‘The awful waste and destruction of war’

“That’s All, Brother,” a restored C-47 that flew on D-Day. Read more about the project here.

In case the spectacle of a belligerent chickenshit with a three-word vocabulary representing the United States at the annual remembrance of the Normandy invasion just doesn’t do it for you, here are a few alternatives for your own personal observance of D-Day:

• The Poetry Foundation has compiled a selection of poems from and about World War II.

• HBO is airing “The Cold Blue,” a documentary about the men of the Eighth Air Force, featuring freshly restored footage by Oscar-winning director William Wyler and a score by Richard Thompson.

The New York Times gives us a remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the correspondent who brought the war home, until it finally took him.

The New Yorker reprints a three-part piece on Normandy by its own war scribe, A.J. Liebling.

• And finally, 1st Lt. Harold J. O’Grady‘s war was elsewhere, but you can read about the biscuit bombers of New Guinea in “Back Load,” a history of the 433rd Troop Carrier Group.

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16 Responses to “‘The awful waste and destruction of war’”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    I had two friends, in the true sense, connected to D-Day. Officer Fred Woodard of the Rochester Police Dept., moonlighted as a security guard at the Univ. of Rochester. I was working there feeding motorcycles gasoline and me beer and occasionally, finding extra money for tuition. Woody was in the 101st Airborne and fought at Normandy and Bastogne. Came back from the war with enough shrapnel to set off metal detectors. He rarely talked about combat, only about the times the troopers were able to goof off. There was a reason for that.

    My father in law from my first marriage, John Zeh, landed on D+3 and apparently one of his jobs was, shall we say, cleaning up the beaches. I found that out the hard way. His son Jack and I used to go deer hunting together. We usually were successful. One day we made venison for the family. Abruptly, John Sr. got up from the table looking white as a sheet. He told us later that he saw hair in the meat and had a D+3 flashback.

    My uncle Roy worked his way across Europe fixing tracks that we had bombed so the Germans couldn’t use them. Now we needed them. He had a scrapbook of destruction and reminisced about hiding out from German 88’s.

    For most of us, our worst moments pale by comparison to the guys who did the dirty work pushing Schicklgruber and Tojo back into their cages. A moment of silence.

    • SAO' Says:

      Dad’s dad was a medic at Omaha. And my first battalion was there, so we met a bunch of those guys at reunions. It’s always been my experience that, whenever I find myself patting myself on the back for a job well done, there’s a crew one generation older but also one generation younger who worked twice as hard for half the fanfare.


    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      My old man rarely talked about his service, choosing to focus on the times he ferried visiting celebrities around (Bob Hope, John Wayne, etc.).

      But then neither he nor Mom discussed their pasts much. We know fuck-all about either side of the family past the grandparents, and we only met half of those, both grandfathers being dead before my sis and I made the scene.

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    As I said in a comment on an earlier post, I feel like vomiting whenever I see donny chickenhawk anywhere near a uniform except one on a doorman.

  3. ryansubike Says:

    I try not to think of the draft dodger in chief representing the sacrifice of D-day my irony meter might implode. Read the piece on Ernie Pyle -very eye opening. The opening bit of saving private Ryan was riveting and horrifying and I imagine the real thing was about 100x worse.

    Also saw an interesting piece on Reagans D-day speech for the 50th anniversary In the Washington Post. Didn’t appreciate his policies but the guy could deliver a speech.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Another combat scribe who doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves was Bill Mauldin, who drew the “Willie and Joe” cartoons so popular with the troops. Here’s one that seems particularly appropriate given our current “leadership.”

  4. Dale Says:

    My dad was one of eight kids and the youngest of three sons. He was running the family farm alone just before the the war, and it wasn’t going well. One brother was no help and the other worked for DuPont and the war needed nylon.

    By the time that the European war was over, the farm was in danger of foreclosure, and by 1945 a large landowner and cannery operator had all 300 acres, house, and out buildings for $17,000.

    If he had not been a farmer he would have been drafted. I never asked about his thoughts on that subject.

  5. Herb from Michigan Says:

    My old man was drafted and the army shipped him to the Philippines. Never said much about his war time. Only that he was part of a “re-supply” effort. But something didn’t add up since once he passed away I found a Purple Heart medal and some other curious ones in his old tin box. The only story he told was one about how the crew on board had not had/seen fresh food for over a month. One day they got their hands on big old Texas vadalia onions. Ate them down like apples he said. Even my mom had little Intel on his war maneuvers. While part of me wanted to dig deep and find out more, the over riding respect for how those guys kept the horrors of war from us kids prevails and I’ll leave things where they are.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’d like to know more of the family history myself, but that ship has sailed. Name, rank, and serial number is what we got. You couldn’t H-Block that lot into a conversation.

      And then here’s me, the O’Grady who won’t shut the fuck up. The folks probably spent years trying to figure out who loaded the genetic dice on that particular roll.

      • Herb from Michigan Says:

        He fought…so you could fight. The pen is mightier than the sword. You are IMO serving your country by keeping it real.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        It’s a lot easier to fly my pen than a C-47. Don’t need a ’chute ’cause the office chair never gains much altitude, even after a combo platter heavy on beans. Fewer people shooting at me most days, too, I betcha.

        Just watched that HBO doc on the B-17s. A certain lack of climate control on those boys, too. I’m never far from a thermostat here. And if I need to open a window, there’s never some ME-109 pilot out there grinning at me.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Same here. The old farts have died off and took their secrets with them.

        Cold Blue was intense. Thanks for mentioning it. We just watched it.

  6. Hurben Says:

    Sadly, my family never spoke about things, I knew that my dad fought in Italy & the Middle East. He was really proud of me being drafted into the South African army & off to see shit in Namibia. We never really agreed about much but I have full respect for what he did

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