were being told-okay, time to head to Japan. Here’s the latest on Okinawa…..Egads.

  22. xiphos0311 says :

    Doc Thanks also thanks for giving me the opening to pontificate about my current uphill battle I’m fighting about WW2, the Air War over the ETO.

    People tend to forget or minamize the air war of Europe, it was a brutal savage affair, and airmen were the first warriors to go in harms way in Europe. Day in day out English and American heavy and medium bombers flew endless sorties against German interests on the European mainland.

    These men flew in the face of anti-aircraft fire, ground fire, Luftwaffe counter attacks, bad weather and every other conceivable obstacle thrown at them. They were the first to bring the fight to the Nazis and for the first year of WW2 the only ones. (obligatory Marine plug we were the first to fight out of all the armed forces.)

    Think about what it took to fly a mission in a large, lumbering, slow moving B17 or Lancaster bomber in the face of determined opposition and the only defense you had was a flying in formation and hoping all the .50 cals you have can put out enough rate of fire to slow down Nazi fighters. That’s balls made of pure titanium in my book.

    • DocPazuzu says :

      Balls made of pure titanium is right, Xi. My great-uncle Mickey’s plane was shot down over France after numerous daylight bombing missions and he managed to stay out of Nazi hands long enough to escape back to England via Spain and continue flying. That takes nerves of steel.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        I’m at a lost to understanding why pilots flying bombers in WW2 don’t get way more credit then they do. The carried the war effort in the ETO for the first two years at a tremendous cost.

        It’s puzzling to me and I’m a person that is entirely Infantry oriented but I can see what it took to fly day, after day, after day into some of the most brutal and savage combat in both theaters of operation.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Your great uncle sounds like one hell of a man.

      • tombando says :

        I remember a good friend of mine from the neighbourhood telling me about one of his uncles who was involved in the Ploesti raid. Remember anything about that?? Yes as bad as you ever heard. Pretty tough going and a lonnnng ways away from the UK or any other ‘safe areas’.

      • xiphos0311 says :

        Oh yeah Tom flying from England across Occupied Europe to do low level bombing runs on the Oil fields of Romania, in the day time, which put you into the cross hairs of ground weapons took a serious amount of balls.

  23. du hoc anh says :

    thanks 4 ur article, It’s so great

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