D-Day and Memory

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

 

Seventy-three years since D-Day.  In the first law firm I worked for in 1982 the Senior Partner had lost a son on Omaha Beach.  A former partner of the firm was now a Judge, and still walked with a limp from being shot up on Omaha Beach.  Another partner had been with the Eighth Air Force in England, helping to plot flight missions in support of D-Day.  This was in a five man firm, including myself.  D-Day left its mark on this nation, with its approximately 3,000 dead and 6000 wounded Americans, but with the passage of time the memories of that time grow fainter.  All three of the men connected with the firm I worked for are now deceased and their living memories of that longest day are gone with them.

About 620,000 of the sixteen million American who served in World War II are now left.  They are leaving us now at the rate of 500 a day.  The youngest of them now are in their ninth decade.  All too soon the men who fought in the Great Crusade as Eisenhower termed it, will be joining Washington’s Continentals, the Blue and the Gray, the Rough Riders and the Doughboys, as figures of history, no longer people we can talk to and meet. 

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11 Responses to D-Day and Memory

  • “Uncommon courage was a common virtue.”

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.” And, say a prayer of thanksgiving for God has graced America with many humble heroes. For humility is a virtue. Think of Mary when the Angel Gabriel greeted her, “Hail, full of grace!”.

  • Beautifully said T. Shaw. Thank God.

  • Amen. Living in Truth and Freedom to do what is right and good.

    To say that these brave souls gave up their last breath so women may slaughter their own babies or men may sodomize their neighbors is an affront to these true heroes. Our “D” day is coming. A wave of heavenly helpers will one day reach Earth’s shores. When they do they will not loose one soldier nor will they be defeated in their quest to free those who have been battling the ultimate war. The Standard of Christ will reign.

    Too those who value what God values…God be with you.
    God bless our Veterans.

  • Today I think of my dad Larry who as an AAF meteorologist gave the forecast for the D Day invasions and later on the Continent, my Uncle Bill who was a glider pilot that day and then was in N Africa, my uncles Dick and Howell who were infantry officers at Anzio and in the Battle of the Bulge, and Howell’s wife, Aunt Florence who signed up as a WAC when her husband joined. It also brings to mind the summer of 1960 when my dad took us to the Normandy beaches and Anzio Beach, and to sites of many First and Second World War battles. Most vivid memories are of the cemeteries for the Allies with miles and miles of white crosses and stars of David. All family of that generation are gone now and in a better place.

  • My great uncle Mike fought on D Day and in the Battle of the Bulge. He died 36 years ago. The only stories I have are those my dad told me of Uncle Mike sending home German medals and other things like a helmet.

    It seems strange to me that when I was a boy in the 1970s most WWII vets were still around and now they are almost all gone.

  • I had the privilege to take care of WW2 vets when I worked in assisted living in the ’90’s. The Alzheimers patients couldn’t tell you their name, but they could tell you when they were wounded. One of our Parkinson’s patients had been a nurse in the British Navy on the beach at D-Day. However, his proudest accomplishment seems to have been his ship’s action against the Graf Spee. He didn’t talk about D-Day. Later when I worked in restaurants, I met a D-Day participant and a three-war veteran who were regular customers. The D-Day participant unfortunately committed suicide when he was diagnosed with cancer. Such a shame to have survived that, only to kill himself as an elderly man. The 3-war veteran had been captured in Korea, but escaped before he could be moved to a POW camp. He later served in Vietnam, then retired and became a police officer later in life.
    Loved those people!

  • A privilege that my wife and I shared was being the chaperones for our NW Michigan WWII Veterans visit to DC on memorial day weekend in 2010.

    We stopped by Shanksville Flight 93 crash site in route to Washington. A suggestion that our driver made. An excellent choice.

    The WWII Memorial was filled.

    At the golden star reflection pool an Marine corps sargent stood in full dress uniform giving a speech to whomever would stop to listen. Next to this man was a fallen soldier set…….boots with rifle standing upright and helmet topping the rifle. He said this was his younger brothers boots. He was KIA in the Gulf war. His talk was guided by the Holy Spirit and our small band of veterans listened while tears welled up in our eyes.

    Children were in the front of the crowd that gathered for this impromptu speech. He provided them an unforgettable experience and lesson that freedom is not free. What an honor.

    By far the best trip we have ever made.
    Outdoing Honolulu, Brisbane, Christchurch, and Alaska. That motorcoach carried the best our nation ever had to defend freedom from tyrants on both sides of U.S.

    My uncle Joe, Joseph Taylor, served under General Patton as a tank driver. He survived the war but suffered PTSD.
    Uncle Joe was my Godfather.

    God bless all of our vet’s.

  • Around this country at many many cemeteries, and around the world, there are tombstones for vetarans, like my Dad, with one line amidst the listing of medals and rank and honors, that one word is “Normandy.” He too was in the 8th Air Force of the Army Air Corps and bombed inland from the beaches that day. He flew 35 missions in his B17-10 more than he needed to-after 25 you could go home and most did; but for 10 missions, he laid down his life for a friend, literally, since if he had not gone up, someone else would have had to. And that is the story of this entire generation of men, real men, they all laid down their lives for their friends. No greater love. Guy McClung [III]. Texas

  • So well said, Guy. Real men. Thanks for sharing your dad’s exploits. My dad was with the 91st Bombardment Group, 8th AF at RAF-USAAF Basingbourn base. He died in 2004 though “Ragged Irregulars” newsletter continued to arrive until 2015. We never grew tired reading the wartime reminiscences. Thank you to all who shared their family stories on this post.
    .

  • My fiery uncle, Jack T. Toups (d. Mar.16, 1976) landed with the first wave with the 1st Infantry Division (“Big Red One leads the way”) at Omaha Beach and fought on through May, 1945 and VE day.

    I regret now not asking him as a lad to tell more of his eyewitness experiences, but he was so tough, loud, gruff, profanity-laden, colorful in his language, and intimidating even in his senior years (though he tried hard to be civil), we knew the Wehrmacht had their hands full when he waded ashore that day in June, 1944..

  • “had their hands full when he waded ashore that day in June, 1944.”

    Sounds like my great uncle Bill Barry who fought with the British Army from Normandy to the fall of Germany. He said he joined the British Army in 1939 because “someone needed to teach the Limeys how to fight!”

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Father Ranger

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

raaen&lacy

The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion could barely keep from laughing when they first saw their chaplain, Lieutenant Joe Lacy, a week before D-Day.  These were young men, in peak physical condition.  Father Joe Lacy was old by Ranger standards, knocking on 40, overweight by at least 30 pounds, wearing thick glasses and short, 5 foot, six inches.  He was described by one Ranger as “a small, fat old Irishman.”  No way would he be able to keep up when they  invaded France.

On the trip across the Channel to France,  Chaplain Lacy told the men:  “When you land on the beach and you get in there, I don’t want to see anybody kneeling down and praying. If I do I’m gonna come up and boot you in the tail. You leave the praying to me and you do the fighting.”  A few of the men began to think that maybe this priest was tougher than he looked.

On June 6, 1944 at 7:30 AM,  LCA 1377 landed the Rangers on Omaha Dog Green Beach, the first landing craft to land on that section of Omaha Beach.  Father Lacy was the last man out just before an artillery shell hit the fantail.  Everything was chaos with the beach being swept by German artillery and small arms fire.  Wounded men were everywhere, both on the beach and in the water feebly trying to get to the beach.  Father Lacy did not hesitate.  With no thought for his own safety he waded into the water to pull men out of the ocean and onto the beach.  He began treating the wounded on the beach and administering the Last Rites to those beyond human assistance.  On a day when courage was not in short supply men took notice of this small fat priest who was doing his best under fire to save as many lives as he could.  While his battalion led the way off Omaha Beach, and sustained 50% casualties doing so, Father Lacy continued to tend their  wounded and the wounded of other units.  For his actions that day Father Lacy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, after the Medal of Honor, in the United States Army.

Here is the text of his citation:

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3 Responses to Father Ranger

  • Thank God for Father Joe Lacy. Angel from heaven

  • Stories like this are great. But they always seem to bring me back around to my hobby horse, the lack of a strong Catholic identity in the US. We need more canonized saints. We need more shrines. We need a sense that we’re not merely another religion in a pluralistic, nearly secular country. We have a very practical immigrant’s sensibility: hospitals and schools, help people to get by. We need to avoid ghettoizing ourselves.

  • There is a process ongoing to canonize Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno for similar “heroic and dauntless actions” in Vietnam. His tomb is on Staten Island. A Chaplain’s Chaplain – WSJ
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB120486293330118997

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FDR’s D-Day Prayer

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

 

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

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2 Responses to FDR’s D-Day Prayer

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D-Day Factoids

Tuesday, June 6, AD 2017

 

Random observations on D-Day.

  1. Churchill and the King– Churchill had begun his career in the days of Queen Victoria in the Army, and had fought in India, the Sudan and in the Boer War.   In World War I he had served briefly as the commander of a battalion in the trenches of the Western Front.  He was determined to land with the British troops on D-Day.  His generals were appalled.  King George VI remedied the problem when he told Churchill at an audience that he, the King, had determined that he should land on D-Day with his troops.   Churchill, aghast, said this was impossible since the King might be killed.  The King responded that since that was the case he didn’t want his Prime Minister risking his life on D-Day.  No more was heard of the idea of Churchill landing with the troops.
  2. German Build Up-There was little doubt that troops would successfully fight themselves ashore on D-Day.  The question was whether the Allies could build up successfully the beachhead and expand it in the face of the German buildup after the invasion.  This concern led to the initial assault force being increased from three to six divisions, not counting the Allied airborne forces dropping behind enemy lines.  The limiting factor was the number of landing craft the Allies had, with a six division assault force requiring bringing landing craft from the Mediterranean theater and delaying until July Operation Dragoon, the amphibious invasion of southern France.
  3. Oil-Modern armies move on fuel and getting enough gas into the D-Day beachhead was a major concern until the solution of laying pipelines, Operation Pluto. under the English channel was hit upon.  Disappointing initially in the amount of fuel transported via this means, by the end of the War 4000 tons was transported daily by these pipelines, providing the absolutely critical margin by which the mechanized Allied armies swept into Germany.
  4. Of Icebergs and Mulberries-Churchill was the quintessential idea man.   The problem was separating his good ideas from his bad ones.  Throughout the War he had the bizarre idea of using an iceberg as an unsinkable aircraft carrier.  His generals and admirals strove successfully throughout the War against his demand that this lunatic proposal be implemented. However he was also the main proponent of mulberries, the construction of prefabricated artificial harbors to be set up in France following D-Day.  These artificial harbors proved critical in the buildup in Normandy following D-Day.
  5. Patton-In the doghouse after slapping a soldier in Sicily, General George Patton still had an important role to play in D-Day.  Patton in the months of 1944 leading up to the invasion of Normandy found himself at the head of an impressive force: the First US Army Group, consisting of the US 14th Army and the British 4th Army.  It was entirely fictitious.  Codenamed Operation Quicksilver, the First US Army Group produced lots of radio chatter and paper reports, along with endless dummy tanks and fake troop bases.  It worked along with the other allied deceptions that made up Operation Fortitude South.  The Germans were convinced that the First US Army Group was a real formation and that the Allies were going to invade with it at Calais.  Patton made speeches and appearances throughout England at this time that received maximum publicity to enhance his assumed position as head of the Allied invasion.  At the same time he was secretly training Third Army for its role after the invasion.
  6. Rommel-The Desert Fox was not an infallible commander, but he did have an eerie ability to often guess the intentions of his foes.  So it was when he requested that the 12th SS Panzer Division, the fanatical Hitler Jugend, be moved to Carentan, which lay between the beaches that would become known as Utah and Omaha.  His request was refused.  Additionally, in early May Rommel ordered the commander of the 352nd Division to withdraw most of his men from reserve and have them concentrated on the beach that would be Omaha.  Fortunately for the Americans who landed there, the commander of the 352nd Division ignored Rommel’s order.
  7. Daily Telegraph-In May of 1944 crucial codewords for Operation Overlord began showing up in crossword puzzles of the Daily Telegraph newspaper.  An intensive investigation by MI5 failed to uncover any security breach.
  8. Mississippi-The flat bottomed landing craft had originally been designed to rescue Mississippi River flooding victims.
  9. Wonder Drug-The assault troops went ashore equipped with the new wonder drug Penicillin which saved thousands of lives.
  10. Casualties-The Allied casualties were much lighter than anticipated, some 10,000 of which 4500 were killed.  Churchill had feared a second first day of the Somme with some 20,000 Allied KIAs.
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2 Responses to D-Day Factoids

  • “[H]e did have an eerie ability to often guess the intentions of his foes”

    Perhaps, this is the sort of prescience Napoléon had in mind, when he enquired about anyone recommended for promotion, “But is he lucky?”

  • Doubtless. I think it is akin to the genius that we see at work in other fields. I recall an attorney who could tell when the tide was turning in a jury trial by subtle shifts in how jurors were sitting, subtle shifts that completely eluded me. He was never wrong in my experience.

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Reagan on D-Day

Monday, June 5, AD 2017

Reagan gave the above speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, a third of a century ago.  Tomorrow is the 73rd anniversary of the longest day, and there are only a precious few of those men who stormed the beaches who still remain with us.  Time to remember them tomorrow and every day:

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty.  For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow.  Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation.  Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue.  here in Normandy the rescue began.  Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers on the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up.  When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.

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3 Responses to Reagan on D-Day

  • Five years later, the Communist regimes in the old Warsaw Pact collapsed. Liberation was late in coming, but it came.

  • “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
    I met a man who showed me his scars from Normandy and Omaha. In the front a scar from his neck on down. On his back a scar from his neck on down. Divine Providence.

  • from THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

4 Responses to Bing Remembers D-Day

  • Google sucks.

  • Bing also celebrated Memorial day with a picture of the Tomb of the Unknown. I have switched to Bing as my default search engine.

  • My kids were raving about the “pretty picture” on their login.
    I simplified it to “yes, that’s in France. A very important thing happened there, I’ll explain when you’re older.”

    (Before someone gets concerned: We already did the tough Memorial Day talk about how soldiers will fight to protect what’s right, and some of them don’t come back. At which point the Princess put on a very serious six-year-old expression and said: “That means they got dead-ed. Died-ed.” We must be doing something right in their entertainment choices, because the idea that you can die doing something that’s right struck them as sad but natural for the older two. Even if they did put it in terms of the Justice League cartoon.)

  • Do not think that Google inadvertently ignored D-Day.
    .
    “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” Instapundit quoted.

June 6, 1944: D-Day-FDR Prayer

Monday, June 6, AD 2016

(The video inserts material not related to D-Day.  I will give it a pass.  D-Day, with the passage of the decades, has become a symbol of the entire US war effort in World War II, an effort which deserves to be remembered.)

 

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas – whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too – strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Amen.

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June 6, 1984: Reagan’s Speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

Monday, June 6, AD 2016

 

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine-guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

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2 Responses to June 6, 1984: Reagan’s Speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day

June 6, 1944: The Great Crusade

Monday, June 6, AD 2016

 

 

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on 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.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

(Signed, ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower’)

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Father Ranger

Sunday, June 5, AD 2016

raaen&lacy

The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion could barely keep from laughing when they first saw their chaplain, Lieutenant Joe Lacy, a week before D-Day.  These were young men, in peak physical condition.  Father Joe Lacy was old by Ranger standards, knocking on 40, overweight by at least 30 pounds, wearing thick glasses and short, 5 foot, six inches.  He was described by one Ranger as “a small, fat old Irishman.”  No way would he be able to keep up when they  invaded France.

 

On the trip across the Channel to France,  Chaplain Lacy told the men:  “When you land on the beach and you get in there, I don’t want to see anybody kneeling down and praying. If I do I’m gonna come up and boot you in the tail. You leave the praying to me and you do the fighting.”  A few of the men began to think that maybe this priest was tougher than he looked.

On June 6, 1944 at 7:30 AM,  LCA 1377 landed the Rangers on Omaha Dog Green Beach, the first landing craft to land on that section of Omaha Beach.  Father Lacy was the last man out just before an artillery shell hit the fantail.  Everything was chaos with the beach being swept by German artillery and small arms fire.  Wounded men were everywhere, both on the beach and in the water feebly trying to get to the beach.  Father Lacy did not hesitate.  With no thought for his own safety he waded into the water to pull men out of the ocean and onto the beach.  He began treating the wounded on the beach and administering the Last Rites to those beyond human assistance.  On a day when courage was not in short supply men took notice of this small fat priest who was doing his best under fire to save as many lives as he could.  While his battalion led the way off Omaha Beach, and sustained 50% casualties doing so, Father Lacy continued to tend their  wounded and the wounded of other units.  For his actions that day Father Lacy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, after the Medal of Honor, in the United States Army.

Here is the text of his citation:

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3 Responses to Father Ranger

  • I am an Army Chaplain and recently served in a Ranger Battalion. At a ceremony in 2012, I met a veteran of 5th Ranger Battalion on D-Day who sought me out to tell me about Father Joe Lacy. He retold the part about the “boot you in the tail” speech. I was honored that this aging hero sought me out to convey the story.

    I recently published a book titled “Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger” (Multnomah, 2015). In chapter 8, I include Father Lacy’s story as a part of a section on Normandy. Somehow, I feel like the old veteran entrusted me with this story so that it could be retold.

    Thank you for your part in keeping Father Lacy’s legacy alive.

  • Thank you for your kind comments John and for your service.

  • I’m so proud of my nephew, Chaplain John McDougall and of his witness of God’s Word!

D-Day on Film

Saturday, June 6, AD 2015

 

 

There have been surprisingly few movies on D-Day, as indicated by the fact that three out of the five videos looked at below are from television miniseries.  Here are the five best from  a scarce lot:

5. Ike: The War Years (1978)

Robert Duvall as Eisenhower gives his usual riveting performance.  The late Lee Remick  gives a good performance as Captain Kay Summersby, the British driver/secretary assigned to Eisenhower.  Unfortunately the miniseries centers around the relationship of Eisenhower and Summersby, a relationship which is subject to historical dispute.

4.  Ike: Countdown to D-Day (1995)

Tom Selleck gives a very good portrayal of Eisenhower in the days leading up to D-Day.  The video does a first rate job of portraying the problems that Eisenhower confronted:  getting prima donnas like Montgomery and Patton to work as a part of a team, concerns about the weather, the deception campaign to convince the Nazis that Calais would be the invasion site, etc.  The video also shines a light on the weight of responsibility which Eisenhower bore, especially when we see him write out a note just before the invasion taking full responsibility on his shoulders if it failed.

3.  Band of Brothers (2001)

The epic miniseries covering the exploits of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne, captures well the chaos of the parachute and glider operations behind German lines that were so critical a part of the Allied victory on D-Day.

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Franciscan Paratrooper

Sunday, July 13, AD 2014

Father Ignatius Maternowski

For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Ignatius Maternowski entered this Vale of Tears on March 28, 1912, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the son of Polish immigrants  He attended, appropriately enough, Saint Francis High School.  Impressed by the Franciscans he encountered there, he decided to become a Franciscan priest.  He was ordained to the priesthood on July 3, 1938.  His gift for preaching manifesting itself, he was assigned as a missionary-preacher at the friary of Saint Anthony of Padua in Elicott City, Maryland.

From the time of Pearl Harbor he sought permission to serve as a chaplain and in July 1942 he enlisted in the Army.  He served as a chaplain in the 508th regiment of the 82nd Airborne.  In the aftermath of the chaotic combat drop into Normandy on the night before D-Day, Captain Maternowski busied himself in tending both American and German wounded.

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6 Responses to Franciscan Paratrooper

  • Mater Dolorosa Cemetery has two beautiful circles in the roadways. One is where Fr. Maternowski’s memorial stone is set with many other Friars, and can be seen on the video. The other is reserved for an exceptionally beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother. Mater Dolorosa Parish church was closed three years ago after the Corpus Christi procession around the Church in my hometown. A striking circular rainbow appeared around the sun at around noon when the procession was just returning to the front of the church marking the day for memories. The building has stained glass windows which depict, on one side, the joyful and glorious mysteries beginning with the visit by Gabriel and, on the gospel side, the sorrowful mysteries beginning with the prophecy of Simeon. It is my fondest hope that these are preserved in a way that proclaims the faith to many more people. I understand that these helped working people who couldn’t read to learn the faith.

  • Thank you for the additional info Pat.

  • We will never know if the German sniper knew he was shooting a priest in the back–nor if the sniper was ordered to do it at that exact moment.

  • This is another great WWII story I was unaware of.

    One great thing about the United States of America is that people can come from anywhere and become Americans.

    Fr. Maternowski was just such a great American, a martyr for the Faith – and a brave man of Polish descent.

  • Thank you for posting this story with the video. Our service members need military chaplains, especialy those servicemen in harms way. I worry in this political climate that the chaplain corps will be disestablished.

  • Cam: “I worry in this political climate that the chaplain corps will be disestablished.”
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    “or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment. Government, the state, cannot interfer with or burden the free exercise of religion by refusing funding for chaplains, especially while chaplains are necessary to minister to troops in harms way. During the government shut down Obama refused to allow chaplains to say Mass on the military bases. Obama behaved as though He owned the chaplains and the men. Obama does not even own the military bases nor does Obama own the government, although he like to believe that he does. The government is constituted by the people. When government becomes predatory it must be replaced.
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    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” from The Declaration of Independence.
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    Shooting a chaplain in the back. That is all the Nazis were good for.

4 Responses to The Longest Day

  • Courageous and unwilling to compromise with evil.
    Truly the Greatest Generation!
    God bless them and pray we discover the courage and fortitude to live life worthy of their sacrifice.

  • Without them most of us would not be here today and those who are here would be in a very different world.

  • So many of our nation’s young people could not tell you what D-Day is (was).

    What a shame.

    Great post.

    Thank you.

  • Charlie S. Burk, a 95 year old healthy D-Day veteran, who is childless and a widower since1980, and lives alone in a house he bought new in 1972, told me Friday while we were having lunch at McDonald’s and he was enjoying one of his favorites – Friday cod fish sandwich special ($1.59) and milk – about what the Germans put into the water, and what it looked like, to prevent or interrupt any attempt to land there. He also commented on the reality of the movie The Longest Day. This movie “news-reel” (which was shown in movie theaters before the invention of television) and video of the West Point Cadets Choir singing The Longest Day, brought to life what he described to me. As I looked around and saw young adults going about their normal activity in a restaurant, the thought occurred to me that they haven’t got a clue of what Charlie and the rest of those guys did that day so they, these kids, could be doing what they were doing today, and living the lives they got.

    Charlie was the 6th child (18 months old) out of 7 children who were orphaned when their father committed their mother to a mental hospital and then abandoned them. All of his brothers and sisters, but the oldest who got adopted, were raised in a Catholic orphanage outside Chicago, Ill. He left when he was 16 years old and has been on his own ever since.

FDR’s D-Day Prayer

Friday, June 6, AD 2014

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

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2 Responses to FDR’s D-Day Prayer

  • Words that that godless man of sin and depravity Barack Hussein Obama would never pray:
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    Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
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    And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas – whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
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    And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.
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    With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy.
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    Thy will be done, Almighty God.

  • The opening line reminds us of how pivotal June 1944 was, and especially June 5th. That day saw not only the fall of Rome to the Allies but also the sailing of two massive invasion fleets, for the Normandy invasion and the Marianas invasion.

Reagan on D-Day

Friday, June 6, AD 2014

Reagan gave the above speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.  Today is the 70th anniversary of the longest day, and there are only a precious few of those men who stormed the beaches who still remain with us.  Time to remember them on this day and every day:

We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty.  For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow.  Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation.  Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue.  here in Normandy the rescue began.  Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers on the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up.  When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.

Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.

These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.

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One Response to Reagan on D-Day

  • A real President and a real man truly deserving of the high office he held. I hope that he is in Heaven with Pope Saint John Paul II. What they must be saying to each other over the nation that has replaced the America which they knew!

D-Day: A French Priest is Grateful

Friday, June 6, AD 2014

Today, seventy years on, this is heart warming:

 

As a Frenchman and as a priest, I’m really aware of what we owe this young generation of soldiers who died for us French to be free,” said Father Pujos, 44, who is a parochial vicar and chaplain at St. Catherine School.

Without his freedom, he may not have become a priest, he said.

“I’m a priest today … because I was raised in a free country, not occupied by the Nazis, nor by the Russian communists after World War II like half of Europe,” Father Pujos said.

As a young boy growing up in Paris, his family instilled in him a deep respect and appreciation for the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers who died that day.

During the Normandy invasion, called D-Day, some 156,000 allied troops launched the largest seaborne invasion in history against the German-occupied northern France and into Western Europe.

Causalities reached an estimated 12,000 that day along the 50-mile stretch of the Normandy beach. The victory contributed to the allied forces’ eventual victory over Nazi Germany.

His grandparents and parents, Jerome and Sylvie Pujos, always spoke to him about it. When he was young, his grandmother took him to the American cemetery in Normandy to pay their respect for the soldiers.

“I have a deep memory of the cemetery with all these thousands of tombs,” he said. “Each time I think about this cemetery, I get emotional because it’s striking.”

He recalls seeing row after row of white crosses marking the graves of young Americans.

“The field of crosses were perfectly taken care of and maintained,” he said. “As you got closer to the tombs, you would see the age of the soldiers. They were kids—18 or 21 years old.

“I will never forget about it,” Father Pujos said.

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One Response to D-Day: A French Priest is Grateful

  • Touching story. Americans not portrayed as war mongers! What a breath of fresh air. Thanks for bringing Fr. Pujus’ point of view.

The Great Crusade

Friday, June 6, AD 2014

Eisenhower, on D-Day morning distributed to the troops a general order, which is like a handbill, and everybody read it.  And he said “we are about to embark upon the great crusade, which we have been preparing for, for many months” etc.

Now at first none of us could believe it was anything like a crusade, because we were playing dice, and we were thinking about girls all the time and getting drunk as possible and so forth.  It wasn’t like a crusade, there was not religious dimension to whatever.  When they finally got across France and into Germany, and saw the German death camps, they realized that they had been in engaged in something like a crusade, although none of them called it that.  And it all began to make a kind of sense to us.

Paul Fussell

 

 

 

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on 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.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

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One Response to The Great Crusade