He was well liked by Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and by General Sir Bernard Montgomery, the commander-in-chief of 21st Army Group, but neither rated him highly as a soldier. ‘There is no doubt that Ike is out to do all he can to maintain the best of relations between British and Americans,’ Brooke wrote in his diary, ‘but it is equally clear that he knows nothing about strategy and is quite unsuited to the post of Supreme Commander as far as running the war is concerned.’ Monty’s characteristically terse judgement on Eisenhower after the war was: ‘Nice chap, no soldier’.
- Highlight on Page 9 , Loc. 136-41 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 01:49 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Eisenhower, despite his nervous state and the appalling responsibility heaped upon him, wisely adopted a philosophical attitude. He had been selected to make the final decisions, so make them he must and face the consequences. The biggest decision, as he knew only too well, was almost upon him. Quite literally, the fate of many thousands of his soldiers’ lives rested upon it. Without telling even his closest aides, Eisenhower prepared a brief statement to be made in the event of failure: ‘The landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.’
- Highlight on Page 12 , Loc. 180-85 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
General Bradley had requested that, having checked the beaches selected for the British and Canadian forces, COPP should also examine Omaha to make sure that it was firm enough for tanks. Captain Scott-Bowden, a sapper, and Sergeant Bruce Ogden-Smith of the Special Boat Section swam ashore, each armed only with a commando knife and a Colt .45 automatic. They also carried an eighteen-inch earth auger and a bandolier with containers into which they put their samples. The sea was unusually flat and they only just escaped discovery by German sentries.
- Highlight on Page 13 , Loc. 189-92 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:05 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘The British,’ observed a key American staff officer, ‘had a much greater fear of failure.’ This was hardly surprising after the long years of war, with bitter memories of Dunkirk and the ill-fated Dieppe raid. Yet whatever their reasons, they were right to have refused to invade the Continent any earlier. An overwhelming superiority was necessary, and the US Army had had many harsh lessons to learn in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
- Highlight on Page 19 , Loc. 279-82 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Churchill once remarked that the Americans always came to the right decision, having tried everything else first. But even if the joke contained an element of truth, it underplayed the fact that they learned much more quickly than their self-appointed tutors in the British Army. They were not afraid to listen to bright civilians from the business world now in uniform and above all they were not afraid to experiment.
- Highlight on Page 19 , Loc. 283-85 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Fortunately the King dealt with this in a masterly letter on 2 June: ‘My dear Winston, I want to make one more appeal to you not to go to sea on D-Day. Please consider my own position. I am a younger man than you, I am a sailor, and as King I am the head of all the services. There is nothing I would like better than to go to sea but I have agreed to stay at home; is it fair that you should then do exactly what I should have liked to do myself?’
- Highlight on Page 20 , Loc. 298-301 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:19 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
But the lofty and awkward de Gaulle, often to the despair of his own supporters, seemed almost to take a perverse pleasure in biting the American and British hands which fed him. De Gaulle had a totally Franco-centric view of everything. This included a supreme disdain for inconvenient facts, especially anything which might undermine the glory of France. Only de Gaulle could have written a history of the French army and manage to make no mention of the Battle of Waterloo.
- Highlight on Page 21 , Loc. 316-19 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:23 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Allied troops, on the other hand, were warned not to offend French sensibilities after they landed. A pamphlet told them to avoid any reference to France’s humiliating defeat in 1940. ‘Thanks to jokes about “Gay Paree” etc.,’ it added, ‘there is a fairly widespread belief that the French are a gay, frivolous people with no morals and few convictions. This is especially not true at the present time.’
- Highlight on Page 23 , Loc. 340-43 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:28 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The weakness of Free French security stemmed not from Vichy spies infiltrating the Gaullist network but from the unsophisticated French codes. Exasperation within the Special Operations Executive, especially after the massive Gestapo infiltration of the Resistance the year before, prompted the chief SOE cryptographer, Leo Marks, to go round to the Gaullists’ office in Duke Street in central London. He asked their cipher officers to encode any message they wanted, then he took it from them and broke it ‘under their astonished noses’. ‘This did not endear the British to the French,’ wrote the official historian with dry understatement. Yet Gallic pride still prevented the Free French from using British or American code systems.
- Highlight on Page 23 , Loc. 348-53 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Churchill flared up, demanding how the British could act separately from the United States. ‘We are going to liberate Europe, but it is because the Americans are with us. So get this quite clear. Every time we have to decide between Europe and the open sea, it is always the open sea that we shall choose. Every time I have to decide between you and Roosevelt, I shall always choose Roosevelt.’
- Highlight on Page 25 , Loc. 376-79 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:35 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Butcher had already arranged for the supreme commander, accompanied by journalists, to go to the airfield at Greenham Common that evening to visit the American 101st Airborne Division. They were due to take off at 23.00 hours for the mission which Leigh-Mallory had predicted would be a disaster.
- Highlight on Page 28 , Loc. 418-20 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:43 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A large number of men took their minds off what lay ahead with frenetic gambling, first with the dubious-looking invasion money and then with saved dollars and pound notes. They were shooting dice and playing blackjack. One man who had won $2,500, a very considerable sum in those days, deliberately played on until he lost the lot. He sensed that if he walked away with the money, the fates would decree his death.
- Highlight on Page 29 , Loc. 436-39 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:46 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
After a short speech to arouse their martial ardour, Johnson swiftly bent down, pulled a large commando knife from his boot and brandished it above his head. ‘Before I see the dawn of another day,’ he yelled, ‘I want to stick this knife into the heart of the meanest, dirtiest, filthiest Nazi in all of Europe.’
- Highlight on Page 30 , Loc. 447-49 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:48 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
General Maxwell Taylor warned his men in the 101st Airborne that fighting at night would be highly confusing. They would find it hard to distinguish their own side from the enemy. For that reason they should fight with their knives and grenades during darkness, and use firearms only after dawn. According to one of his men, ‘he also said that if you were to take prisoners, they handicap our ability to perform our mission.
- Highlight on Page 30 , Loc. 450-52 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:49 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Brigadier General ‘Slim Jim’ Gavin of the 82nd Airborne was perhaps the most measured in his address. ‘Men,’ he said, ‘what you’re going to go through in the next few days, you won’t want to change for a million dollars, but you won’t want to go through it very often again. For most of you, this will be the first time you will be going into combat. Remember that you are going in to kill, or you will be killed.’ Gavin clearly created a strong impression. One of his listeners said that, after his quiet talk, ‘I believe we would have gone to hell with him.’
- Highlight on Page 30 , Loc. 453-57 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:50 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Eve of battle rituals included shaving heads, to make it easier for the medics to deal with head wounds, but a number of men decided to leave a strip of hair down the middle in Mohican style. This contributed to the German idea, influenced by Hollywood gangster films and later whipped up by Wehrmacht propaganda detachments, that American airborne troops were recruited from the toughest jails in the United States and came from the ‘übelste Untermenschentum amerikanischer Slums’ - ‘the nastiest underclass from American slums’.
- Highlight on Page 31 , Loc. 462-66 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:51 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Paratroopers also went back for extra ammunition, overloading themselves. The greatest fear was to face an enemy with an empty gun. Bandoliers were slung crossways over their chests ‘Pancho Villa style’, canteens were filled to the brim, and pouches packed with spare socks and underwear. The camouflage-netted helmets had an aid kit fixed to the back with bandages, eight sulfa tablets and two syrettes of morphine - ‘one for pain and two for eternity’. Pockets and pouches bulged, not just with 150 rounds of .30 ammunition, but also D-Ration chocolate bars, which possessed a texture akin to semi-set concrete, and a British Gammon grenade, which contained a pound of C2 explosive in a sort of cotton sock. This improvised bomb could certainly be effective against even armoured vehicles (paratroopers called it their ‘hand artillery’), but it was also popular for other reasons. A small amount of the fast-burning explosive could heat a mug of coffee or K-Rations without giving off any smoke from the bottom of a foxhole.
- Highlight on Page 31 , Loc. 471-78 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:53 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Dog tags were taped together to prevent them making a noise. Cigarettes and lighters, together with other essentials, such as a washing and shaving kit, water-purifying tablets, twenty-four sheets of toilet paper and a French phrase book, went into the musette bag slung around the neck, along with an escape kit consisting of a map printed on silk, hacksaw blade, compass and money. The largesse of the issued equipment amazed poor country boys more used to make-do and mend at home.
- Highlight on Page 32 , Loc. 478-81 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:53 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘You know, Oyler, the Germans have been kicking the hell out of us for five years and it is payback time.’ Eisenhower went on to ask him if he was afraid and Oyler admitted that he was. ‘Well, you’d be a damn fool not to be. But the trick is to keep moving. If you stop, if you start thinking, you lose your focus. You lose your concentration. You’ll be a casualty. The idea, the perfect idea, is to keep moving.’
- Highlight on Page 33 , Loc. 500-503 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 02:56 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Their engines ‘growling’, the heavily laden C-47s began to trundle in a seemingly endless sequence down the runway at Greenham Common. General Eisenhower stood there, apparently with tears in his eyes, saluting the paratroopers of the 101st as they took off.
- Highlight on Page 35 , Loc. 526-28 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:00 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Churchill had always preferred an indirect, or peripheral, strategy in the Mediterranean, to avoid another bloodbath in France like the one which had slaughtered the youth of his generation. He was right in the end to have delayed the invasion, albeit for the wrong reasons. The Anglo-American armies had simply not been ready, either materially or in trained manpower, to attempt such an operation before.
- Highlight on Page 35 , Loc. 532-35 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:01 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘One should not forget,’ he had written to Churchill on 24 June 1943, ‘that on all this depends the possibility to save millions of lives in the occupied regions of western Europe and Russia and reduce the colossal sacrifices of the Soviet armies, in comparison with which the losses of the Anglo-American troops could be considered as modest.’ More than 7 million members of the Soviet armed forces had already died in the war.
- Highlight on Page 35 , Loc. 536-39 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Hitler had convinced himself that defeating the invasion would knock the British and Americans out of the war. Then he could concentrate all his armies on the eastern front against Stalin. The casualties the German armies in France would suffer in this great defensive battle did not concern him. He had already demonstrated what little attention he paid to loss of life, even in his own guard formation, the 1st SS Panzer-Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.
- Highlight on Page 37 , Loc. 566-69 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:27 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, the Commander-in-Chief West, regarded the Atlantic Wall as ‘just a bit of cheap bluff’. Like many senior officers, the elderly Rundstedt did not forget Frederick the Great’s dictum ‘He who defends everything defends nothing.’ He believed that the Wehrmacht should abandon Italy, ‘that frightful boot of a country’, and hold a line across the Alps. He also disagreed with the retention of so many troops in Norway, whose strategic importance he considered ‘a purely naval affair’.3
- Highlight on Page 38 , Loc. 576-80 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:32 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
His policy was contrary to every traditional tenet of the German general staff, which insisted on flexibility.
- Highlight on Page 39 , Loc. 587 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rommel, a former Hitler loyalist, had become dejected by the effects of Allied air superiority in North Africa. The energetic panzer commander who had been made a national hero now referred cynically to Hitler’s mesmerizing pep talks aimed at depressed generals as ‘sun-ray treatments’. But Rommel never slackened in his attempts to improve the coastal defences.
- Highlight on Page 40 , Loc. 600-602 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:37 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
There he worked, looking out over a rose garden not yet in flower. His desk had been the one on which the revocation of the Edict of Nantes had been signed in 1685, a measure which had sent the Huguenot ancestors of many Wehrmacht officers to seek new lives in Prussia.
- Highlight on Page 41 , Loc. 615-17 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:41 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Whenever Rommel complained of the uselessness of the Luftwaffe, Führer headquarters would try to impress him with the prospect of a thousand new jet fighters and countless rockets to bring Britain to its knees. Not only did he refuse to believe these promises, he knew that his hands were tied operationally. Ever since the Battle of Stalingrad, Hitler had not allowed a flexible defence. Every inch of ground must be held.
- Highlight on Page 41 , Loc. 626-29 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:51 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The elderly Rundstedt, on the other hand, while constantly referring in private to Hitler as ‘that Bohemian corporal’, would never have contemplated revolt. If others were to remove the Nazi ‘brown band’, then he would not stand in their way, but he would certainly not commit himself. His ambivalence went deeper. Rundstedt had accepted massive amounts of money from Hitler and must have felt compromised as a result. But even Speidel underestimated the depths to which Rundstedt would sink after the attempted revolution against Hitler failed.
- Highlight on Page 42 , Loc. 632-36 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:52 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rommel, who first made his name as a bold panzer leader in 1940, had since been profoundly influenced by his experiences in North Africa. And now that the Allies had achieved total air supremacy over north-west Europe, he believed that panzer divisions held back from the front for a counter-attack would never be allowed to reach the battle in time to ensure a decisive result. Predictably, a bad compromise was the result of Hitler’s insistent meddling and the confused command structure. Neither Geyr nor Rommel had control over all the panzer divisions, because Hitler would only permit them to be deployed with his approval.
- Highlight on Page 43 , Loc. 648-53 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 03:59 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Army Group commander’s energy produced mixed feelings in many unit commanders. All the time spent on improving the defences had left fewer opportunities for training. They also suffered from a shortage of ammunition for range practice, which may well have contributed to the generally bad marksmanship of many German units. Rommel also insisted on a dramatic increase in the number of minefields. A British officer heard later from prisoners that many of the dummy minefields had in fact been marked out on the orders of German officers purely to impress their demanding commander-in-chief. They had assumed that he would not poke about too much to check that they were real.
- Highlight on Page 43 , Loc. 658-63 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:08 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Those fighting in Normandy, especially in the British sector on the eastern flank round Caen, would see one of the greatest concentrations of SS panzer divisions since the Battle of Kursk. There would be the 1st SS Panzer-Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler; the 12th SS Panzer-Division Hitler Jugend, which contained the youngest and most fanatical troops of all, and then later, when they were transferred from the eastern front, the 9th SS Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen and the 10th SS Panzer-Division Frundsberg. British armour would also encounter two SS Tiger battalions, with devastating consequences.
- Highlight on Page 46 , Loc. 705-9 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:22 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The American forces to the west would find themselves facing only the 17th SS Panzergrenadier-Division Götz von Berlichingen, the weakest and worst trained of all the Waffen-SS formations in Normandy, and the 2nd SS Panzer-Division Das Reich, which was soon to become even more infamous for its brutality. But the Americans would come up against many more infantry divisions. Of these, General der Fallschirmtruppen Eugen Meindl’s II Paratroop Corps would prove the most formidable.
- Highlight on Page 47 , Loc. 709-12 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:22 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The commander of LXXXIV Corps, which controlled the Normandy sector, was General der Artillerie Erich Marcks, a highly respected and intelligent leader. Thin and wiry, he had lost one eye in the First World War and a deep scar ran across his nose and cheek. The bespectacled Marcks had also lost a leg earlier in the Second World War. ‘He was of Spartan-like, old Prussian simplicity,’ wrote one of his admiring officers. On one occasion, when whipped cream was served at dinner, he said, ‘I do not wish to see this again as long as our country is starving.’
- Highlight on Page 47 , Loc. 713-16 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
in 1940, France had been seen as ‘a conqueror’s paradise’, according to Rundstedt’s chief of staff, General Günther Blumentritt. As a posting, the country represented the complete antithesis of the Russian front. In fact unmarried officers on leave from the war in the east tried to obtain passes for Paris instead of spending it in an austere and heavily bombed Berlin. They far preferred the prospect of sitting in the sun outside cafés on the Champs-Elysées, then dining in Maxim’s and going on to nightclubs and cabarets afterwards.
- Highlight on Page 47 , Loc. 718-21 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
German meteorologists, who lacked the information available to the Allies from weather stations in the western Atlantic, believed that conditions would not be right before 10 June. Rommel decided to seize the opportunity to return to Germany for his wife’s birthday and to see Hitler at Berchtesgaden to ask him for two more panzer divisions. He clearly showed great confidence in the forecasts, for he had not forgotten his absence from the Afrika Korps due to illness when Montgomery launched the Battle of Alamein, nineteen months earlier.
- Highlight on Page 50 , Loc. 753-56 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:40 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The bad weather on 5 June did not stop an exercise with blank ammunition in the streets of Montebourg on the Cotentin peninsula, but the Kriegsmarine decided that it was not worth sending out naval patrols into the Channel that night. As a result the flotillas of Allied minesweepers were able to advance in line abreast towards the Normandy coast completely unobserved.
- Highlight on Page 51 , Loc. 769-71 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:41 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Stalin had washed his hands of France. It appears that he could not forgive her collapse in 1940, which, contrary to all his calculations, had left the Soviet Union suddenly vulnerable to the Wehrmacht.
- Highlight on Page 53 , Loc. 800-801 , Added on Friday, July 01, 2016, 04:49 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Apart from the obvious reasons for preventing the movement of German troops and supplies by rail, there was an added advantage in forcing movement on to the roads. Tank tracks had only a limited mileage, and as a result of the American Eighth Air Force bombing oil plants and refineries, the Wehrmacht was desperately short of fuel. Their lack of rubber for tyres also provided another very easy target for Resistance groups. Tacks and glass scattered on roads used by supply vehicles proved very effective in hampering road traffic, which was the point of ‘Plan Tortue’, or Plan Tortoise.
- Highlight on Page 54 , Loc. 816-20 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 12:20 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
- Bookmark on Page 56 , Loc. 851 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 12:28 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
While his operations officer alerted the division, Reichert rang LXXXI Corps headquarters at Rouen. By this time the guns had stopped firing, leaving an uneasy calm. Reichert, who had been sceptical about the whole invasion, now sensed that it really was starting, even if this attack was only a feint. Two captured British paratroopers were brought in, but they refused to answer questions. The accuracy of the maps found on them shook Reichert. They showed almost every gun emplacement. He deduced that the French Resistance had been even busier than the Germans had imagined.
- Highlight on Page 62 , Loc. 946-49 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 12:35 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Of the British airborne operations that night, Howard’s success with the two bridges was about the only one which went according to plan. Brigadier James Hill, the commander of 3rd Parachute Brigade, had warned his officers before their departure, ‘Gentlemen, in spite of your excellent training and orders, do not be daunted if chaos reigns. It undoubtedly will.’
- Highlight on Page 63 , Loc. 959-61 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 12:36 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As the aircraft reached the Channel Islands, German flak batteries on Jersey and Guernsey opened fire. One paratrooper remarked that it was ironic to get such a welcome from ‘two islands named after nice moo cows’. A Royal Navy motor torpedo boat, MTB 679, signalled the point where the aircraft were to turn east for their run over the Cotentin peninsula to their drop zones. Once the French coast was in sight, pilots passed back the warning that they had less than ten minutes to go.
- Highlight on Page 69 , Loc. 1058-61 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 12:56 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The captain with them had to go to a farmhouse to find out where they were. The French family tried to help by giving them a simple map of the Cotentin torn from a telephone directory. Another airborne officer, however, observed that the unintended dispersal of units during the chaotic drop had proved an unexpected advantage in one way: ‘The Germans thought we were all over creation.’ But the paratroopers were only slightly less confused themselves.
- Highlight on Page 74 , Loc. 1126-29 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:10 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The sergeant pulled the bolt back on his Thompson sub-machine gun. In desperation, the boys grabbed the legs of the lieutenant and the chaplain as they and the French family shouted at the sergeant not to shoot them. Finally, the sergeant was persuaded to stop. The boys were locked in the farm’s cellar. But the sergeant was not put off his mission of vengeance. ‘Let’s go and find some Krauts to kill!’ he yelled to his men, and they left. The members of the 101st were shaken by what they had witnessed. ‘These people had gone ape,’ a senior non-com remarked later.
- Highlight on Page 77 , Loc. 1172-76 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:16 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
General Maxwell Taylor, the commander of the 101st, had accumulated a group of thirty men, which included four colonels as well as other officers. This prompted him to parody Churchill, with the comment, ‘Never before in the annals of warfare have so few been commanded by so many.’
- Highlight on Page 77 , Loc. 1178-80 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:17 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The sobering thoughts prompted by these precautions were offset when ships’ captains read Eisenhower’s message to the invasion troops over the public address system: ‘Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, towards which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave allies and brothers in arms on the other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.’ Many admitted to getting ‘goose bumps’ on listening to the stirring words. Before midnight, US Navy ships went to ‘general quarters’ and the Royal Navy to ‘action stations’.
- Highlight on Page 87 , Loc. 1321-26 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:38 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
For French sailors, as for French airmen, the idea of bombarding their own country was deeply disturbing, but they did not shrink from their task.
- Highlight on Page 91 , Loc. 1385-86 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:45 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The landing ships also moved in to their offshore positions. A US Navy lieutenant who commanded an LST (landing ship tank) headed for Gold beach with British troops slipped below for a moment to look at the radar plot. ‘The screen was literally filled all over with little pinpoints of light,’ he wrote, ‘ships everywhere 360 degrees from the centerpoint of where we were.’ When he returned, the senior British officer on board put a hand on his shoulder just before he addressed the ship’s company over the tannoy. ‘Most of my men,’ this colonel said, ‘have seen the worst of desert warfare and a good many of them were in France and evacuated through Dunkirk. So I’d advise you to go easy, go quick, and don’t get dramatic or emotional.’ The young American followed his lead and ‘made a very simple announcement’.
- Highlight on Page 92 , Loc. 1398-1403 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:48 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
One Royal Navy officer in command of a rocket ship had frozen in horrified disbelief when he had opened his secret orders. His allotted target at the mouth of the River Dives was the elegant seaside resort of Cabourg. As a Francophile and a devoted Proustian, he was appalled. Cabourg was Marcel Proust’s ‘Balbec’, the setting for A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs.
- Highlight on Page 96 , Loc. 1463-65 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:56 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
It was six months to the day since Roosevelt had turned to Eisenhower in the staff car on Tunis airfield and said, ‘Well, Ike, you are going to command Overlord.’ But the ‘longest day’, as Rommel was to call it, had only just begun. Extremely worrying news soon came in from Eisenhower’s great friend General Gerow, the commander of V Corps, which was assaulting Omaha beach.
- Highlight on Page 97 , Loc. 1473-76 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:57 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Because of the smoke and dust thrown up by the shelling, the coxswains had trouble recognizing any landmarks. One landing craft with men of the 1st Division beached near Port-en-Bessin, over ten miles down the coast. Many of the landing craft were manned by Royal Navy crews. Several misleading accounts have suggested that they were young, inexperienced and frightened, and in a couple of cases were ordered at gunpoint to take the craft in closer. More reliable sources from eye-witnesses have in fact testified to their skill and courage.
- Highlight on Page 103 , Loc. 1565-69 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:11 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
One soldier, who jumped into five feet of water, found that ‘bullets were splashing right in front of my nose, on both sides and everywhere. Right then and there I thought of every sin I’d committed and never prayed so hard in my life.’
- Highlight on Page 104 , Loc. 1585-87 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:12 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
With astonished admiration, he watched one of his medical orderlies: ‘Corporal A. E. Jones, who was always puny - 105 lbs and 5’ 5” high - was the last one to expect anything spectacular of. In all this fire when one would hardly have a chance to go down the beach and back to live, he went out six times and brought men in.’ On one occasion, he went to examine one of the wounded, came back to Captain Hall to describe the wound and asked what he should do.
- Highlight on Page 108 , Loc. 1656-59 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:19 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
German artillery concentrated its fire on the Shermans, especially tanks with dozer blades. No fewer than twenty-one of the 743rd Tank Battalion’s fifty-one Shermans were knocked out. Those tanks that ran out of ammunition moved up and down the beach in relays to give shelter to infantrymen crossing the killing ground. ‘What saved us were the tanks,’ a private in the 1st Division acknowledged.
- Highlight on Page 109 , Loc. 1663-65 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:19 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Closer in, the obstacles had still not been cleared. The engineers of the 146th Special Underwater Demolition Battalion had been landed over a mile east of their appointed landing place, mainly because of the cross-current. Cota and Canham held a hurried discussion. Not only battalions, but even companies and platoons had been broken up in the landings. What they needed to do was to force the men, once they had cleaned their weapons, to start breaking through the wire and minefields on to the bluffs behind to attack the German positions.
- Highlight on Page 110 , Loc. 1675-78 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:20 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
At 08.00 hours, while Cota searched for a point to break through the wire towards the Les Moulins draw, a terrible scene took place. Just as a large landing craft, the LCIL 91, approached the beach, an artillery shell exploded on board, apparently hitting the fuel tank of a soldier carrying a flame-thrower. ‘He was catapulted clear of the deck, completely clearing the starboard bulkhead, and plunging into the water. Burning fuel from the flame-thrower covered the foredeck and superstructure of the ship . . . The LCIL, which was the 116th’s alternative headquarters, continued to burn for more than 18 hours, during which her stores of 20 mm ammunition for the Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns continually exploded.’ Ten minutes later the LCIL 92 suffered a similar fate. Many badly burned engineers had to be dragged under heavy fire up to the lee of the sea wall.
- Highlight on Page 110 , Loc. 1679-84 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:21 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
One of his soldiers spotted ‘Old Hatchetface’ with his ‘right arm in a sling and clutching a .45 Colt in his bony left hand’. Canham, ‘tall and thin, with wire-rim glasses and a pencil thin mustache’, was the southerner who had warned his men that two-thirds of them would be killed. He was shouting for officers to get their men off the beach. ‘Get these men the hell off this beach! Go kill some goddamned Krauts!’ A lieutenant colonel sheltering from the mortar barrage shouted back, ‘Colonel, you’d better take cover or you’re going to get killed!’ ‘Get your ass out of there!’ Canham screamed back. ‘And get these men off this goddamned beach.’
- Highlight on Page 110 , Loc. 1686-91 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:22 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
In fact the first breakthrough on Omaha had already taken place when part of the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry landed between Saint-Laurent and Colleville. They crossed the beach with only two casualties. At 07.35 hours, the German 352nd Infanterie-Division had reported to General Marcks’s headquarters, ‘North-east of Colleville enemy forces of 100 to 200 men have penetrated our lines.’ The Germans were clearly concerned. One battalion of ‘Task Force Meyer’ was told to deal with the breakthrough near Colleville, but according to its divisional headquarters, it could not be expected to arrive ‘within one and a half hours’. In fact Allied air attacks prevented it from arriving until late afternoon.
- Highlight on Page 111 , Loc. 1697-1702 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:24 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As the American official history pointed out, the British 50th Division, which was landing on Gold beach some miles to the east, provided ‘the gravest immediate threat for the Germans’. Even though their H-Hour had been fixed an hour later than the American assault, ‘the British assault cracked through the coast defenses in some places during the first few hours’.
- Highlight on Page 112 , Loc. 1703-5 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:24 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The left flank of the 352nd Division was completely exposed and the bulk of Meyer’s Kampfgruppe was redirected towards Crépon to face the British. Meyer himself was killed later that day fighting the British at Bazenville. Only ninety of his men out of nearly 3,000 rejoined the division.
- Highlight on Page 112 , Loc. 1705-7 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A mortar bomb landed by Canham’s group, killing two men next to Cota and blasting his radio operator twenty feet up the hill. They moved the command post rapidly, but still had no contact with the 1st Division on the left. Communications had collapsed. To compound the problem of radios wrecked by sea water, German riflemen had targeted the heavily burdened signallers as they lumbered up the beach with their ninety-pound packs.
- Highlight on Page 114 , Loc. 1743-46 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Gerow informed Bradley aboard the USS Augusta of the position. They were deeply worried. Bradley even began to consider the possibility of abandoning Omaha and switching following waves either to Utah beach or to the British sector. The situation on many parts of Omaha, especially round the Vierville exit, was indeed horrific. Yet despite the impression of universal chaos, some troops were landing almost unopposed and breaking through to the ridge with comparatively few casualties, as the 1st Division had already shown near Colleville.
- Highlight on Page 115 , Loc. 1752-56 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:31 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The scenes of chaos on the beach and offshore had hardly improved by 09.30 hours. ‘It was just one big mass of junk, of men and materials,’ an officer reported later. There were burnt-out and still-burning vehicles, corpses, and discarded equipment scattered in all directions. Bodies continued to wash up, rolling like logs in the surf, parallel with the water’s edge. One soldier said, ‘They looked like Madame Tussaud’s. Like wax. None of it seemed real.’
- Highlight on Page 116 , Loc. 1768-71 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:32 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The course of the battle against the emplacements gradually turned against the defenders. In one case combat engineers managed to place a truck loaded with TNT beside a pillbox. ‘They lit the fuse and blew it up. Going in, they found German bodies all untouched by the explosives, blood pouring out of their noses and mouths. They had been killed by concussion.’
- Highlight on Page 116 , Loc. 1775-78 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The most effective weapons were the guns of the destroyers, eight American and three British, which sailed in parallel to the shore and dangerously close to bombard German positions. Their guns became so hot that teams of sailors had to play hoses on them to cool them down. Many soldiers on Omaha later believed, with a good deal of truth, that these front-line destroyers saved the day.
- Highlight on Page 116 , Loc. 1778-81 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Colonel Canham also appeared, having led another group up the bluff. Canham and Cota conferred and decided that these groups from the 1st Battalion of the 116th should push on with the Rangers to Pointe et Raz de la Percée. This mixed force became known as Cota’s ‘bastard brigade’. Men from the 116th said of the Rangers that ‘individually they were the best fighting men we’ve ever worked with, but you couldn’t get them together to work as a team’.
- Highlight on Page 119 , Loc. 1814-18 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:51 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Cota returned to his own command post. He was clearly not pleased by some of the sights: ‘Some of the 6th Engineer Special Brigade troops who had dug themselves shallow trenches as protection from the artillery, were calmly eating K rations, while around them were bodies of the dead and dying.’ But nobody could fault the medics, who were carrying back men wounded by anti-personnel mines on the bluff above.
- Highlight on Page 120 , Loc. 1840-43 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:54 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The build-up of forces soon accelerated. By 12.30 hours the Americans had landed 18,772 men on Omaha. Half an hour later, a company from the 1st Division’s 16th Infantry Regiment, supported by men from the 29th Division’s 116th Infantry, began to attack Colleville-sur-Mer.
- Highlight on Page 121 , Loc. 1843-45 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 01:56 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Omaha became an American legend, but a crueller truth lay ahead in the fighting to come. The average losses per division on both sides in Normandy were to exceed those for Soviet and German divisions during an equivalent period on the eastern front.
- Highlight on Page 124 , Loc. 1896-97 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 06:44 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The dawn of D-Day on the Cotentin peninsula brought only a little clarity to the scattered American airborne troops. The tall hedgerows of the Normandy fields made it hard to orientate themselves. For many, daylight meant that they could at last light a cigarette without giving their position away. Finding containers and equipment bundles also became easier. A French boy with a horse and cart helped an airborne staff officer gather them up. German soldiers also profited as a result of the manna from heaven which had rained down in containers during the night. They helped themselves to American K-Rations and cigarettes.
- Highlight on Page 124 , Loc. 1900-1904 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 06:48 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
For American paratroopers, the sound of the naval bombardment of Utah beach provided the first reassurance that the invasion was proceeding according to plan. But with the loss of so much equipment and ammunition in the drop, and the increasing concentration of German forces against them, everything depended on how quickly the 4th Infantry Division would arrive.
- Highlight on Page 128 , Loc. 1953-55 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:13 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The gunfire, while failing to hit many of the German positions, cleared large parts of the minefields on which the enemy had relied. Meanwhile the medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force dropped their loads much closer to the target area at Utah than the Eighth had at Omaha, but even so the effect on German positions was negligible.
- Highlight on Page 128 , Loc. 1960-63 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:14 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The first senior officer ashore at Utah was the irrepressible Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt Jr, son of a former president and a cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Teddy Jr had named his Jeep ‘Rough Rider’ in his father’s honour. On seeing that the 8th Infantry Regiment had landed in the wrong place, Roosevelt rightly decided that it would be stupid to try to redeploy. ‘We’ll start the war from here!’ he announced.
- Highlight on Page 129 , Loc. 1972-75 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The beaches were cleared of Germans in less than an hour, thus creating something of an anticlimax. ‘There was little of the expected excitement and not much confusion.’ Instead of opening fifty-yard channels through the obstacles, the engineers began to clear the whole beach at once. The contrast with Omaha could not have been greater.
- Highlight on Page 130 , Loc. 1987-89 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:18 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The only factor the two beaches had in common was Allied air supremacy. The presence of Lightnings, Mustangs and Spitfires almost constantly overhead greatly boosted morale, but they found no Luftwaffe to attack. Only two German aircraft reached the beaches during daylight on D-Day, largely because of the huge Allied fighter umbrella inland, ready to attack any plane which took off.
- Highlight on Page 130 , Loc. 1989-92 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:19 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The most extraordinary encounter of the 4th Division’s advance to relieve the paratroopers was American infantry fighting a German cavalry unit made up of former Red Army prisoners. The horsemen had forced their mounts to the ground to take up firing positions behind them, a classic cavalry tactic. ‘We had to kill most of the horses,’ wrote a lieutenant unused to such warfare, ‘because the Germans were using them for shelter.’
- Highlight on Page 133 , Loc. 2030-33 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:40 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As soon as the air raid started, many had instinctively run out into the countryside, where they sought shelter in barns and farmyards. When they finally summoned the courage to return to Saint-Lô, they were horrified by the smell of corpses still buried beneath the ruins. Some 300 civilians had died. Normandy, they had discovered, was to be the sacrificial lamb for the liberation of France.
- Highlight on Page 136 , Loc. 2072-74 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 07:45 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Major Stanley Christopherson, who commanded the squadron attached to the 2nd Essex, had not found their colonel at the rendezvous. Not wanting to go in search of him in his tank down narrow lanes encumbered with infantry, he left the squadron with his second in command, Keith Douglas, and decided to take a horse, which he found ready saddled outside a house. ‘Never in my wildest dreams,’ Christopherson wrote in his diary, ‘did I ever anticipate that D-Day would find me dashing along the lanes of Normandy endeavouring, not very successfully, to control a very frightened horse with one hand, gripping a map case in the other, and wearing a tin hat and black overalls!
- Highlight on Page 141 , Loc. 2151-55 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 08:04 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Canadians, despite their battledress uniform and regimental system inherited from the British Army, in many ways felt closer to the Americans than to their mother country. They cultivated a certain scepticism towards British Army conventions and referred to Overlord as ‘Operation Overboard’, after being smothered in instructions from British staff officers at Second Army headquarters.
- Highlight on Page 142 , Loc. 2164-67 , Added on Saturday, July 02, 2016, 08:05 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Just before landing, an officer with the 41st Royal Marine Commando observed those around him on the landing craft: ‘Some were scared shitless, others fiercely proud just to be a part of it. Anticipation with nervous excitement showed everywhere.’ The first wave of infantry, the 1st Battalion the South Lancashire Regiment and the 2nd East Yorkshires, arrived to find that the first DD tanks were already ashore and firing at strongpoints.
- Highlight on Page 147 , Loc. 2242-45 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 02:30 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Later than planned, Lovat led his force inland on a forced march towards the two bridges at Bénouville captured by John Howard’s company early that morning. Lovat’s conspicuous bravery had prompted his men to refer to him as ‘the mad bastard’. Although a great fighter, he still retained, as 25th Chief of the Clan Fraser, a touch of the grand seigneur.
- Highlight on Page 149 , Loc. 2273-75 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 02:34 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Lovat turned to Millin: ‘Right, Piper. Start the pipes again and keep playing as long as you can until we get to Bénouville. The Airborne are at the bridges there, and when they hear the pipes, they will know we are coming.’ Millin played ‘Blue Bonnets Over the Border’ as they approached their objective. Lovat, with a great sense of occasion, shook hands with Howard and remarked that they had made history that day.
- Highlight on Page 149 , Loc. 2278-81 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 02:35 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Although Sword beach, between Lion-sur-Mer and Ouistreham, was secured rapidly, the advance inland was unnecessarily sluggish. An astonishing number of soldiers, tired from wading in through the waves and relieved to have survived the landing, felt that they had earned the right to a cigarette and a mug of tea. Many started to brew up on the beach, even though it was still under fire. The naval staff yelled at them to get inland and chase the Germans off.
- Highlight on Page 153 , Loc. 2333-36 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 02:42 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Both Canadians and Americans were bemused by the British Army’s apparent inability to complete a task without a tea break. They also noticed a widespread reluctance to help other arms. Infantry refused to help ‘fill a crater or get a vehicle out of difficulties’, and when not engaged on an engineering task, sappers failed to fire at the enemy. Whether this demarcation mentality arose out of the trade union movement or the regimental system - both of which cultivated an ideal of collective loyalty - the basic fault often came from a lack of confidence among young officers.
- Highlight on Page 153 , Loc. 2336-40 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 02:42 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The failure of the British 3rd Infantry Division to seize their objective of Caen on the first day soon proved critical.
- Highlight on Page 153 , Loc. 2341 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 02:42 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
But the fighting ahead would make the Allied casualties suffered on D-Day appear light in comparison. Those British formations which felt that they had ‘done it all before’ in North Africa were about to receive a nasty shock when they came up against the Waffen-SS. Allied air power could do comparatively little to help them when it came to fighting skilled and determined defenders, village by village in the cornfields round Caen and field by field in the Normandy bocage.
- Highlight on Page 162 , Loc. 2480-84 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 03:05 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
And the entire agglomeration remained there intact without any real interference from the German side. I clearly understood the mood of the German soldier abandoned by the Luftwaffe.’ The embittered cry of ‘Wo ist die Luftwaffe? ’ became a constant refrain of the German army’s experience in Normandy.
- Highlight on Page 163 , Loc. 2496-98 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:40 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On the beach, the detritus of war defied description, with burnt-out vehicles, smashed landing craft, abandoned gas masks, Bangalore torpedoes and weapons. The scene did not stop that stickler for discipline General Gerhardt from yelling at a soldier for dropping orange peel on the ground.
- Highlight on Page 164 , Loc. 2501-3 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:41 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The beach remained a dangerous place, and not just for civilians. Odd artillery rounds still fell and men from the 6th Engineer Special Brigade were blowing up obstacles and mines. White tape marked the ‘deloused’ areas, but further on bodies could still be seen in minefields which had not yet been cleared. Bulldozer crews worked hard to open routes for the follow-up troops and vehicles landing. Bodies were stacked outside tented casualty clearing centres. A makeshift cemetery was cordoned off. Spare soldiers were assigned to grave registration. ‘We all seemed in a trance,’ noted one of them, ‘removing dog tags and other morbid duties.’ To speed the work, German prisoners were offered double rations if they volunteered to dig graves. Most shrugged and agreed. Later this harrowing work was passed to quartermaster companies of black soldiers.
- Highlight on Page 164 , Loc. 2514-20 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:44 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rudder’s men, having run out of ammunition, were using captured German weapons. Their very distinctive noise confused the relief force and the Shermans from the 743rd Tank Battalion began firing on the Rangers, killing four and wounding another six. ‘Again Colonel Rudder,’ wrote an engineer with his group, ‘displayed his great courage and leadership as he helped the men in his command post hold up an American flag as high as they could, so the troops advancing would know that we were Americans.’
- Highlight on Page 166 , Loc. 2534-37 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:54 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
An air service squadron started to construct a proper landing strip for transport planes above Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer. Finished in record time, it was designated A-1. Soon olive drab C-47 Skytrains were landing ammunition in a constant stream, then taking off again filled with wounded strapped to litters. On her first trip, a flight nurse found that one of her patients had died. To prevent the others finding out, she pretended to check him every few minutes until they landed back in England.
- Highlight on Page 167 , Loc. 2548-51 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:55 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Mopping up was slow, dangerous work, because of isolated riflemen and machine guns. A lieutenant desperate to exert his authority soon fell victim. He had deliberately said to his platoon sergeant in front of everyone, ‘Sergeant, I want you to understand that you have my permission to shoot any man who does not obey any order given from here on out.’ When they came under fire, he took the sergeant’s binoculars and rifle. Rejecting advice from his non-coms, he announced that he was going ‘to get those bastards’ and began to climb a prominent tree in a hedgerow. After firing a couple of rounds, he was hit, and fell mortally wounded on the far side of the hedge.
- Highlight on Page 167 , Loc. 2560-65 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:56 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
That evening, a German pioneer from the 352nd Infanterie-Division found a copy of the American operational plan on the body of a young officer from the 29th Division. He passed it to Oberst Ziegelmann, who could hardly believe his eyes. The key points were conveyed to General Marcks that night, but the documents did not reach Rommel and OB West for another two days.
- Highlight on Page 168 , Loc. 2565-67 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:57 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rundstedt’s chief of staff, Blumentritt, wrote that the plan clearly showed that this was ‘Die Invasion’, but ‘the Führer personally still expected a second cross-Channel invasion against the Fifteenth Army at any time up to the beginning of August’. Plan Fortitude’s deception had proved more effective than the Allies had ever dared imagine.
- Highlight on Page 168 , Loc. 2567-70 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:57 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
With great bravery and skill, ‘Lieutenant Kermit Miller of E Company crossed the inundated area just north of Colombières with his platoon and killed 46 Germans, knocked out two armored cars and one staff car, wrecked an enemy headquarters and returned with 12 prisoners.’
- Highlight on Page 168 , Loc. 2573-75 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 12:59 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The 115th became even more unnerved when they had ‘trouble from those trigger happy [Texan] boys’ in the 2nd Infantry Division, coming up from behind shooting at everything to their front. ‘One battalion of the 115th Infantry attributed 3% of its casualties to the 2nd Division.’
- Highlight on Page 169 , Loc. 2584-86 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:01 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Because radio communications had not improved, Gerhardt designated ‘post-riders’, who were officers in Jeeps, dashing back and forth, reporting on the progress and exact position of the leading troops. They needed to drive fast to avoid the fire of German stragglers. Gerhardt himself, wearing white gloves and a blue scarf round his neck (which matched the blue ribbon round the neck of his dog), wanted to be wherever there was action. And if there was no action, he wanted to know why. Gerhardt did not believe in making himself inconspicuous. He was driven around in a specially adapted Jeep named ‘Vixen Tor’, on which was mounted a red flashing light and siren.
- Highlight on Page 169 , Loc. 2587-92 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The commander of the 175th was reluctant to advance further without more artillery support, but Gerhardt did not take kindly to such excuses. He ordered the regiment to continue the advance through the night of 8 June and by midnight it was outside Isigny. Most of the prisoners taken were Polish or Osttruppen. The anti-tank company was astonished when ‘an American on a white horse came down the road with about eleven prisoners’. He called out to them, “‘These are Polish, all but two. They’re Germans.” He then took out his pistol and shot both of them in the back of the head and we just stood there.’
- Highlight on Page 170 , Loc. 2596-2601 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:03 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The most serious attack reached the centre of Sainte-Mère-Eglise during the afternoon of 7 June. An artillery officer from the 4th. Division, arriving by Jeep, reported on what he saw: ‘17.00 hours went into Sainte-Mère-Eglise by Jeep from the south. Tank battle going on. Flame throwers. Saw a German soldier, a “human torch”, crawl to the center of the street from the side when a German [panzer] rolled right over him squashing him flat and extinguishing the flames at the same time. American tanks destroyed most of the German tanks, for the loss of three of their own. Fighting moved northwards. Saw a sunken road north of the town which the German tanks had used and also crushed some of their own dead. Part of 8th Infantry took this road and used it for their own defense that night. They had to pull the German bodies aside to dig their foxholes and several of them fell to pieces.’
- Highlight on Page 171 , Loc. 2613-19 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:06 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Other pockets of resistance closer to Utah beach were also eliminated. At Saint-Martin-de-Varreville, the elaborate strongpoint included pillboxes linked by underground tunnels ‘and Jerry went from one to another at will often returning to one we thought had been captured’. The fighting on both sides remained just as vicious. An officer with the 4th Infantry Division stated that the bodies of four men from an airborne medical unit had been found: ‘Their throats had been cut almost from ear to ear.’ A trick frequently reported in the bocage fighting was for German soldiers to pretend to surrender. Then, as soon as Americans approached to take them prisoner, they would throw themselves to the ground as a hidden machine-gunner opened fire. The 4th Infantry first encountered this with German paratroopers from the 6th Paratroop Regiment, who apparently killed a lieutenant in this way.
- Highlight on Page 172 , Loc. 2628-34 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:08 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A number of American soldiers appear to have acquired a strong suspicion of the French before even setting foot in the country. ‘France was like enemy country,’ commented a captain in the 29th Infantry Division. Many had never been to another country where a foreign language was spoken and found it hard to see the difference between ‘enemy-occupied’ and just ‘enemy’. Others said openly that they ‘couldn’t trust them in Normandy’.
- Highlight on Page 173 , Loc. 2640-44 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:09 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On both sides, mercifully, there were also cases of unexpected humanity. On the northern flank near Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Sergeant Prybowski, a medical non-com, was searching hedgerows for wounded when he came across two injured paratroopers. As he sat there applying bandages to their wounds, one of them whispered to him, ‘You’d better get down. There’s an 88 back of you.’ The sergeant laughingly turned round, only to stare down the barrel of a field gun. In the hedgerow a group of German artillerymen were watching them. But they allowed Prybowski to finish bandaging the two men and take them away.
- Highlight on Page 173 , Loc. 2651-55 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:11 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Surrounded by part of the 1057th Grenadier-Regiment, Shanley’s reduced force was heavily outnumbered. Then they found that the Germans were bringing up artillery. This development was spotted from across the river. A naval gunfire controller radioed back to the bombardment force offshore. Allied warships, at a range of more than twelve miles, proceeded to knock out the German artillery without inflicting serious casualties on the beleaguered paratroopers.
- Highlight on Page 174 , Loc. 2662-65 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:13 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Fighting the 91st Luftlande-Division among the hedgerows proved traumatic for these untested troops. Their performance was so lamentable that the divisional commander and two of his regimental commanders were sacked. American generals were ruthless with subordinate commanders who ‘could not get their troops to perform the task which a division or corps said had to be done’.
- Highlight on Page 175 , Loc. 2670-73 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:14 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
For Overlord planners, one of the key items in their calculations had been the speed with which German reinforcements would reach the invasion front. Much depended on Allied efforts to seal off the battlefield by the bombing programme of ‘Transportation’, by Allied fighter-bombers and by the sabotage and attacks of the French Resistance groups trained by SOE and the Jedburgh teams.
- Highlight on Page 175 , Loc. 2678-80 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:15 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
One of the first formations the Americans were to encounter in the battle for Carentan was the 17th SS Panzergrenadier-Division Götz von Berlichingen. This new division was named after an old warhorse of the sixteenth century who, after losing his right hand in combat, had a blacksmith make him an iron fist as a replacement. The iron fist became the divisional emblem.
- Highlight on Page 175 , Loc. 2681-84 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Most of the 17th SS Division, however, was held back near Saint-Lô because of fuel shortages, before being allocated to a counter-attack planned against the American paratroopers attacking Carentan.
- Highlight on Page 177 , Loc. 2701-2 , Added on Sunday, July 03, 2016, 01:18 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
General Mahlmann’s 353rd Infanterie-Division had even less motorized transport. His most mobile units were two battalions on bicycles designated the Radfahrbeweglichemarschgruppe (the Mobile Bicycle March Group).
- Highlight on Page 177 , Loc. 2714-15 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:28 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Most notorious of all movements to the Normandy front was that of the 2nd SS Panzer-Division Das Reich. Its commander, SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Lammerding, had been chief of staff to the infamous Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who would soon be brought in to destroy the Warsaw uprising. The Das Reich Division revelled in its brutality. It had taken part in Partisanenkrieg in the Soviet Union and the mass murder of Jews with Einsatzgruppe B in the region around Minsk. When they moved from the eastern front to the area of Toulouse in April, its officers saw no reason why they should behave any differently.
- Highlight on Page 178 , Loc. 2719-23 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:30 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The achievement of the Resistance in delaying the Das Reich Division was one of its greatest contributions to the battle for Normandy. SOE networks had played a large part, destroying the Das Reich’s fuel dumps before they even started, sabotaging rolling stock, blowing railway lines and organizing sequences of small ambushes. In the Dordogne, twenty-eight members of the Resistance managed to hold up one column for forty-eight hours near Souillac. Almost all were killed in this utterly courageous act of self-sacrifice. The delays inflicted, combined with reports radioed back to London, gave the RAF the opportunity to attack the division on several occasions, most notably in Angoulême. Altogether it took the Das Reich Division seventeen days to reach the front, fourteen more than expected.
- Highlight on Page 179 , Loc. 2739-45 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:35 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Geyr, who believed like Guderian in the importance of a massive panzer counter-attack, was shaken to find how effective the Allied bombing of key towns had been in blocking approach routes. Having strongly opposed the idea of deploying panzer divisions close to the coast, he still refused to acknowledge that Rommel’s healthy respect for Allied air power had been more prescient. Geyr was to suffer for this hubris when Ultra intercepts identified the exact location of his headquarters a few days later.
- Highlight on Page 185 , Loc. 2836-39 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:10 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
At the end of D-Day, British commanders in the Sword beachhead had played down their failure to take Caen with the misplaced optimism that ‘we can always take it tomorrow’. The repulse of the 21st Panzer-Division had raised exaggerated hopes. They had not yet come up against the Hitler Jugend and they also failed to appreciate that the most effective weapon in the 21st Panzer’s armoury was not its tanks, but its twenty-four 88 mm anti-tank guns.
- Highlight on Page 186 , Loc. 2840-44 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:10 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As the bloody stalemate in front of Caen became clear, Montgomery decided to send his two ‘best batsmen’ into play on 11 June. Both the 7th Armoured Division and the 51st Highland Division had distinguished themselves under his command in North Africa, but they were to receive a rude shock in Normandy. The 51st was diverted to the east of the River Orne to prepare the left-hook on Caen, while the Desert Rats of the 7th Armoured would mount a right-hook from the American flank near Tilly-sur-Seulles.
- Highlight on Page 200 , Loc. 3066-69 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Scots of the 51st Highland Division did not believe in hiding their light under a bushel. Other formations called them the ‘Highway Decorators’, because almost every road junction had a prominently displayed ‘HD’ and an arrow. The 51st moved over the Orne into the 6th Airborne’s bridgehead. There, the heavily outnumbered and outgunned paratroopers had been forced back by relentless counter-attacks. With astonishing resilience, they faced Luck’s Kampfgruppe from the 21st Panzer-Division, the 711th Infanterie-Division and the newly arrived 346th Infanterie-Division.
- Highlight on Page 201 , Loc. 3069-73 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘The fury of artillery is a cold, mechanical fury,’ wrote a Highlander, ‘but its intent is personal. When you are under its fire you are the sole target. All of that shrieking, whining venom is directed at you and at no one else. You hunch in your hole in the ground, reduce yourself into as small a thing as you can become, and you harden your muscles in a pitiful attempt at defying the jagged, burning teeth of the shrapnel. Involuntarily you curl up into the foetal position except that your hands go down to protect your genitalia. This instinct to defend the place of generation against the forces of annihilation was universal.’
- Highlight on Page 201 , Loc. 3078-83 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:26 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The cavalry regiments of the famed ‘Desert Rats’ had brought their rather insouciant attitude with them to a very different battleground. Unlike the undulating cornfields of the Caen sector, this was bocage country, with sunken lanes and high hedges. ‘You’ll get a shock after the desert,’ a trooper in the Sherwood Rangers warned a newly arrived friend. ‘We could see the buggers in the desert and they could see us. Here they can see us, but I’ll be buggered if we can see them.’ Attacking through the leafy green tunnels, he added, ‘gives you the bloody creeps’.
- Highlight on Page 204 , Loc. 3116-20 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Dempsey told Erskine to push on to Villers-Bocage with the 11th Hussars, an armoured reconnaissance regiment, out in front. But Erskine switched them to the role of flank guards instead. This was to prove a very serious mistake.
- Highlight on Page 204 , Loc. 3123-25 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:32 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘Bucknall was very weak, and I am certain quite unfit to command a corps.’ His reputation had been boosted by the capture of Bayeux, but he was not highly rated by those who knew him. Dempsey also had his doubts, but did nothing. As the American airborne commander General Maxwell D. Taylor put it, British senior commanders never had the tradition of really pressing subordinates. American generals thought that their British counterparts were far too polite.
- Highlight on Page 204 , Loc. 3128-31 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Erskine’s failure to provide an armoured reconnaissance screen in front, rather than as a flank guard, led to one of the most devastating ambushes in British military history.
- Highlight on Page 205 , Loc. 3132-33 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The only enemy presence sighted had been a German eight-wheeled armoured car just before they entered the town, but it disappeared before the nearest Cromwell could traverse its turret. Brigadier Hinde, who accompanied them in a scout car, knew that to hold the town securely, they must occupy the feature on the north-east side known as Hill 213. The commanding officer of the Sharpshooters, Lieutenant Colonel the Viscount Cranley, wanted to carry out a thorough reconnaissance of the area, since more German armoured cars had been sighted, but ‘Loony’ Hinde would accept no delay.
- Highlight on Page 205 , Loc. 3141-45 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:35 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
In a small wood close to the road up which the Cromwells advanced, five Tiger tanks from the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion lay hidden. They had just reached the front after a long and complicated journey from near Beauvais, north of Paris. Their commander was Obersturmführer Michael Wittmann, who was already famous as a ‘panzer ace’. Credited with 137 tank ‘kills’ on the eastern front, he had received the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves. Wittmann, enraged by the Allied bombing of German cities, had told his men, ‘We have only one watchword and that is “revenge”!’
- Highlight on Page 206 , Loc. 3147-51 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:35 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Without waiting for his other Tigers to catch up, Wittmann emerged from the wood, swung parallel to the road and opened fire. The Tiger’s 88 mm gun destroyed one Cromwell after another. The Cromwells, badly designed, under-armoured and under-gunned, did not stand a chance. They even found it hard to back out of danger, since their reverse speed was little more than two miles per hour.
- Highlight on Page 207 , Loc. 3159-62 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:36 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Having caused havoc with A Squadron on the hill, Wittmann’s Tiger lumbered down into the town of Villers-Bocage. It rammed aside a Bren-gun carrier of the Rifle Brigade and began to descend the main street. He dealt first with the tanks of the Sharpshooters’ regimental headquarters, then attacked B Squadron. Many crews were dismounted and incapable of replying. But even those who managed to score direct hits on the Tiger found that their low-velocity 75 mm gun had little effect. Wittmann then returned to Hill 213 to finish the battle with A Squadron and the Rifle Brigade detachment.
- Highlight on Page 207 , Loc. 3162-66 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:37 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Aunay-sur-Odon, an important crossroads four miles to the south, had also been smashed in a series of RAF bombing attacks. The first had taken place during Mass. The priest, the Abbé André Paul, recounted how the sound of aero engines overhead, rapidly followed by explosions which made the church shake, threw his congregation into panic. Many tried to crawl under an upturned prie-dieu for protection. As soon as it was over, the Abbé told them to leave quickly in small groups. As they emerged from the church, they were greeted by a vision of the Last Judgement. The bombs had disinterred many of the skeletons in the churchyard. Repeated raids killed 161 villagers and crushed the whole village to rubble. British troops were shocked by the scene when they finally reached the village just before the end of the battle for Normandy.
- Highlight on Page 208 , Loc. 3180-86 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:39 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 15 June, the day after the British withdrawal, an Unteroffizier with the 2nd Panzer-Division found time to write home. ‘The fighting in the west has now begun. You can imagine how much we are needed and that little time is left for writing. It is all or nothing now, it is about the existence or the end of our beloved Fatherland. How each of us soldiers will come through this is pretty irrelevant - the main thing is and remains that we will achieve a just and lasting peace . . . we have learnt to do without everything regarding ourselves or the future and have often come to terms with our mortality. Yet repeatedly one catches oneself still having yearnings and they uphold our faith and our perseverance - but with the explosion of the next shell one’s entire life could be extinguished in an eternal void. We have stepped up to the highest battle.’
- Highlight on Page 208 , Loc. 3187-93 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:40 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Montgomery, in a letter to de Guingand on 12 June, hoped to stamp immediately on any idea of tank inferiority, however true. He did not want his armoured troops to develop ‘a Tiger and Panther complex’. And yet Montgomery himself had criticized British tank design the previous August, when he said, ‘We are outshot by the German tanks.’ But to try to suppress the problem nearly a year later was flying in the face of reality. The German 88 mm gun, both on the Tiger and the flak gun in a ground role, could pick off Allied tanks before they were able to get within range.
- Highlight on Page 210 , Loc. 3211-15 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:42 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Americans, proud of their technological sophistication, were shaken to find that even German small arms, especially their light machine gun the MG 42, were manifestly superior. Eisenhower’s reaction on hearing how much better German tank guns were could not have been more different from Montgomery’s attempt to suppress the issue. He wrote immediately to General Marshall and sent a senior tank expert back to the States to discuss what could be done to improve their armour-piercing ammunition.
- Highlight on Page 210 , Loc. 3218-21 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:43 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘I have received the following from U.J. [Uncle Joe],’ he cabled Roosevelt. ‘It looks good. “The summer offensive of the Soviet forces, organised in accordance with the agreement at the Teheran conference, will begin towards the middle of June on one of the important sectors of the front”.’ This was confirmation of Operation Bagration, perhaps the most effective offensive of the whole war.
- Highlight on Page 211 , Loc. 3225-27 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:43 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
When they finally returned to Courseulles, they watched an unsuccessful raid by German bombers and then re-embarked on Admiral Vian’s barge for a trip along the coast. Churchill was entranced to see a monitor firing its fourteen-inch guns at targets inland. He announced that he had ‘never been on one of His Majesty’s ships engaging the enemy’ and insisted on going aboard. Fortunately, Brooke noted, it was too difficult to climb up and the over-excited Prime Minister was denied his ‘risky entertainment’. That did not stop Churchill from bragging mendaciously to Roosevelt, ‘We went and had a plug at the Hun from our destroyer, but although the range was 6,000 yards he did not honour us with a reply.’
- Highlight on Page 212 , Loc. 3241-46 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:45 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
They were met at the beach by officers of Montgomery’s staff, who could not believe the size of the group and the quantity of luggage they were bringing ashore. Montgomery had asked that de Gaulle should bring no more than two people to lunch, but this request had been treated with monarchical disregard. In the event, only General de Gaulle, the French ambassador Viénot and Generals Koenig and Béthouart climbed into the Jeeps provided by 21st Army Group. The other fifteen members of the party and the luggage had to wait at the beach until transport could be found to send them on to Bayeux. De Gaulle even tried to insist at the last moment that the Jeeps should be driven by the French chauffeurs whom he had brought with him.
- Highlight on Page 213 , Loc. 3260-64 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:46 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Montgomery’s dislike of cigarettes was famous, but apparently de Gaulle and his companions filled Montgomery’s caravan with smoke. This, according to the naval liaison officer accompanying the party, ‘did little to ingratiate them with its tenant’. The lunch may have been a diplomatic ordeal for Montgomery, but it clearly gave de Gaulle little pleasure too.
- Highlight on Page 213 , Loc. 3265-67 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:46 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
In Bayeux, the General made his way to the Sous-Préfecture. There he was met by the sous-préfet standing self-importantly in his tricolore sash. The official then suddenly remembered to his horror that the portrait of Marshal Pétain still hung on the wall. De Gaulle, who was often so very thin-skinned, could also rise majestically above unintended insults. He continued talking to the embarrassed official as if nothing had happened. And also on that day he revealed his dry wit when an old woman in the crowd became confused in the cheering and cried out, ‘Vive le Maréchal!’ He is said to have muttered to a companion, ‘Another person who does not read the newspapers.’
- Highlight on Page 214 , Loc. 3271-76 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:47 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
De Gaulle paid scant attention to Churchill’s condition of the visit that there should be no public meetings. He mounted an improvised platform in the square outside the Sous-Préfecture and addressed the crowd. He finished his speech with the declaration, ‘Le gouvernement français salue Bayeux - la première ville française libérée.’ There was no mention of the fact that the gouvernement was provisoire.
- Highlight on Page 214 , Loc. 3279-82 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:48 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The only cloud on his horizon was that, according to a report Churchill had just received, the population seemed perfectly happy to accept the military currency issued by his Allies and denounced by the General as ‘une fausse monnaie’.
- Highlight on Page 215 , Loc. 3282-84 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:48 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Roosevelt’s attitude to the leader of the provisional government had certainly not changed. On the same day, he signalled to Churchill, ‘In my opinion we should make full use of any organization of influence he may have in so far as is practicable without imposing him by force of our arms upon the French people as their government or giving recognition to his outfit as the Provisional Government of France.’
- Highlight on Page 215 , Loc. 3292-95 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:49 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
He had written to Eden just before his visit to France, ‘There is not a scrap of generosity about this man, who only wishes to pose as the saviour of France in this operation.’ The British press and most members of Parliament, on the other hand, strongly supported de Gaulle. The Times that morning had described Allied relations with the provisional government as ‘intolerable’25 - but for Churchill, relations with ‘this wrong-headed, ambitious and detestable Anglophobe’ had become a resigning matter.
- Highlight on Page 215 , Loc. 3297-3301 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:49 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As in a field hospital, a doctor was on hand to carry out an immediate triage and decide who should be operated on first. The strain on the surgeons was immense. One said, ‘I simply cannot look at any more blood.’ Another muttered, ‘I’ve had it. I think if anyone brings me somebody who’s injured I just couldn’t operate.’ They had no idea which day of the week it was.
- Highlight on Page 216 , Loc. 3311-13 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:50 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Another event which shook everyone in the Bon Sauveur occurred after a café owner was brought in with a bullet wound in the thigh. It transpired that, when drunk, he had shot at some soldiers from the Hitler Jugend who had been pillaging his café, a common event. While a surgeon was operating on him, an SS officer appeared armed with a sub-machine gun. The SS officer began hitting him as he lay on the operating table, asking whether he had fired at the soldiers. The café owner was speechless and did not reply. The SS officer fired a burst from his gun into his chest, killing him right there in front of all the medical staff.
- Highlight on Page 217 , Loc. 3317-21 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:51 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Vichy authorities in Paris made an effort to help Caen. Two trucks loaded with food and blankets and a field kitchen were sent off by Secours National under the direction of Monsieur Gouineau. It was a hazardous journey. German soldiers in Lisieux were obsessed with ‘terrorists’ of the Resistance.
- Highlight on Page 218 , Loc. 3329-31 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:52 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Monsieur Gouineau, knowing that all the banks in Caen had been destroyed, had the authority to draw 100 million francs in Lisieux. There was no time to count the money, so he signed the receipt with his eyes closed and they drove on to Caen. When Allied fighters appeared overhead they waved a white flag frantically and the aircraft veered off.
- Highlight on Page 218 , Loc. 3331-34 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:52 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
For those French behind Allied lines, life was at least a little easier. In Lion-sur-Mer a local wrote, ‘The English since their arrival distribute to left and right chocolate, sweets and cigarettes.’ But there was no electricity or water, except from wells, and for food, most survived off their kitchen gardens. Rumour ran riot.
- Highlight on Page 218 , Loc. 3338-40 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:53 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Barter extended to other commodities with an astonishing rapidity. A surgeon with the 2nd Field Dressing Station recorded that on 7 June ‘a senior officer of the Military Police arrived in a Jeep loaded with medical comforts - army-issue chocolate, sweets and cigarettes for the wounded. Earlier that morning the police had raided a brothel set up on the beach in a wrecked landing craft by three ladies on the evening of D-Day and had confiscated the trading currency.’ British sailors, sometimes drunk but still desperate for more alcohol, made a nuisance of themselves, going from house to house on the coast.
- Highlight on Page 219 , Loc. 3343-47 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:54 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 15 June, a wing of Typhoons arrived to prepare a raid on a German panzer headquarters in a château near Villers-Bocage. The pilots landed to find the airfield under shellfire and they had to dive into slit trenches. The Typhoon aircrews knew how much they were hated by the Germans, so a number of them wore khaki battledress to avoid being lynched in case they were shot down. Considering the rather patronizing attitude of RAF pilots towards ‘brown jobs’, as they called the army, it was ironic that they borrowed their uniform.
- Highlight on Page 219 , Loc. 3349-53 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:55 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
O’Brien was kept busy tending to the dead as well as the living. At one of the brief funeral services by an open grave, a newly arrived officer half-fainted beside him, dropped to his knees and began to slide into the hole. The padre caught him by his battledress, saying, ‘Now there’s no need to be in a hurry. All in good time.’
- Highlight on Page 220 , Loc. 3361-63 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:55 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Their food, usually cooked over a biscuit tin filled with earth which had been soaked in petrol, was also monotonous. Compo rations came in a fourteen-day pack, with hard tack biscuits, margarine, jam, mixed vegetables, steak and kidney pudding, tins of M&V (meat and vegetables), plum pudding, latrine paper, soup, sweets, cigarettes (seven per man per day), matches and tea ready-mixed with milk powder and sugar for an instant brew-up. Oatmeal blocks could be crumbled into water to make porridge for breakfast as a change from the tins of over-salted and glutinous bacon and powdered egg. It was not surprising that barter for fresh produce became such an obsession.
- Highlight on Page 220 , Loc. 3371-75 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:57 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The majority in the middle just followed the brave ones, but, faced with sudden disaster, they could equally run with the shirkers. The first study of behaviour under fire had been made in Sicily in 1943. A horrified Montgomery suppressed the report, fearing its effects on morale, and the career of the officer who wrote it suffered. More evidence emerged later to support his thesis.26 Even in the Red Army officers were certain that six out of ten soldiers never fired their rifles in battle. This prompted one of their commanders to suggest that weapons should be inspected afterwards and anyone with a clean barrel should be treated as a deserter.
- Highlight on Page 221 , Loc. 3381-86 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:58 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The difference between the soldiers of a democracy and those of a dictatorship could hardly have been clearer. Yet the morale of the German Landser in Normandy was vulnerable. So much had been promised by the propaganda ministry and their own officers. Many had welcomed the invasion as an opportunity to settle scores over the Allied bombing and, by crushing it, to bring the war to an end.
- Highlight on Page 221 , Loc. 3389-91 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:58 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘The whole world now anticipates the further course of the invasion,’ wrotean Untersturmführerofthe 9th SS Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen on 6 June. ‘When I heard the news on the radio at noon today, I was honestly pleased, because by this measure we seem to be nearing the end of the war quite considerably.’
- Highlight on Page 222 , Loc. 3392-94 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:58 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Every time an assurance of the propaganda ministry proved false, another one quickly took its place. The Atlantic Wall was impregnable. The Allies would not dare to invade. The Luftwaffe and U-boats would smash the invasion fleet. A massive counter-attack would hurl the Allies back into the sea. The secret Vengeance weapons would bring Britain to her knees, begging for peace. New jet fighters would sweep the Allied aircraft from the sky. The more desperate the situation became, the more shameless the lie. The relentless inventions of Goebbels served as a form of morale-benzedrine for the soldier at the front, but when the effect wore off, he would be left truly exhausted. For SS soldiers especially, belief became nothing short of an addiction.
- Highlight on Page 222 , Loc. 3397-3402 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 04:59 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Like the British during the last seven days, the American First Army had also feared a major counter-attack from the south. Allied intelligence had not appreciated the success of its air forces and the Resistance in slowing the arrival of German reinforcements. Nor did they foresee that the German high command would throw the vast majority of its panzer divisions against the British Second Army.
- Highlight on Page 223 , Loc. 3405-8 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The build-up of forces was already proceeding apace. In a triumph of American organization and industry, Omaha beach had been transformed. ‘Within a week after D-Day,’ wrote a naval officer, ‘the beach resembled Coney Island on a hot Sunday. Thousands of men were at work, including Sea-Bees, Army engineers and French labourers. Big and little bulldozers were busy widening roads, levelling ground and hauling wreckage.’ Before the end of June, Omaha beach command had a total strength of just over 20,000 officers and men, the bulk of them in the 5th and 6th Engineer Special Brigades.
- Highlight on Page 223 , Loc. 3418-22 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:17 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘Jeeps bearing staff officers were as common as yellow cabs in the heart of New York,’ wrote the same naval officer. And ‘large groups of German prisoners could be spotted here and there awaiting removal via LST’.
- Highlight on Page 224 , Loc. 3424-26 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:17 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Unfortunately, wounded American airborne troops were evacuated on the same vessels as prisoners. An officer on LST 134 recorded, ‘We had an incident where we had some paratroop soldiers and prisoners aboard, and I don’t know what happened but I understand one or two Germans got killed.’ On LST 44, a pharmacist’s mate experienced a similarly tense encounter: ‘One of our ship’s officers started to herd these prisoners into the same area where I was helping tend some shell-shocked and wounded American soldiers. The immediate reaction of our troops was frightening and fierce. The situation was explosive. For the first and only time, I refused entry and demanded our officer stop sending the captured troops into this area. Our lieutenant looked surprised and extremely angry, but grudgingly complied.’
- Highlight on Page 224 , Loc. 3431-36 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:18 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Both at Utah and at Omaha, rear troops and sailors were as desperate as front-line soldiers to get their hands on war souvenirs. According to a Coast Guard officer on the USS Bayfield, souvenir hunters bartered away furiously for German medals and badges of rank. Many prisoners of war, still fearing execution as their commanders had warned them, handed them over with little protest.
- Highlight on Page 225 , Loc. 3442-44 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:20 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
- Highlight on Page 225 , Loc. 3446 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:20 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
the most eagerly sought trophies were Luger pistols. If anyone wanted a Luger, one officer remarked, he had to ‘shoot the German himself and catch him before he fell’. Back at the beach sailors were paying $135 and there was talk of offers as high as $250, a great deal of money at the time. An enterprising sergeant from the 2nd Armored Division brought back to the beach a truck-load of captured weapons and bartered them for 100 pounds of instant coffee, a commodity which American tank troops regarded as body fuel.
- Highlight on Page 225 , Loc. 3445-48 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:20 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
American sailors and beach personnel called the Luftwaffe ‘Hermann’s vermin’ in honour of its commander-in-chief.
- Highlight on Page 227 , Loc. 3470-71 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:23 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
American sailors and beach personnel called the Luftwaffe ‘Hermann’s vermin’ in honour of its commander-in-chief. But the wildly over-enthusiastic response of ‘literally thousands’ of anti-aircraft gunners on the ships anchored offshore created considerable problems when Allied aircraft arrived to intercept the attackers. One report stated that on the evening of 9 June, while it was still light, ships off Utah beach shot down four Mustangs, fired at four Spitfires, then fired again at another patrol of Spitfires, bringing one down, damaged two Typhoons and engaged another two Spitfires, all in the course of less than two hours.
- Highlight on Page 227 , Loc. 3470-74 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:23 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
US warships did have a ‘trained aircraft recognition officer’ on board, ‘but apparently they were only good at American types of aircraft’.
- Highlight on Page 227 , Loc. 3479-80 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:24 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Anti-aircraft fire from ships was so intense in reaction to a small Luftwaffe raid that six Allied fighters coming to intercept them were shot down. One of the pilots retrieved from the water could not stop cursing for four hours afterwards.
- Highlight on Page 227 , Loc. 3480-82 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:29 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Two days later, Bradley had to cancel a meeting with Montgomery. He had heard that General George C. Marshall, Eisenhower and Admiral King were coming to visit him the next morning. They landed at Omaha early on 12 June, when part of the artificial harbour was already in position.
- Highlight on Page 228 , Loc. 3484-86 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Bradley took them on a tour to Isigny. They travelled in staff cars escorted by armoured cars and viewed the effect of naval gunfire on the town. Bradley, concerned about such an extraordinary concentration of senior commanders, remarked later that ‘an enemy sniper could have won immortality as a hero of the Reich’.
- Highlight on Page 228 , Loc. 3486-88 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:31 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
After seeing the big guns of the USS Texas firing its shells inland at the 17th SS Division south of Carentan, they lunched on C-Rations in a tent at First Army headquarters. There, Bradley briefed his visitors on the operation by Collins’s VII Corps to take Cherbourg.
- Highlight on Page 228 , Loc. 3488-90 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:31 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Major General Lawton Collins was only forty-eight years old. Quick and energetic, he was known as ‘Lightning Joe’, and had proved himself in the clearing of Guadalcanal in the Pacific. Bradley trusted him completely and the feeling was mutual.
- Highlight on Page 228 , Loc. 3490-92 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:31 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The 90th also learned the hard way that taking items from dead Germans was dangerous. A soldier from another division came across the body of a second lieutenant from the 90th with his hands tied behind his back, a German P-38 pistol thrust down his throat and the back of his head blown off. The second lieutenant was still wearing the German leather holster on his belt. ‘When I saw that,’ the soldier remarked, ‘I said no souvenirs for me. But, of course, we did it too when we caught them with American cigarettes on them, or American wristwatches they had on their arms.’
- Highlight on Page 228 , Loc. 3495-98 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:52 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Hitler had given the strictest instruction that the maximum number of troops on the peninsula should fight in retreat towards Cherbourg. The commander of the 77th Infanterie-Division, however, decided to disobey the order. He saw no point in staying with the trapped and doomed forces, now under the command of General von Schlieben. He managed to slip through with part of his forces, just as the American 9th Division reached Barneville. The 91st Luftlande-Division also retreated to the south, having lost most of its equipment and nearly 3,000 men since 6 June.
- Highlight on Page 229 , Loc. 3502-6 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:52 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The American southern flank of the corridor became the responsibility of the 82nd Airborne and the hapless 90th Division. To oversee this sector, Bradley appointed Major General Troy H. Middleton, one of the most impressive commanders at his disposal, to command VIII Corps. Middleton, who had made his name in Italy, was said to look like ‘a burly professor with his steel-rimmed glasses’.
- Highlight on Page 229 , Loc. 3511-14 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:57 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Opposing Middleton, the LXXXIV Corps finally received its new commanding general on 18 June. Generalleutnant Dietrich von Choltitz may have been ‘a pudgy man who looked like a night club comedian’, but he had learned his skills in the ruthless school of the eastern front, especially in the fighting for Sebastopol.
- Highlight on Page 230 , Loc. 3514-16 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:58 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As soon as the peninsula was cutoff, Collins wanted to give the Germans no time to reorganize. General Manton Eddy, the commander of the 9th Division, had to turn his whole formation round in less than twenty-four hours to be ready to advance north up the west coast.
- Highlight on Page 230 , Loc. 3525-26 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:59 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Montgomery’s own reliance on artillery was revealed in a ghastly joke when he wrote to de Guingand, ‘Montebourg and Valognes have been “liberated” in the best 21st Army Group style, i.e. they are both completely destroyed!!!’
- Highlight on Page 231 , Loc. 3531-33 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 07:59 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 16 June, ‘a Cub plane reported to division artillery that a column of troops was crossing a bridge. Artillery phoned it in. Corps contacted a squadron of fighter-bombers in the area and directed it onto the column. In 15 minutes they had a report they had strafed the column. Reports have come in that American prisoners being marched down the road by Germans escaped in the course of strafing by our planes.’ This early attempt at ground-air cooperation was an important start in what would become a devastatingly effective combination later in the campaign.
- Highlight on Page 231 , Loc. 3535-39 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:00 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
the Allies were hit by an unforeseeable disaster. On 19 June, the most violent storm for forty years began to blow up in the Channel, combined with a spring tide. Locals had never seen anything like it. The gale force winds along the coast were, in the Norman saying, enough ‘to take the horns off a cow’. Temperatures dropped to the equivalent of a cold November.
- Highlight on Page 231 , Loc. 3539-42 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:01 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Landing craft were hurled by the waves high on to the beaches, smashing against each other. Flat Rhino ferries sliced into their sides. Even landing ship tanks were thrown ashore. ‘The only chance we had of keeping our landing craft from being beaten to bits,’ wrote a US Navy officer, ‘was to anchor a long way off the beach out in the Channel and hope we could ride the storm out.’ For ships en route to England, the crossing was unforgettable. ‘It took us about four days to do the 80 nautical miles in very rough seas to Southampton,’ wrote an officer on an LST. ‘The seas were so rough that the skipper was afraid that the ship would crack in two; therefore he ordered the mooring cables to be strung fore and aft and tightened up on the winches to give extra support to two of the deck plates. That ship was strung like a mountaineer’s fiddle.’
- Highlight on Page 232 , Loc. 3544-50 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The storm continued until the evening of Thursday, 22 June. The destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and materiel had been lost than during the invasion itself.
- Highlight on Page 232 , Loc. 3550-52 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead taken on 5 June. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been feared, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history. Eisenhower, after he had seen the damage on the beaches, took the time to write a note to Group Captain Stagg: ‘I thank the gods of war we went when we did.’
- Highlight on Page 232 , Loc. 3552-54 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The storm badly delayed the build-up, hampered the return of casualties to England and forced the cancellation of air operations. This absence of Allied fighter-bombers from the sky allowed the Germans to accelerate their reinforcement of the Normandy front. At the same time, many Allied divisions, either already embarked for France or ready to cross, were delayed by a week or more. The most immediate effect was on supplies, especially artillery ammunition. General Bradley had a difficult choice, but decided to maintain full support for Collins’s attack on Cherbourg. His other two corps - Gerow’s V Corps to the south-east and Middleton’s VIII Corps on the south side of the peninsula - would receive only a minimum of artillery shells, even though Bradley knew that this would allow the Germans time to prepare defences south of the Douve marshes.
- Highlight on Page 233 , Loc. 3559-64 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:13 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 22 June, the Americans launched a massive air raid on Cherbourg late in the morning. The alarms rang in the flak positions manned by German teenagers from the Reichsarbeitsdienst, recruits engaged on construction projects who were not yet proper soldiers. They ran to their guns as the first waves of fighter-bombers came in. ‘We fired back like madmen,’ wrote one of them. Then came a rumbling drone over the Channel as formations of American heavy bombers appeared, glinting in the sun. ‘An inferno descended - roaring, shattering, shaking, crashing. Then quiet. Dust, ash and dirt made the sky gray. A horrific silence lay over our battery position.’ There had been several direct hits. The boys’ bodies were taken away in trucks later.
- Highlight on Page 234 , Loc. 3577-82 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:15 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A Polish deserter led MacMahon and a reconnaissance party close to it. It looked as if the guns had been destroyed, either by air attack or by the Germans themselves. MacMahon ordered a newly arrived loudspeaker truck to be brought up. He then ordered forward some artillery and announced over the loudspeakers in German that a full divisional assault was about to be launched. They had ten minutes to surrender, then ‘any part of the garrison not surrendering would be blasted out of existence’. He kept repeating the message, ‘feeling rather foolish because his talking seemed to have produced no results’. Suddenly he heard yells: ‘Here they come!’ Large numbers of German soldiers could be seen advancing, some with white flags and the rest with their arms raised. But they represented only a portion of the garrison. A group of five German officers appeared next, as delegates sent by the garrison commander. They asked MacMahon to have his guns fire one phosphorus shell at the position so that their commander could feel he ‘had satisfied his obligation to the Führer and surrender’. MacMahon had to admit that he had no phosphorus shells. Would ‘German honor be satisfied’ if five phosphorus grenades were thrown? After discussion of this counter-proposal, the senior German officer agreed with more saluting. But only four grenades could be found in the whole company. There was more haggling, then these four grenades were thrown into a cornfield. The German officers inspected the results and agreed that they were indeed phosphorus, and returned to inform their commander that he could surrender the rest of the garrison and the field hospital attached.
- Highlight on Page 234 , Loc. 3584-96 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
MacMahon found that they had taken 2,000 prisoners. Later, when he and his divisional commander went to inspect the German field hospital, the senior officer there requested that they be allowed to keep eight rifles. Unless their Russian and Polish ‘voluntary’ helpers were held under guard, he explained, they would not work. The American divisional commander retorted that the Russians and Poles were now under American protection and the Germans could do the work themselves.
- Highlight on Page 235 , Loc. 3596-99 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:16 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Because the heavy bombers had failed to smash their ferro-concrete emplacements, Bradley asked Admiral Kirk to help speed the capture of the port. Kirk felt that Bradley was becoming rather too fond of naval gunfire support, but agreed.
- Highlight on Page 235 , Loc. 3600-3602 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:17 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
we were lulled into a false sense of security.’ They took their bombardment positions at about 13.00 hours. Suddenly a coastal battery which they had failed to see opened fire. A shell hit the conning tower of the Texas, severely damaging the captain’s bridge and the flag bridge. ‘Immediately we opened fire,’ wrote an officer on the Nelson, ‘we got salvos screaming over from [the coastal batteries] and the first salvo straddled us.’ The Nevada also received near misses, while apart from the Texas, HMS Glasgow and several other ships were hit. None were crippled, but Rear Admiral Bryant rightly decided that discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew his task force behind a smoke screen.
- Highlight on Page 236 , Loc. 3606-11 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:17 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Occasionally, a display of strength would persuade a garrison commander to surrender. According to one extraordinary report, Private Smith in the 79th Infantry Division, who ‘had drunk enough Calvados to make him reckless’, captured one strongpoint single-handed.
- Highlight on Page 236 , Loc. 3614-15 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:18 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Smith, armed only with a .45 automatic pistol and accompanied by a similarly inebriated friend who had no weapon at all, ‘staggered up to the entrance of the fort’. Smith and his companion, on seeing that the steel doors were ajar, slipped inside and shot dead the German soldiers standing around in the entrance. Smith, ‘who was in truth stewed to the ears’, went from room to room, ‘shooting and shouting, and as he appeared at each door, the Germans inside, thinking the whole American army was in the fort, gave up’. He herded his prisoners together and marched them out into the open, where they were handed over to his battalion. Smith then returned to the fort and discovered another room in which there were wounded Germans. ‘Declaring to all and sundry that the only good German was a dead one, Smith made good Germans out of several of them before he could be stopped.’
- Highlight on Page 236 , Loc. 3616-22 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:18 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘Some of the boys,’ wrote an officer in the 4th Infantry Division, ‘could not understand why the Germans had given it up as quickly as they had.’ Schlieben, who seemed to be something of an epicure, was not impressed by the K-Rations he received. One of Bradley’s officers thought it highly amusing that he was about to face English cuisine as a prisoner when sent back across the Channel.
- Highlight on Page 237 , Loc. 3630-33 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:19 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
- Note on Page 237 , Loc. 3622 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:21 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Over 600 German wounded were found in the Pasteur hospital. Captain Koehler, a battalion surgeon with the 22nd Infantry Regiment and a fluent German speaker, was put in charge. Although he had excellent cooperation from the German colonel and his medical staff, Koehler was appalled at the high death rate, largely due to the lack of preparation of patients before surgery. The unnecessary number of amputations also shocked him. ‘The Teutonic tendency to operate on a surgical case and disregard the outcome on the life of the patient was very apparent,’ he wrote.
- Highlight on Page 238 , Loc. 3637-41 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:26 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Engineers from the 101st Airborne, who had been brought up to help with the reduction of strongpoints, joined in the general merriment of victory as the town returned to a version of normal life. ‘That was quite an experience,’ one of them wrote, ‘because the houses of prostitution were open, the taverns were open, MPs were in there, military government, rangers, paratroopers, dog leg infantry, artillery officers, and we had our first experience of using sidewalk urinals.’ The combat historian Sergeant Forrest Pogue saw nearly 100 soldiers queuing outside a former Wehrmacht brothel. A Frenchman warned him that they should be careful: ‘The Germans have left much disease.’
- Highlight on Page 238 , Loc. 3641-46 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 08:27 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Shortly before the fall of Cherbourg, Hitler made his last visit to France. He was in an unforgiving mood. His orders to sweep the Allies back into the sea had not been carried out and he regarded his senior commanders in the west as defeatist. Hitler complained openly at OKW headquarters that ‘Field Marshal Rommel is a great and inspiring leader in victory, but as soon as there is the slightest difficulty, he becomes a complete pessimist.’
- Highlight on Page 239 , Loc. 3657-60 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:22 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
One day, he noticed in a report that the number of anti-aircraft guns in the Channel Islands had apparently been reduced by two. He demanded that the officer responsible should be punished for reducing the defences, but in fact somebody had miscounted the first time round. Hitler, without ever having visited the area of Caen in his life, continually pestered the OKW staff about the positioning of two units of multi-barrelled mortars: the 7th and 8th Nebelwerfer Brigades. He insisted that they would decide the outcome in the British sector if they were placed at a specific spot east of the River Orne.
- Highlight on Page 239 , Loc. 3662-66 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:22 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The next morning, Rundstedt and Rommel arrived as instructed. ‘[Hitler] looked unhealthy and overtired,’ noted Speidel, Rommel’s chief of staff. ‘He played nervously with his spectacles and the coloured pencils he held between his fingers. He sat on his chair bent forward while the Field Marshals remained standing. His former suggestive power seemed to have disappeared. After brief and cool greetings, Hitler, speaking in a loud voice, sharply expressed his displeasure over the success of the Allied landings, tried to find fault with the local commanders and ordered the holding of Fortress Cherbourg at any price.’
- Highlight on Page 240 , Loc. 3676-80 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:24 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
He predicted the fall of Cherbourg and attacked the whole of Hitler’s policy, which had designated some sixteen fortresses along the Channel and Brittany coasts to be held to the last. Altogether some 200,000 men and precious materiel were tied up in their defence and, in most cases, the Allies would simply bypass them. The Allies were landing two to three divisions a week, he continued,
- Highlight on Page 241 , Loc. 3683-86 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
An outraged Hitler, refusing to face the facts, made ‘a long auto-suggestive speech’. He predicted that the V-1, which had been used in quantity for the first time the day before, would ‘have a decisive effect on the outcome of the war against England’. He then broke off the discussion to dictate an announcement about the V weapons to the representative of the Reich Press Chief. The two field marshals had to stand there listening to a frenzied Hitlerian monologue. Hitler refused to have the V weapons targeted at the beachheads or the south coast ports of Britain. He insisted that they must all be aimed at London, to bring the British to their knees.
- Highlight on Page 241 , Loc. 3690-94 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:26 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
An increasingly angry Rommel demanded that representatives of the OKW should visit the front and discover the situation for themselves. ‘You demand that we should have confidence,’ he told Hitler, ‘but we are not trusted ourselves!’ Hitler apparently turned pale at this remark, but remained silent. As if to bear out Rommel’s arguments about Allied superiority, an air raid warning at this point forced them to descend into the bomb shelter.
- Highlight on Page 242 , Loc. 3696-99 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:27 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rundstedt and Rommel left Margival, having been told by Hitler’s chief adjutant, General Schmundt, that the Führer would visit La Roche-Guyon to talk to field commanders himself in two days’ time. But on returning to their respective headquarters, they heard that a V-1 missile, whose gyros had gone wrong, had exploded above the bunker soon after their departure. Hitler returned rapidly to Berchtesgaden that night. He never left the Reich again.
- Highlight on Page 242 , Loc. 3705-8 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:28 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Fast fighter aircraft proved a better way of dealing with the threat of ‘Divers’, as they were codenamed. The most effective weapon of all on ‘anti-Diver’ operations was the wing of Tempests based at Dungeness. Brought to readiness on 16 June, they shot down 632 V-1s with their 20 mm cannon, more than a third of the total destroyed by Allied fighters during the next three months. A Belgian pilot, René van Learde, shot down forty-two. ‘These things,’ wrote their leader, Wing Commander R. Beamont, ‘would be tearing across at night making noises like asthmatic motorbikes with streams of flame out of the back.’
- Highlight on Page 243 , Loc. 3716-20 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:29 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Tempest was just faster than the V-1. Once, having run out of ammunition, Beamont flew alongside one. Applying the boundary layer of air over the wing of his Tempest on to the underside of the V-1’s wing, he managed to lift it without even touching it. This rolled the V-1 over and sent it crashing to earth.
- Highlight on Page 243 , Loc. 3720-22 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:29 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Yet despite their inaccuracy and the great achievement of Allied ‘anti-Diver’ squadrons, enough V-1s landed on London to cause great concern. One landed on the Guards Chapel, close to Buckingham Palace, during a Sunday service, killing 121 people.
- Highlight on Page 243 , Loc. 3726-28 , Added on Tuesday, July 05, 2016, 09:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 27 June, according to Field Marshal Brooke, a War Cabinet meeting finished ‘with a pathetic wail from Herbert Morrison [the Home Secretary] who appears to be a real white-livered specimen! He was in a flat spin about the flying bombs and their effects on the population. After five years of war we could not ask them to stand such a strain etc etc!’ Brooke noted in his diary that Morrison wanted the whole strategy in France to be changed. ‘Our one and only objective should be to clear the north coast of France. It was a pathetic performance. There were no signs of London not being able to stand it, and if there had been it would only have been necessary to tell them that for the first time in history they could share the dangers their sons were running in France and that what fell on London was at any rate not falling on them. Thank heaven Winston very soon dealt with him.’
- Highlight on Page 244 , Loc. 3728-34 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:05 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Since most of the rockets were falling short of London, the Double-Cross committee was told to find a way to encourage the Germans to maintain their present targeting. Using one of their tame agents, ‘Lector’, a message was passed via Madrid to his controllers in Berlin, ‘Ludwig’ and ‘Herold’. ‘Destructive effect of new German weapon devastating,’ the signal stated. ‘In spite of soft pedalling counter propaganda, the bombardment has created a feeling of panic among the population such as has never before existed . . . The opinion had been expressed in governmental and military circles that if this and new weapons are intensively employed, they would find themselves sooner or later forced to come to a compromise peace with Germany . . . In highly placed and influential circles, apparently serious peace tendencies are perceptible, in which connection the name of Rudolf Hess in the role of intermediary is mentioned.’ This was perhaps a case of over-egging the pudding, since such news could only encourage the Germans to persist, but it was deemed justifiable in the circumstances.
- Highlight on Page 244 , Loc. 3734-41 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:06 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Hitler’s blind belief that his new Vengeance weapon would knock Britain out of the war undoubtedly strengthened his determination not to give up any territory in Normandy.
- Highlight on Page 244 , Loc. 3741-43 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:07 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 22 June, the third anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the first phase of Operation Bagration began. This was the massive Red Army attack in Belorussia to encircle the Wehrmacht’s Army Group Centre. Having drawn German attention to a possible offensive in the Ukraine, with a brilliant exercise in maskirovka comparable to Plan Fortitude, the Soviet armies achieved surprise. Within three weeks they would kill or capture 350,000 Germans. Bagration would take the Red Army to the gates of Warsaw by the first week in August.
- Highlight on Page 246 , Loc. 3761-65 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:21 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
yet Montgomery refused to be hurried and 21st Army Group headquarters provided SHAEF with exasperatingly little information. Apparently Montgomery said to Dempsey on several occasions, ‘There’s no need to tell Ike.’ Monty liked to keep his objectives vague, often with Delphic cricketing metaphors, so that if there was a breakout he could claim credit for it and if the operation ran into the sand he could say that they had simply been tying down German forces to help the Americans.
- Highlight on Page 246 , Loc. 3766-69 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:21 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The fighting was also bitter round Tessel. There, a battalion from the ‘Polar Bears’, as the 49th Division was called from its shoulder badge, came up against the Panzer Lehr Division at close quarters. ‘The order came to us while we were at Tessel Wood, “No Prisoners”,’ claimed a member of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. ‘That is why we were called the Polar Bear butchers by Lord Haw-Haw.’29 An Ultra intercept picked up Panzer Lehr’s report that it had suffered ‘heavy losses’ on the first day of the battle.
- Highlight on Page 247 , Loc. 3788-92 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:29 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The Greys, attached to a newly arrived brigade of the 43rd Division, ‘were much amused over our infantry. This was evidently their first battle and they were doing everything according to the book: their faces were blackened; they had cut off all badges of rank; and they talked in whispers. ’But the two fresh divisions were proving rather more effective than the veterans. By dusk, the 15th Scottish had almost reached the Odon in its thickly wooded valley. A Frenchman watching the battle that night from Fleury, on the southern edge of Caen, wrote, ‘It’s a vision out of Dante to see the whole horizon lighting up simultaneously.’
- Highlight on Page 248 , Loc. 3800-3804 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rommel was reluctant. He had hoped to keep the 9th SS Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen and the 10th SS Panzer-Division Frundsberg back for the great armoured counter-attack which had so far failed to get off the ground. But on 28 June, Rommel was summoned to Berchtesgaden by Hitler, an extraordinary interruption in the middle of a battle. And a desperate Generaloberst Dollmann, just a few hours before he committed suicide, ordered the II SS Panzer Corps to attack north-westwards on either side of the River Odon to smash the western flank of the British salient.
- Highlight on Page 249 , Loc. 3811-15 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:31 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
VIII Corps had lost just over 4,000 men in five days. Over half the losses had been suffered by the 15th Scottish Division, which had proved its bravery beyond all doubt. That Dempsey missed a great opportunity through his caution is almost unquestionable. The delays in launching Epsom meant that VIII Corps ended up fighting the greatest concentration of SS panzer divisions which had been assembled since the Battle of Kursk. Yet the impressive performance of the British troops involved was let down at the last minute by the hesitation of their army commander.
- Highlight on Page 251 , Loc. 3835-39 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Eisenhower’s frustration with Montgomery over strategy is not hard to understand. The confident messages Montgomery had been sending out about a ‘show-down’ simply did not tally with what he said in private. An intelligence officer with the 7th Armoured Division had recorded with amazement in his diary on 22 June what he heard from Major General Erskine on his return from a conference at 21st Army Group headquarters prior to Epsom. ‘General talked about what Monty had said to him,’ he wrote. ‘Complete change so far as we are concerned as Monty doesn’t want us to make ground. Satisfied Second Army has drawn all enemy panzer divisions, now wants Caen only on this front and Americans to press on for Brittany ports. So VIII Corps attack goes in but we have very limited objective. Monty reckons he lost the battle of the build-up - five days behind on account of weather.’ So perhaps Dempsey’s caution was dictated by Montgomery.
- Highlight on Page 251 , Loc. 3840-47 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
He told Rommel that the newly arrived infantry divisions should be used to hold the line while the panzer forces were withdrawn and reorganized for a proper blow. Rommel refused. ‘The infantry cannot do this any more and is not prepared to do it,’ was his reply.
- Highlight on Page 252 , Loc. 3852-54 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:34 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
He did not believe that the newly arrived infantry divisions were capable of holding the British. This attitude happened to fit in with Hitler’s obsession of not yielding any ground. Geyr railed against ‘the armchair strategists of Berchtesgaden’ and their ‘lack of knowledge of panzer warfare’. He despised Jodl, an artilleryman: ‘The artillery developed the unfortunate characteristic of the Bourbons - neither to learn nor to forget - and was in many respects more backward than the infantry.’
- Highlight on Page 252 , Loc. 3854-57 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 12:34 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt as well as Rommel had been summoned back to the Berghof on 28 June, at the height of the battle for the Odon crossing. Rundstedt ‘returned in a vile humour’, according to his chief of staff. Having driven over 600 miles from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Berchtesgaden, he was kept waiting from three in the morning until eight the next evening, ‘and then was given the opportunity to exchange only a few words with the Führer’.
- Highlight on Page 252 , Loc. 3862-65 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 01:54 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Just after his return, Rundstedt, with Blumentritt listening in, rang Keitel. He ‘told him bluntly that the whole German position in Normandy was impossible’. Allied power was such that their troops could ‘not withstand the Allied attacks, much less push them into the sea’. ‘What should we do?’ ‘You should make an end to the whole war,’ the old field marshal retorted. Next day at noon, Keitel rang to say that he had reported their telephone conversation to the Führer. Another call from Jodl warned that Hitler was considering a change in command in the west.
- Highlight on Page 253 , Loc. 3865-70 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 01:55 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Rundstedt’s endorsement of Geyr’s report was a key factor. Hitler announced that Rundstedt was retiring for reasons of ill health and sent an officer to Paris to present him with a polite letter and the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves. He would be replaced by Generalfeldmarschall Hans-Günter von Kluge. Rommel was also furious. Without informing him, Hitler had appointed Obergruppenführer Hausser to take over the Seventh Army because he preferred to trust Waffen-SS commanders.
- Highlight on Page 253 , Loc. 3870-74 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 01:55 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Kluge visited Rommel’s headquarters at La Roche-Guyon on the afternoon of 5 July. ‘After a rather frosty exchange of courtesies’ with Rommel and Speidel, he addressed the Army Group staff in the salle des gardes of the château. He announced that the removal of Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt should be seen as an expression of the Führer’s dissatisfaction with the leadership in the west. Hitler also considered Generalfeldmarschall Rommel to be too easily impressed by the ‘allegedly overwhelming effect of enemy weapons’, and thus to suffer from an over-pessimistic view of the situation. Kluge even went on to say to Rommel’s face in front of the assembled staff officers that he had displayed an obstinate attitude and carried out Hitler’s orders only half-heartedly. ‘From now on,’ Kluge concluded, ‘you too, Generalfeldmarschall Rommel, will have to obey without reservations! I am giving you good advice.’
- Highlight on Page 254 , Loc. 3885-92 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 01:57 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
high command was coping with the Red Army’s offensive in Belorussia and the pressure in Normandy. ‘The effect of the major conflicts in the west and the east was reciprocal,’ stated Jodl, when he was interrogated with Keitel at the end of the war.
- Highlight on Page 256 , Loc. 3913-14 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:01 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A liaison officer from the Red Army, Colonel Vassilievsky, was brought on a visit to the headquarters of 7th Armoured Division. With true Soviet diplomacy, he expressed the view that the British advance was very slow. Apparently a British officer asked him to show on a map of the eastern front where his own division was fighting. It transpired that there were nine German divisions on that sector, which was over 600 miles long. The British pointed out that they were facing ten divisions, including six panzer divisions, along a front of only sixty-two miles.
- Highlight on Page 256 , Loc. 3917-21 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:02 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The paratroopers of the 101st had saturated the newcomers ‘with tall tales about the toughness and fighting ability of Jerry’. The fight for Sainteny proved a bloody baptism. The 83rd Infantry Division suffered 1,400 casualties. They had a lot to learn, as they heard from the few Germans they had taken. ‘The prisoners we captured,’ a sergeant reported, ‘told us we were green troops, because they knew every move we were going to make. They saw us light cigarettes and heard us clanking metal against metal. If we use basic principles, we will live longer.’ The Germans, on the other hand, were keen to take Allied prisoners if only to get hold of their excellent maps, which they themselves lacked.
- Highlight on Page 258 , Loc. 3948-52 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:06 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Just over a week before the American attack started, they had received mail for the first time since the invasion. After the costly battle for Carentan, many letters had to be returned to families and sweethearts in Germany with the official stamp on the envelope: ‘Fallen for Greater Germany’.
- Highlight on Page 259 , Loc. 3961-63 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:07 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Wehrmacht losses in Normandy up to 25 June had reached 47,070 men, including six generals. Yet their effectiveness in defence provoked a bitter admiration among their opponents. ‘The Germans haven’t much left,’ one American officer said, ‘but they sure as hell know how to use it.’
- Highlight on Page 259 , Loc. 3967-69 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:08 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Choltitz’s men, most of whom had been in action for just over a month, were exhausted. ‘After having been without sleep for three days,’ an Obergefreiter with the 91st Luftlande-Division wrote home, ‘I could sleep through for 10 hours today. I am sitting in the ruins of a bombed-out farmhouse that must have been really large before it met its fate. It is a dreadful scene: cattle and poultry are lying about, killed by blast. The inhabitants have been buried next to it. Our Russians are sitting amidst the rubble, having found Schnapps, and are singing Es geht alles vorüber (“Everything will pass”) as well as they can. Oh, if only this could be over and done with and humanity would see reason. I cannot come to terms with this confusion and this cruel war. In the east it affected me less, but here in France it just won’t register. The only good thing here is that there is enough to eat and drink . . . The foul weather continues and is a real hindrance. Yet it doesn’t hinder the war, except for reducing the number of enemy aircraft. At last we now have flak so the Americans won’t see their flying as quite as much of a sport as they did in the first weeks of the invasion. That was just dreadful.’
- Highlight on Page 260 , Loc. 3975-84 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:18 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
there was often the odd German soldier desperate to surrender. A combat engineer with the 3rd Armored began to urinate into a thick bush on the edge of an orchard. To his alarm, a soaked German emerged. He grabbed his rifle, which he had leaned against a tree trunk, but the German was extracting from his wallet photos of his wife and children in an attempt to persuade him not to shoot him. He kept saying, ‘Meine Frau und meine Kinder!’
- Highlight on Page 261 , Loc. 3999-4002 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:21 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
General Barton, the commander of the 4th Division, wrote, ‘The Germans are staying in there just by the guts of their soldiers. We outnumber them 10 to 1 in infantry, 50 to 1 in artillery and an infinite number in the air.’ He wanted unit commanders to convince their men ‘that we have got to fight for our country just as hard as the Germans are fighting for theirs’.32 One report on interviews with prisoners of war stated that the Germans ‘have no regard for the fighting qualities of the average American’. Rangers and airborne troops were respected. The Germans were deeply indoctrinated by propaganda.
- Highlight on Page 263 , Loc. 4030-35 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:25 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
To create hatred, the German equivalent of Soviet commissars, the National Socialist Leadership Officers, emphasized the destruction of German cities and the killing of German women and children by ‘terror attacks’. Their basic theme was that the Allies intended to wipe out ‘the German race’. Defeat would mean the annihilation of their Fatherland. Their propaganda leaflets addressed to Allied troops demanded, ‘What do you want to do in Europe? To defend America? . . . To die for Stalin - and Israel?’ This was all part of a basic Nazi theme that ‘Amerikanismus’ allied the ‘Jewish plutocrat’ of the United States with the ‘Jewish Bolshevik’ of the Soviet Union.
- Highlight on Page 264 , Loc. 4037-41 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:26 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
As in all armies, the combat performance of American troops in every battalion varied greatly. During the bocage battles, some GIs began to get over their terror of German panzers. Private Hicks of the 22nd Infantry with the 4th Division managed to destroy three Panthers over three days with his bazooka. Although he was killed two days later, confidence in the bazooka as an anti-tank weapon continued to increase.
- Highlight on Page 264 , Loc. 4047-50 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:27 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘Colonel, that was a great big son-of-a-bitch. It looked like a whole road full of tank. It kept coming on and it looked like it was going to destroy the whole world. I took three shots and the son-of-a-bitch didn’t stop.’ He paused, and Teague asked him what he did next. ‘I ran round behind and took one shot. He stopped.’ Some junior officers became so excited by the idea of panzer hunts that they had to be ordered to stop.
- Highlight on Page 265 , Loc. 4051-54 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:27 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Panzer Lehr had started as the best equipped and most highly trained of all German formations in Normandy, but it had lost over two-thirds of its strength fighting the British on the Caen front.33 Bayerlein’s men were also exhausted, having never been pulled out of the line for a rest. When he had protested to Seventh Army headquarters, he was told not to worry because the Americans were poor soldiers. Bayerlein then warned Choltitz that the Panzer Lehr ‘was not in a position to make a counterattack’. Choltitz apparently retorted that he was a liar, ‘like all panzer commanders’, and that he must attack anyway.
- Highlight on Page 265 , Loc. 4062-67 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:34 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A few miles to the west, other groups of tank destroyers managed to ambush Panthers as they approached. Even though several rounds were often needed to knock out a Panther completely, the tank destroyer crews fought with impressive self-control. Altogether, they destroyed twelve Panthers and one Mark IV. The Panzer Lehr offensive came to a complete halt after the central Kampfgruppe was sighted south of Le Dézert and then bombarded by 9th Division artillery and attacked by P-47 Thunderbolts and P-38 Lightnings. The Panzer Lehr had been badly mauled, losing twenty tanks and assault guns as well as nearly 700 men.
- Highlight on Page 266 , Loc. 4078-82 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:37 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
This brief outline cannot convey the reality of fighting in the bocage. The Germans described it as a ‘schmutziger Buschkrieg’ - a ‘dirty bush war’ - but they acknowledged that the great advantage lay with them, the defenders. Fear aroused by fighting in the bocage produced a hatred which had never existed before the invasion. ‘The only good Jerry soldiers are the dead ones,’ a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division wrote home in a ‘Dear Folks’ letter to his family in Minnesota. ‘I’ve never really hated anything quite as much. And it’s not because of some blustery speech of a brass-hat. I guess I’m probably a little off my nut - but who isn’t? Probably that’s the best way to be.’
- Highlight on Page 267 , Loc. 4086-91 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:38 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Their instinct, when bracketed by German artillery or mortar fire, was to throw themselves flat or run back to safety, rather than charge forwards, which was far less dangerous. A shot from a single German rifleman in a tree all too often prompted a whole platoon to drop to the ground, where they offered a much easier target. The Germans were adept at provoking this deliberately, then rapidly firing a barrage of mortar rounds on to them as they lay in the open. ‘Keep moving if you want to live’, was the slogan adopted by Bradley’s headquarters in a general instruction. Officers and non-coms were told that they must not throw themselves to the ground, because the rest of the platoon would follow their example. Aggressive action led to fewer casualties because the Germans were rattled if you kept coming at them. And the importance of ‘marching fire’ was continually emphasized. This meant firing constantly at likely hiding places as you advanced, rather than waiting for an identifiable target.
- Highlight on Page 268 , Loc. 4099-4105 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:39 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Soldiers were advised to lie still if wounded by a sniper. He would not waste another round on a corpse, but would certainly fire again if they tried to crawl away.
- Highlight on Page 268 , Loc. 4106-7 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:40 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Most German units had very few trained snipers with telescopic sights, but that did not stop the conviction of frightened infantrymen that every concealed rifleman was a ‘sniper’. ‘The sniper menace ought not to be exaggerated,’ the headquarters of the First US Army insisted in a circular. Snipers should be dealt with by snipers and not by ‘indiscriminate fire’. Similar fears turned every German tank into a Tiger and every German field gun into an 88 mm.
- Highlight on Page 269 , Loc. 4112-15 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:41 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Time and again, Allied troops were caught out. Exhausted from the attack and complacent from success, soldiers did not find the idea of frantically digging a new foxhole very appealing. It took a long time and many unnecessary deaths for British and American infantry to learn to follow the German Army dictum that ‘sweat saves blood’.
- Highlight on Page 270 , Loc. 4128-30 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:45 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Fighting against the Red Army had taught German veterans of the eastern front almost every trick imaginable. If there were shell holes on the approach to one of their positions, they would place anti-personnel mines at the bottom. An attacker’s instinct would be to throw himself into it to take cover when under machine-gun or mortar fire. If the Germans abandoned a position, they not only prepared booby traps in their dugouts but left behind a box of grenades in which several had been tampered with to reduce the time delay to zero. They were also expert at concealing in a ditch beside a track an S-Mine, known to the Americans as a ‘Bouncing Betty’ or the ‘castrator’ mine, because it sprang up when released to explode shrapnel at crotch height. And wires were strung taut at neck height across roads used by Jeeps to behead their unwary occupants as they drove along. The Americans rapidly welded an inverted L-shaped rod to the front of their open vehicles to catch and cut these wires.
- Highlight on Page 270 , Loc. 4130-37 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 02:45 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The perfect solution was finally discovered by Sergeant Curtis G. Culin of the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance with the 2nd Armored Division. Another soldier came up with the suggestion that steel prongs should be fitted to the front of the tank, then it could dig up the hedgerow. Most of those present laughed, but Culin went away and developed the idea by welding a pair of short steel girders to the front of a Sherman. General Bradley saw a demonstration. He immediately gave orders that the steel from German beach obstacles should be cut up for use. The ‘rhino’ tank was born. With a good driver, it took less than two and a half minutes to clear a hole through the bank and hedgerow.
- Highlight on Page 272 , Loc. 4163-68 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:27 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
American military bureaucracy handled the whole ‘replacement’ system with a brutal lack of imagination. The word itself, which suggested the filling of dead men’s shoes, was ill-chosen. It took several months before the term was changed to ‘reinforcement’. But the basic problem remained. These new arrivals were poorly trained and totally unprepared for what lay ahead.
- Highlight on Page 273 , Loc. 4177-80 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:29 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘Practically all of the replacements,’ stated a report from the 4th Infantry Division, ‘had come direct from replacement training centers.’ They had received no unit or field training and, unlike those prepared in England for the invasion, they had never been put under overhead artillery fire.
- Highlight on Page 273 , Loc. 4182-84 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:29 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Replacements joined their platoon usually at night, having no idea where they were. The old hands shunned them, partly because their arrival came just after they had lost buddies and they would not open up to newcomers. Also everyone knew that they would be the first to be killed and doomed men were seen as somehow contagious. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because replacements were often given the most dangerous tasks. A platoon did not want to waste experienced men.
- Highlight on Page 274 , Loc. 4191-94 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:30 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Replacements were also the most likely to try to escape the front line by resorting to a self-inflicted wound. They usually shot themselves in the left foot or left hand. The cleverer ones used a sandbag or other material to prevent tell-tale cordite burns around the entry point, but the pattern of left foot and left hand was so obvious, as General George Patton observed, that there was ‘a high probability that the wound was self-inflicted’. Those who took this way out were sectioned off in special wards in hospitals as if cowardice was infectious. As soon as they were discharged, they faced a sentence of six months in the stockade.
- Highlight on Page 274 , Loc. 4199-4203 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:31 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The real heroes of the bocage were the aid men. They had to tend the wounded in the open and try to evacuate them. Their only defence was a Red Cross brassard, which was usually respected, but often not by snipers. Aid men did not expect much help from the fighting soldiers, who were told to keep going even when a comrade was hit.
- Highlight on Page 275 , Loc. 4204-6 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:32 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
An aid man with the 30th Infantry Division recorded his experiences: ‘To get down fast you needed to learn to buckle your knees and collapse rather than make a deliberate movement to the prone position.’ He wrote of the ‘light of hope’ in the eyes of wounded men when he appeared. It was easy to spot those about to die with ‘the grey-green color of death appearing beneath their eyes and fingernails. These we would only comfort. Those making the most noise were the lightest hit, and we would get them to bandage themselves using their own compresses and Sulfa [powder].’ He concentrated on those in shock or with severe wounds and heavy bleeding.
- Highlight on Page 275 , Loc. 4208-13 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:32 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
His main tools were bandage scissors to cut through uniform, Sulfa powder, compresses and morphine. He soon learned not to carry extra water for the wounded but cigarettes, since that was usually the first thing they wanted.
- Highlight on Page 275 , Loc. 4214-16 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The stench was unbearable, especially at the collection point. ‘Here the smell was even worse, but most of the men working there were apparently so completely under the influence of alcohol that they no longer appeared to care.’ He once had to fill out ‘Killed in Action’ tags for a whole squad wiped out by a single German machine gun. And he never forgot an old sergeant who had died with a smile on his face.
- Highlight on Page 276 , Loc. 4218-21 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:33 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Tall big men were the most vulnerable, however strong they might be. ‘The combat men who really lasted were usually thin, smaller of stature and very quick in their movements.’
- Highlight on Page 276 , Loc. 4222-23 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:34 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
He even noted how sentimental GIs from farming communities would cover the open eyes of dead cows with twists of straw.
- Highlight on Page 276 , Loc. 4224-25 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:34 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
A soldier from a farm caught a cow, tied her to the hedgerow and began to milk her into his helmet. The city boys in his platoon came over and watched in amazement. They were also impressed when he put dried weed and branches out in front of their positions so that Germans could not creep up at night silently to throw grenades.
- Highlight on Page 276 , Loc. 4226-28 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:34 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Instead of sending replacements forward to a platoon during darkness on the day they arrived, they should be held back and put into the training programme until the regiment to which they were allotted came back into reserve. This would allow the opportunity to train them with machine-gun and artillery fire going overhead and explosions set off around them to simulate shellbursts. Replacements also needed to be integrated better. They should be given the division’s blue and grey patch to wear on their uniforms before they joined their platoons. Almost all of Weintrob’s innovations were later brought into general use by the US Army by that autumn.
- Highlight on Page 278 , Loc. 4254-58 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:37 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
German officers, on the other hand, would have shaken their heads in amazement. Their hard-pressed divisions in Normandy never had the luxury of a few days’ training behind the lines. New soldiers arrived at the point of a boot. And if they shot themselves through the hand or foot, they were executed. The Obergefreiter with the 91st Luftlande-Division wrote home on 15 July to say that ‘Krammer, a capable and brave lad, stupidly shot himself through the hand. Now he is to be shot.’
- Highlight on Page 278 , Loc. 4258-62 , Added on Wednesday, July 06, 2016, 03:37 PM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Eisenhower’s deputy, Air Chief Marshal Tedder, and Air Marshal Coningham even discussed the possibility of having Montgomery relieved. Coningham, who commanded the Tactical Air Force supporting 21st Army Group, had loathed Montgomery since the North African campaign. He had never been able to forgive Montgomery’s compulsion to take all the credit. Now he was infuriated by Montgomery’s pretence that his strategy was proceeding according to plan when he had manifestly failed to take the ground needed for airfields.
- Highlight on Page 279 , Loc. 4269-73 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:08 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
American officers were becoming scornful of what they saw as inexcusable caution on the British front. By 30 June, the British Second Army had suffered 24,698 casualties since the invasion began, while the Americans had lost 34,034 men, nearly half as many again. (German losses for the same period were 80,783.)
- Highlight on Page 279 , Loc. 4273-75 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:08 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Increasingly, the Second Army in Normandy preferred to rely on the excellent support provided by the Royal Artillery and on Allied air power. The idea that high explosive saved British lives became almost addictive. But it certainly did not save French lives, as Montgomery’s next offensive showed in the most shocking way.
- Highlight on Page 280 , Loc. 4286-88 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:11 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The battle for Caen began on 4 July with Operation Windsor, a preliminary attack by the Canadian 8th Infantry Brigade to seize the village and airfield of Carpiquet to the west of the city. Carpiquet was defended by a small detachment of their most hated enemy, the 12th SS Panzer-Division Hitler Jugend. This battle, with the Régiment de la Chaudière, the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, the North Shore and the Winnipeg Rifles out for revenge, was to be one of the most vicious of the whole Normandy campaign.
- Highlight on Page 280 , Loc. 4289-93 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:12 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Canadian artillery and the warships had also pounded the airfield itself. The SS artillery observer died, skewered with ‘a twenty-five centimeter long fragment of a ship’s artillery shell sticking in his back’.
- Highlight on Page 281 , Loc. 4301-2 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:13 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
According to one Canadian source, the French Canadians of the Régiment de la Chaudière went berserk around dawn, cutting the throats of any SS men they could find, ‘wounded as well as dead’. Officers with drawn pistols eventually brought them back under control. An officer with the regiment wrote, ‘No prisoners are taken this day on either side.’
- Highlight on Page 282 , Loc. 4313-15 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:15 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
And on 25 June, Eisenhower had written to him, ‘Please do not hesitate to make the maximum demands for any air assistance that can possibly be useful to you. Whenever there is any legitimate opportunity we must blast the enemy with everything we have.’
- Highlight on Page 282 , Loc. 4323-24 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:16 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
When the massed formations of Lancasters and Halifaxes appeared that evening at 20.30 hours, British and Canadian infantry jumped out of their slit trenches to cheer. Tank crews climbed on to their turrets to get a better view. ‘There was high cloud and the sun was reddening [the Lancasters] all across the sky,’ wrote an artillery officer in his diary. ‘An incredible barrage of flak’ went up from German anti-aircraft batteries. British and Canadian artillery immediately began firing on their positions to help the RAF.
- Highlight on Page 283 , Loc. 4330-34 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:17 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
‘We could see when the Lancasters released their bombs because they suddenly lifted several feet in the air,’ a medical officer wrote. ‘More and more bombers go in through the flak,’ wrote the same artillery officer. ‘A cloud of smoke starts to rise over the target, dirty grey white, blowing over to the north east.’
- Highlight on Page 283 , Loc. 4334-36 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:18 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
An officer in the Guards Armoured Division described the bombing of Caen as ‘a magnificent spectacle’. Most spectators evidently assumed that French civilians had been evacuated.
- Highlight on Page 283 , Loc. 4339-41 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:18 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
While most cheered at the sight, a few had misgivings. ‘The awful thing was,’ wrote a captain in the Coldstream Guards, ‘that as an infantryman one was thinking: Why on earth are they knocking it to bits because it will be so easy to defend?’
- Highlight on Page 284 , Loc. 4342-44 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:18 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
One elderly man was asked later what it had felt like during the bombing raid of 7 July. He thought for some time before answering, ‘Imagine a rat sewn up inside a football during an international match . . .’
- Highlight on Page 284 , Loc. 4349-50 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:19 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
When the bombing finished, young civil defence volunteers arrived at the convent, urging them to depart immediately. They left by the only door which could be opened. The Mother Superior led the way along the Fossés Saint-Julien, carrying the sacred ciborium, ‘a grandiose procession in an unforgettable setting under a magnificent sky dotted with stars, fires all around giving off a red glow, sparks falling all around and delayed action bombs still exploding’.
- Highlight on Page 285 , Loc. 4359-62 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:20 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Soldiers did far more damage moving those with severe fractures rather than leaving them where they were until trained stretcher-bearers could splint them up. ‘All the lessons of the First World War seemed to have been forgotten,’ wrote the same doctor with 210th Field Ambulance. Like the rest of his exhausted colleagues, he was afraid that his judgement was impaired by lack of sleep.
- Highlight on Page 287 , Loc. 4400-4403 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:29 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
An officer from civil affairs told André Heintz that they intended to set up their headquarters in the Hôtel d’Angleterre. Heintz guided them to it, knowing that the only evidence of its former identity was a remnant of the royal arms with ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’. He resisted the temptation to say that the British should not have destroyed it, but the officer himself recognized the black irony.
- Highlight on Page 289 , Loc. 4424-27 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:33 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
but then asked if they would be able to have a bath. Heintz explained that Caen had been without water since the first bombing on 6 June. The liberators still seemed to have no idea what the city had suffered, despite the evidence around them.
- Highlight on Page 289 , Loc. 4427-29 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:33 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Colonel Usher’s groups set to work rapidly, clearing routes with bulldozers and trying to set up an emergency water supply. Most basic services were not restored until September. A convoy of army trucks with food had been prepared ready for the entry into Caen. Mine clearance was a slow and arduous task, and so was the recovery of bodies from under the rubble of ruined buildings. The stench from decomposing corpses was terrible. In fact, many people in Caen, however hungry, could not face a ripe Camembert for a long time because of the horrible memories evoked by the smell.
- Highlight on Page 290 , Loc. 4438-42 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:34 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 10 July, a ceremony to raise the tricolore on the façade of the Eglise Saint-Etienne was held in the presence of Monsieur Daure, the new préfet appointed by de Gaulle’s provisional government. Tears ran down the cheeks of many of those present. Three days later, the British Second Army held what was supposed to be a victory parade in the Place Saint-Martin. A Scottish pipe band struck up, as another tricolore was raised. The bewilderment on the faces of the French crowd was plain. They had never heard the ‘Marseillaise’ played on bagpipes.
- Highlight on Page 290 , Loc. 4442-46 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:35 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The fighting for Hill 112 became pitiless. Germans of the 9th SS Panzer-Division Hohenstaufen soon called the place ‘Kalvarienberg’, the hill of Calvary. The name came from the Croix des Filandriers, a shrine of the crucifixion, which seemed to take on a new significance.
- Highlight on Page 291 , Loc. 4457-59 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:39 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Whenever they encountered wounded Germans in the corn, there was little they could do except remove the bolt from their Mauser rifle and fling it far away.
- Highlight on Page 292 , Loc. 4466-67 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:40 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
After losing most of their men, they became pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire in the corn. The platoon commander ordered Partridge to hurl a smoke grenade so that they could advance again. Partridge thought it a stupid idea, but complied. As soon as he had thrown it, the platoon commander jumped to his feet before the smoke billowed and was shot. He gasped, ‘Sarn’t Partridge,’ then expired. Partridge rounded up the other four survivors and crawled back through the corn some way, dug a pit and made a cup of tea, which they shared between them.
- Highlight on Page 292 , Loc. 4467-71 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:41 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
The 502nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion equipped with Mark VI Tiger tanks, the largest and most formidable fighting machine seen on the western front, was converging on the same spot. Unable to see what was ahead, the Tigers of one company smashed through the hedgerow in front and found themselves facing four Shermans. The Tigers’ 88 mm guns turned three of them into blazing wrecks in a moment. The fourth escaped using high reverse.
- Highlight on Page 292 , Loc. 4473-76 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:42 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
At 17.00 hours, the 5th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was sent on through the Somersets in another attempt to reach the top. Their advance just over the brow of the hill reached a small wood of chestnuts. There they were cut to pieces by machine-gun fire from the German positions on the reverse slope, then attacked by panzers. Part of the Cornwalls ran back in disorder. A wounded officer tried to halt this retreat: ‘He had been hit in the jaw, so that part of his face had dropped, and he was waving a pistol and trying to shout, making terrible sounds.’
- Highlight on Page 293 , Loc. 4481-84 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:43 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
- Bookmark on Page 293 , Loc. 4486 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:44 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
With Nebelwerfer mortar shells exploding continuously, the crews of their supporting armour remained closed down. But one officer was so desperate to relieve himself that he jumped out of his Sherman, grabbed a shovel off the back and raced across to a knocked-out tank nearby, where he proceeded to drop his trousers. Meanwhile, British artillery continued to hammer the summit. ‘Not a metre of ground escaped being ploughed up by shells,’ a member of the SS Hohenstaufen wrote. After nightfall, each company colour sergeant brought up hot food in containers and supplies of cigarettes for the infantry in the forward positions. For once there was more than enough to go around, because ‘no allowance had been made for casualties’. Their only complaint was that the tea tasted of petrol.
- Highlight on Page 293 , Loc. 4487-92 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:44 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Dawn on 11 July did not improve visibility because of a thick mist - ‘eine Milchsuppe’, as the Hohenstaufen described it. But high overhead a British artillery spotter plane appeared just as the 19th and 20th SS Panzergrenadier-Regiments were about to attack. The crews of the Tiger tanks with them feared the worst. They quickly realized that the safest place would be in among their enemy. They charged the British positions, rolling over trenches. With an ironic admiration, they saw British anti-tank crews trying to bring their ineffective guns to bear. ‘They’re brave, the Anglo-Saxons!’ one of them noted. The monster panzers suddenly emerged from the bank of mist. ‘We had a scene in front of us of which every Tiger dreams,’ a crew member wrote. Barely a hundred yards away was a forward replenishment point with ammunition trucks and other vehicles, including tanks. ‘Our commander called out: “Armour-piercing! Open fire!”.’ Two Churchill tanks in front of them were traversing their turrets towards them, but the Tigers blasted them at close range and they both exploded into flames.
- Highlight on Page 293 , Loc. 4492-4500 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:46 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
After dusk, D Company of the Somersets received orders to ‘infiltrate the enemy position’. ‘The despair I felt when this order reached me can be imagined,’ wrote Sergeant Partridge, who had taken over command of his platoon after the death of their lieutenant the day before. Weapons were cleaned and ammunition distributed. At 01.00 hours, they rose out of their slit trenches and advanced silently. But as soon as they reached the barbed wire on the summit which the SS panzergrenadiers had erected, a murderous fire opened. The platoons threw themselves flat. ‘The tracer bullets,’ wrote Sergeant Partridge, ‘were arcing their way almost lazily through the air, winging their way to pre-selected targets chosen during daylight, and now being fired on “fixed lines”.’ Any attempt to breach the wire ended when a section commander attempted to scramble through. A German bullet hit a phosphorus grenade in his ammunition pouch. ‘Struggling in desperation,’ wrote a corporal watching, ‘he became entangled in the barbed wire and hung there, a living screaming human beacon.’
- Highlight on Page 294 , Loc. 4503-11 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:47 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Sergeant Partridge heard the man’s ‘anguished cries of “Shoot me, shoot me!”’. ‘A single well-aimed bullet from a compassionate but no doubt appalled officer,’ the corporal continued, ‘put the lad out of his blazing hell. Even in death the horror continued as the phosphorus burned into the now mercifully lifeless body.’ Everyone who witnessed the scene was determined never again to carry a phosphorus grenade in their webbing pouches. An order was given to pull back, but that was not the end of the horror. Some men became lost in the dark on their way down the hill and were shot as they reached the positions of other companies who did not know who they were.
- Highlight on Page 295 , Loc. 4511-16 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:48 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
People who had refused the British offer of evacuation a few days earlier now rushed for the trucks. An ancient Benedictine nun, who had never stepped outside the convent since her novitiate at the beginning of the century, was astonished to see trucks for the first time in her life, and even more thrilled to ride in one. But civilians trapped behind German lines, who had been sheltering in the damp caves by the village of Fleury, were in a terrible state. SS troops would not allow them out. Their chance of rescue would not come until later in the month.
- Highlight on Page 296 , Loc. 4527-31 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:49 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
In Caen, the French authorities and British civil affairs section became increasingly concerned about the danger of cholera. After the destruction of the city, the task of reconnecting the water supply was far harder than even the most pessimistic had imagined. Starving dogs had also become a menace and the préfet issued orders to shoot any found in the streets.
- Highlight on Page 296 , Loc. 4531-34 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:49 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
On 15 July, Montgomery wrote to Brooke about one of his favourite divisions from North Africa: ‘Regret to report it is considered opinion Crocker, Dempsey and myself that 51st [Highland] Division is at present not - NOT - battleworthy. It does not fight with determination and has failed in every operation it has been given to do.’ Montgomery sacked the commander for weakness and even considered ordering the whole division back to Britain for retraining. Word of their disgrace rapidly spread round the Second Army and soon a letter was sent out instructing officers ‘not to criticise the 51st Highland Division’.
- Highlight on Page 296 , Loc. 4536-40 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:50 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Their losses became a vicious circle. While most of the best NCOs had been promoted to command platoons, the rest often showed a lack of initiative. This forced officers to take extra risks to get their men to attack, or they had to stand up conspicuously to stop a panic.
- Highlight on Page 297 , Loc. 4545-46 , Added on Thursday, July 07, 2016, 01:51 AM D-Day (Antony Beevor)
Last Push to France
D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 498 | Loc. 7623-28 | Added on Sunday, September 24, 2017, 07:37 PM The main Polish force was by now established on the Mont Ormel escarpment to the north-east of Chambois. Short of fuel and ammunition, they received some supplies by parachute drop. The Poles, not surprisingly, saw the battle as an intensely symbolic contest between their white eagle and the black Nazi eagle. Poland’s proud and tragic history was constantly in their thoughts. The 1st Armoured Division’s insignia was the helmet and Husaria eagle wings worn upright on the shoulders of the Polish knights who saved Vienna from the Turks 300 years earlier. Their commander, General Maczek, declared with poignant pride, ‘The Polish soldier fights for the freedom of other nations, but dies only for Poland.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 502 | Loc. 7696-7703 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 10:58 PM ‘Bits of uniform were plastered to shattered tanks and trunks and human remains hung in grotesque shapes on the blackened hedgerows. Corpses lay in pools of dried blood, staring into space as if their eyes were being forced from their sockets. Two grey-clad bodies, both minus their legs, leaned against a clay bank as if in prayer.’ Amid the skeletons of burnt trees, the detritus of war and of military bureaucracy lay all around, including typewriters and exploded mailbags. ‘I picked up a photograph of a smiling German recruit standing between his parents, two solemn peasants who stared back at me in accusation.’ It was a sharp reminder that ‘each grey-clad body was a mother’s son’. The writer Kingsley Amis, who also witnessed the scene, was struck by the massive number of draught animals which the Germans had used in their attempts to escape: ‘The horses seemed almost more pitiful, rigid in the shafts with their upper lips drawn above their teeth as if in continuing pain.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 504 | Loc. 7721-23 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:00 PM British doctors with 6 General Hospital also had to deal with gas gangrene. They were in addition concerned with an epidemic of enteritis and the threat of typhus, when they discovered how many German prisoners were covered in lice: ‘Their blankets have been segregated from the other patients and washed before being used on any other patient.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 505 | Loc. 7742-47 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:03 PM He missed his chance of closing at the Seine by doing the envelopment at Falaise. Monty changed his mind and went for a short hook too late, perhaps because he was afraid of the Americans taking all the credit.’ These strictures certainly indicate the frustration which boiled among both British and American officers at the missed opportunity to destroy the German armies in Normandy entirely. They are unfair in some respects. It was Bradley’s decision to allow Patton to split Haislip’s corps at Argentan, not Montgomery’s. But there can be little doubt that Montgomery’s failure to reinforce the Canadians at the crucial moment constituted a major factor in allowing so many German troops, especially those of the SS panzer divisions, to escape. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 506 | Loc. 7757-59 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:05 PM Patton’s Third Army had advanced much further than Bradley had realized. Patton, with his various corps spread over such a huge area, had to abandon his Jeep and take to the air. ‘This Army covers so much ground that I have to fly in Cubs most places,’ he wrote. ‘I don’t like it. I feel like a clay pigeon.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 507 | Loc. 7759-61 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:05 PM Haislip’s XV Corps had moved from Dreux to Mantes on the Seine, where one of his regiments would cross the river on the night of 19 August. Patton, after a flying visit, proudly announced to Bradley that he had ‘pissed in the river that morning’. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 508 | Loc. 7780-85 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:08 PM The German commander of Gross-Paris - ‘Greater Paris’ - was now Generalleutnant von Choltitz, the former commander of LXXXIV Corps on the Cotentin coast. Hitler had summoned Choltitz to the Wolfsschanze on the morning of 7 August when the attack on Mortain was beginning. ‘Hitler made me a speech for three-quarters of an hour, as though I were a public meeting,’ he complained later. Hitler, looking sick and bloated, raged at the plotters of 20 July. He claimed that he had unmasked the opposition at one blow and would crush them all. Choltitz was convinced that he really had become deranged and that the war was lost. Hitler, having calmed down, then gave him his orders for Paris. Choltitz had full powers as the commander of a ‘besieged fortress’ over all Wehrmacht personnel in Greater Paris. The city was to be defended to the end. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 508 | Loc. 7787-90 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:09 PM Choltitz had indeed carried out Nazi orders faithfully. In British captivity that autumn, Choltitz said to General Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma, ‘The worst job I ever carried out - which however I carried out with great consistency - was the liquidation of the Jews. I carried out this order down to the very last detail.’76 (Choltitz, however, never faced a war crimes tribunal for these acts.) ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 511 | Loc. 7830-34 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:13 PM On 17 August, the National Council of Resistance and its military wing held a meeting to debate the call to arms. The Communists, led by Rol, wanted to start immediately, even though the Resistance in Paris had little more than 400 weapons. Although the British had parachuted nearly 80,000 sub-machine guns to the Resistance in France, only just over 100 had reached Paris. The Gaullists were in a difficult position. In spite of Koenig’s instruction, they knew that if they refused to act, the Communists would seize the initiative and perhaps power in the capital. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 512 | Loc. 7837-42 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:14 PM ‘Along the rue Lafayette,’ he wrote, ‘coming from the luxury hotels around the Etoile, sparkling torpedoes pass by containing purple-faced generals, accompanied by elegant blonde women, who look as if they are off to some fashionable resort.’ The departure was accompanied by a great deal of last-minute looting. The contents of wine cellars were loaded on to Wehrmacht trucks, as well as rolls of carpet, Louis XVI furniture, bicycles and works of art. Parisians, who had tried to ignore their German occupiers during the last four years, now jeered them openly. Sylvia Beach, the founder of the bookshop Shakespeare & Company, described how a crowd of Parisians waved lavatory brushes at them, but then the angry and nervous soldiers opened fire. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 517 | Loc. 7924-27 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:31 PM Elsewhere, one woman noted cynically that when the Canadians arrived, the girls who had compromised themselves the most during the German occupation were the first to approach the victors, ‘smiles on their lips and their arms full of flowers’. She also observed that when Allied troops threw chocolate and cigarettes to young women as they drove by, they waited until the truck had disappeared, then knelt down a little shamefacedly to pick them up. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 521 | Loc. 7978-80 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:36 PM On 22 August, the FFI ended the truce and went on to a general offensive with the order ‘Tous aux barricades!’ On the same day, General von Choltitz received the clearest order from Hitler that Paris was to be destroyed. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 522 | Loc. 7991-94 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:37 PM Eisenhower had already been weakening in his resolve to bypass Paris. ‘Well, what the hell, Brad,’ he said, ‘I guess we’ll have to go in.’ Bradley agreed that they had no option. Eisenhower had to sell the decision to General Marshall back in Washington as a purely military one to aid the Resistance. Roosevelt would be furious if he thought that the change in plan was an attempt to install de Gaulle in power. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 523 | Loc. 8019-23 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:40 PM Ernest Hemingway, officially a war correspondent for Collier’s magazine, was far more interested in acting as an irregular soldier with the local Resistance. He openly carried a heavy automatic pistol, even though it was strictly illegal for a non-combatant. According to John Mowinckel, an American intelligence officer there, Hemingway wanted to interrogate a pathetic German prisoner hauled in by his new Resistance friends. ‘I’ll make him talk,’ he boasted. ‘Take his boots off. We’ll grill his toes with a candle.’ Mowinckel told Hemingway to go to hell and released the boy, who clearly knew nothing. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 524 | Loc. 8034-35 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:41 PM While so many could think only of Paris’s liberation, senior American commanders were far more preoccupied with the advance on Germany. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 525 | Loc. 8042-45 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:42 PM After de Gaulle had supped off cold C-Rations in the ornate surroundings of Rambouillet’s state dining room, Leclerc briefed him on his plan of attack. De Gaulle approved. ‘You are lucky,’ he said to him after a long pause, thinking of the glory that awaited the liberator of Paris. Camped out beside their vehicles in the sodden park and forest, the soldiers of the 2ème DB cooked their rations, cleaned their weapons and shaved carefully in preparation for the welcome which awaited them. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 528 | Loc. 8083-86 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:48 PM One of the divisional chaplains, the Reverend Père Roger Fouquer, came across a terrible scene in a house partly demolished by a shell. He found two nuns kneeling by a young mother who, having just given birth, had been killed by a shell splinter through the chest. Her baby lay silently beside her dead body. Then the church bells rang out to celebrate liberation. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 532 | Loc. 8144-45 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:52 PM It was the pealing of Le Bourdon which finally convinced the people of Paris. A woman refugee from Normandy was undressing for bed when she heard it. Then the street outside began to fill with people yelling, ‘They’re here!’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 532 | Loc. 8146-51 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:53 PM At the far end of the rue de Rivoli from the Hôtel de Ville, in the anteroom to his office, Choltitz and his staff officers were drinking champagne from the Meurice’s cellar. On that humid August night, they were discussing the St Bartholomew’s Eve massacre of Huguenots in Paris and whether there were any similarities to their own position. When they heard the bells, Choltitz stood up and went through to his desk. He rang Generalleutnant Speidel and, once he was through, he held the receiver towards the window. Speidel knew immediately what it signified. Choltitz, who knew that he would not see Germany again for a long time, asked him to look after his family. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 533 | Loc. 8165-66 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:54 PM Ecstatic citizens surged forward waving improvised flags and holding their fingers up in V for victory signs. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 533 | Loc. 8168-70 | Added on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 11:54 PM Fouquer, who was wearing the same combat kit and black tank beret of the 50ème Chars de Combat, complained good-naturedly that ‘never in my life have I had cheeks so coloured by lipstick’. The soldiers called out to the women, ‘Careful! Don’t kiss him too much. He’s our chaplain.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 537 | Loc. 8223-30 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:00 AM At 11.00 hours that morning, Colonel Billotte had sent an ultimatum via the Swedish consul-general, Raoul Nordling, to Generalleutnant von Choltitz. It demanded the surrender of the city by 12.15 hours. Choltitz sent back a message to say that the honour of a German officer prevented him from surrendering without a proper fight. Fifteen minutes after the ultimatum expired, Choltitz and his staff officers assembled for their last lunch together in the large dining room of the Hôtel Meurice. ‘Silent from the effort of showing no emotions, we gathered as usual,’ wrote Leutnant Graf von Arnim. Instead of sitting at a table near the window to enjoy the view, as was the custom, they took their places further back in the room. Bullets fired from the Louvre riddled the windowpanes and sent chunks of wall flying around. ‘But apart from that,’ Arnim added, ‘it was the same setting, the same waiter and the same food.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 538 | Loc. 8248-55 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:02 AM Some junior officers and soldiers of the headquarters staff were not so fortunate when they were escorted outside by the FFI. A screaming crowd rushed at them to seize what they could. Arnim’s attaché case was wrenched from him. Hands searched their pockets, others grabbed spectacles and watches. German officers and soldiers were punched in the face and spat at. Finally, the prisoners were forced into three ranks and marched off. Their FFI escorts found it very hard to protect their prisoners and even themselves from the fury of the mob. Arnim saw ‘a bearded giant in shirtsleeves’ appear out of the crowd, put a pistol to the temple of his friend, Dr Kayser, who was in the row in front, and shoot him through the head. Arnim stumbled over the doctor’s body as he fell. According to Arnim, unarmed members of the Kommandantur transport company were also shot down in the Tuileries gardens after they had surrendered. Father Fouquer of the 2ème DB was shocked by ‘the crowd, often hateful when facing the enemy disarmed by others’. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 540 | Loc. 8269-73 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:04 AM Gerow asked him when the Nazis would surrender. Choltitz replied that ‘the Americans had something to go home to’. The Germans, on the other hand, had ‘nothing to look forward to’. Gerow believed that Choltitz, who had been their opponent in Normandy, should have ‘surrendered Paris to V Corps’. This was certainly not a view shared by General de Gaulle. Gerow’s revenge was a calculated insult. ‘General Gerow, being in military command of Paris,’ his report continued, ‘set up the command post in the offices of Marshal Pétain in the Invalides.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 543 | Loc. 8317-23 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:09 AM The city seemed to suffer from a collective hangover the next morning. David Bruce recorded in his diary that the previous day they had drunk ‘beer, cider, white and red Bordeaux, white and red Burgundy, Champagne, rum, Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados. . . the combination was enough to wreck one’s constitution’. ‘Slowly the tank hatches opened,’ wrote an American officer, ‘and bedraggled women crawled stiffly out.’ In the Bois de Boulogne, Capitaine Dronne went round pulling the young women out of his men’s tents. One of them made advances to him. To roars of laughter from his men, he replied, ‘Me, I don’t give a damn. I’m homosexual.’ The lovers of the night then breakfasted together on K-Rations round improvised campfires. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 544 | Loc. 8338-44 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:10 AM Shooting broke out on the Place de la Concorde, causing panic and chaos. Nobody knows how it started, but the first shot may well have come from a nervous or trigger-happy Fifi. Jean-Paul Sartre, watching from a balcony of the Hôtel du Louvre, came under fire and Jean Cocteau, watching from the Hôtel Crillon, claimed unconvincingly that the cigarette in his mouth was shot in half. But a senior official in the Ministry of Finance was shot dead at a window and at least half a dozen others died in the cross-fire. De Gaulle was then taken by car to the cathedral of Notre-Dame. Cardinal Suhard was conspicuously absent. He had been prevented from attending because he had welcomed Pétain to Paris, and had recently presided over the memorial service in honour of Philippe Henriot, the Vichy minister of propaganda assassinated by the Resistance. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 545 | Loc. 8347-49 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:11 AM ‘Public order is a matter of life and death,’ he told Pasteur Boegner a few days later. ‘If we do not re-establish it ourselves, foreigners will impose it upon us.’ American and British forces now appeared to be seen as ‘foreigners’ rather than allies. France was truly liberated. As de Gaulle himself put it, France had no friends, only interests. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 546 | Loc. 8357-61 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:12 AM Generals Bradley, Hodges and Gerow were joined by General de Gaulle at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe, where they laid a wreath. Then the four men reviewed the march-past from a stand erected by American engineers out of a Bailey bridge turned upside down on the Place de la Concorde. It was entirely fitting that Norman Cota, now the commander of the 28th Division, should lead the parade. Few men had demonstrated so clearly, as he had done at Omaha, the need for determined leadership in battle. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 547 | Loc. 8375-80 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:14 AM Pogue himself was shaken to find that the Petit Palais had been taken over, with a large sign announcing the distribution of free condoms to US troops. In Pigalle, rapidly dubbed ‘Pig Alley’ by GIs, prostitutes were coping with over 10,000 men a day. The French were also deeply shocked to see US Army soldiers lying drunk on the pavements of the Place Vendôme. The contrast with off-duty German troops, who had been forbidden even to smoke in the street, could hardly have been greater. The problem was that many American soldiers, loaded with dollars of back-pay, believed that hardship at the front gave them the right to behave as they liked in the rear. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 547 | Loc. 8382-86 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:15 AM Sadly, the behaviour of a fairly unrepresentative minority soured Franco-American relations more profoundly and permanently than was understood at the time. It distorted the huge sacrifice of Allied soldiers and French civilians in the battle for Normandy, which had freed the country from the suffering and humiliation of the German Occupation. It also diverted attention away from the massive American aid. While combat engineers deactivated mines and booby traps, over 3,000 tons of supplies per day were rushed to Paris, bringing much of the Allied advance on Germany to a virtual halt. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 548 | Loc. 8399-8403 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:31 AM The cruel martyrdom of Normandy had indeed saved the rest of France. Yet the debate about the overkill of Allied bombing and artillery is bound to continue. Altogether 19,890 French civilians were killed during the liberation of Normandy and an even larger number seriously injured. This was on top of the 15,000 French killed and 19,000 injured during the preparatory bombing for Overlord in the first five months of 1944. It is a sobering thought that 70,000 French civilians were killed by Allied action during the course of the war, a figure which exceeds the total number of British killed by German bombing. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 551 | Loc. 8441-45 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:35 AM ‘Civil life will be mighty dull,’ wrote the egocentric General Patton in his diary after the triumph of the Normandy campaign. ‘No cheering crowds, no flowers, no private airplanes. I am convinced that the best end for an officer is the last bullet of the war.’83 He would have done better to remember the Duke of Wellington’s famous observation that ‘next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained’. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 551 | Loc. 8449-51 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:36 AM The post-war squabble between Allied generals, claiming credit and apportioning blame in their reports and memoirs, was correspondingly ferocious. That keen observer of human frailty Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke was presumably not surprised. He had once written about a row in June between senior naval officers: ‘It is astonishing how petty and small men can be in connection with questions of command.’ ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 552 | Loc. 8452-57 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:36 AM Montgomery placed himself at the centre of the post-war storm mainly because of his preposterous assertions that everything had gone according to his master plan. He felt that he should be seen on a par with Marlborough and Wellington and implicitly denigrated his American colleagues. Almost single-handedly, he had managed in Normandy to make most senior American commanders anti-British at the very moment when Britain’s power was waning dramatically. His behaviour thus constituted a diplomatic disaster of the first order. Whatever the merits of his arguments at the end of August 1944 about the planned thrust into Germany, Montgomery mishandled the situation badly. He had also provoked the higher ranks of the Royal Air Force, who were even more enraged than the Americans at his lack of frankness over operations in Normandy. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 552 | Loc. 8462-66 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:37 AM Montgomery’s unplanned battle of attrition, as unplanned as the Americans’ bloody slog through the bocage, had of course been handicapped by the delays caused by the appalling weather in mid-June. Yet British and American alike had gravely underestimated the tenacity and discipline of Wehrmacht troops. This was partly because they had failed to appreciate the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda in persuading its soldiers that defeat in Normandy meant the annihilation of their Fatherland. These soldiers, especially the SS, were bound to believe that they had everything to lose. Their armies had already provided so many reasons for Allied anger. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 553 | Loc. 8467-69 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:38 AM The battle for Normandy did not go as planned, but even the armchair critics could never dispute the eventual outcome, however imperfect. One must also consider what might have happened should the extraordinary undertaking of D-Day have failed: for example, if the invasion fleet had sailed into the great storm of mid-June. The post-war map and the history of Europe would have been very different indeed. ========== D-Day (Antony Beevor) - Highlight on Page 553 | Loc. 8471 | Added on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, 12:38 AM There is an old joke that the collective noun for those in my profession is a ‘mischief of historians’.
The reaction of German prisoners of war,who were forced to watch footage of what happened in the concentration camps pic.twitter.com/OHVtH0RrKb— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPix) July 12, 2016
books/readingall the books/reading notes and pages and things
Opening Lines of famous novels
The Idiot (Dostoevsky)
The Computer and the Mind (Johnson-Laird)
Philosophical Remarks (Wittgenstein)
Watergate topic page
Wars of Watergate (Kutler)
Consider the Lobster (Wallace)
The Gun (Chivers)
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Shirer)
My kindle clippings:
Do list/needing attention:
Flags · Template:BookFlag · e