Senior writing class puts history on paper
In Santa Clarita, a select group of seniors are a part of a creative writing class, which allows them to learn, and to write for fun. A few of them have shared their words in regards to D-Day, which happened 63 years ago today.
My Big Brother and Myself
by Raoul Hurd
Before the world claimed him as its hero,
I treasured the memories of our world – just me and him.
I remember when we shared a bed in the lean-to that he built.
He pulled me over to keep us warm. There was no heater there.
He said, I love you Toady. I said I love you Junie;
These nicknames we wanted later to discard,
But they were all right then for us – just me and him.
Once when we played in the vacant lot next door
a big guy jokingly picked me up and carried me off.
My brother chased us across the field crying and pounding him.
I remember when he got a girlfriend to take him
in her car to watch me in a state speech contest –
halfway across Iowa it was. I lost the contest
yet felt his love confirmed – another moment just for me and him.
Then there was the time when I was a corporal
at a point of embarkation. My brother, the colonel and a pilot,
looked into my tent and announced he wanted
to take me with him for a day or two in his airplane.
We were to be together again, just me and him.
My tent mates threatened dire consequence for my sergeant
if he didn’t let me go so we left together – just me and him.
Now it is just me. Not really, I see him all the time – everyday.
by Bernard Raskin
A warm sun, rich fields
Trees heavy with fruit
Air filled with summer fragrance.
But we remember
More than a half-century past
When the same sun
Hung lifeless in a leaden sky:
Wrecked homes, bare trees.
Of death and dying or struggling on.
There was not time then for grief or anger
We had objectives to take:
Bridges, towns, crossroads, ground
Mile after painful mile
Till victory had been secured.
Only then could we think of the dead
And of what was left of one world.
Now we gaze at fruitful fields
And honor dead comrades
Knowing there will be battles still
For young men to fight on barren fields
With no ground secure and the only victory
An end to wars.
by Bernard Raskin, 507th Parachute Infantry
(Bernard landed by parachute in Normandy on D-Day)
Stand up and hook up!
The clarion call.
Into bomb-riddled darkness
Our paratroops fall.
Landing in swamps and disarray
Yet pushing back enemy power
Protecting the beaches of Normandy
And assuring victory is ours.
Remembering D-Day – 63 years later
By Veronica Pinckard
I was 17, growing up in England when d-Day occurred. Britons were both eager for the Second Front to begin and fearful for the loss of the young men that would be inevitable. Graffitti appeared on walls: OPEN THE SECOND FRONT, NOW. But no amount of clamoring would push the principals into starting something unless it would end in total victory.
By 1944, I was back in the bosom of my family living in a house that had been condemned 20 years earlier, counting ourselves lucky to have a roof over our heads. My family members including my parents had dug their way out of the basement shelter. All had miraculously survived with the exception of our beloved dog, the only fatality.
(While entertaining friends in Santa Monica years later, Uncle Rudy, one of my dinner guests, revealed that he had been in the tail of one of those planes that had dropped those parachuted mines!) My high school, junior school, Sunday school and church had all been razed to the ground. At the time I was still in school 80 miles away having been evacuated in September 1939.
In our family we followed the nightly BBC news with great interest. My father had a large world map on the wall in which he stuck colored pins to keep track of all the battles. You’d have thought he was the supreme commander. He had fought in the First World War and five of my brothers were serving in this one. I worked at an aerodrome where Lancasters and Spitfires were modified to meet the latest needs (and where the first jet aircraft were being tested).
What I remember very clearly as we gathered around the radio, was the devastation that the Germans were suffering, through we had little sympathy at that time. Hadn’t our own cities been decimated with a great deal of suffering? And still the unmanned deadly rockets; buzz bombs, V1 and V2, continued to pound our cities, right up to D-Day when the invasion put a stop to them. Just the size of those rockets, seen later at the Imperial War Museum in London, would send shivers down your spine.
It was common to see Flying Fortresses by day and Lancasters by night keeping up around-the-clock saturation bombing, as they pulverized German cities, armament factories and rail transportation. The skies were black with them and we could see the bombs they carried quite clearly. They stretched as far as the horizon, flying in tight chevron formation. If you’ve ever seen birds in massive migration, this was much more so. It was frightening, fascinating and awe-inspiring.
Well do I remember the 1000-bomber raids that had breached the Mohne and the Eder dams, in an attempt to knock our Hitler’s ball-bearing factories. Hamburg was also dealt a crushing blow with 42,000 people killed, far outweighing the losses in any one of our cities. Berlin was under daily bombardment and Dresden suffered a colossal human toll of 40,000 lives. Yes, we were gleeful. We hoped the lowering morale of the German people would bring the war to a halt, but Hitler punished such pessimism. Like us in 1940, it only stiffened their resolve. The Second Front was necessary to stop all this madness, this carnage, and to stop the millions that were being slaughtered in Hitler’s concentration camps.
For several weeks ahead of D-Day, troop movements from all corners of the British Isles were amassing in the south ready for the invasion. Standing at the side of the road, we waved at the troops passing by in tanks, armored vehicles and jeeps, convoys that often stretched for miles. Flags of many nations among them.
Secrecy was so tight that one of the code-names was given the word BIGOT – a code used in Napoleonic times. Read backwards it was “TOGIB (Gibraltar)”. The few insiders working on it were referred to as “Bigots”. When the King visited a war room, he asked what was behind the curtain. The savvy officer politely distracted him. When questioned why he did that, his answer was, “Nobody told me he was a Bigot.” Even war has its amusing anecdotes!
D-Day had been planned for June 5th but the weather was disastrous, a real nightmare for Eisenhower and the generals. Every delay ran the risk of the closely guarded secret being leaked to the enemy. Although German Intelligence knew an attack was inevitable, they knew nothing of the size, date or place for this landing. Many mock raids had been staged to keep them guessing.
The weather improved only slightly the next day, but the invasion went ahead without further delay. The risk had to be taken. The bad weather continued to play its dastardly role as the young servicemen encountered very rough seas, seasickness, extreme cold and abject misery. It didn’t take long for the Germans to send out their planes to bomb and strafe those landing craft. Dive bombers shot at survivors in the water. Sharp shooters took many more lives as the young men waded ashore. Here was carnage that sickened our hearts and made us weep. The sacrifice to liberate those nations, and the Allied tolld, came at a very high price.
The largest single military operation in the history of warfare was played out on five Normandy beaches by a quarter of a million brave young men. Two beaches were stormed by Americans, two by British and one by Canadians. Among them were all those men from the ‘fallen’ countries who had escaped to fight another day. Though all showed amazing bravery against terrible odds, the most heroic recorded action was at Omaha Beach where American Rangers faced enormous odds as they scaled sheer cliffs, and came face to face with a heavily manned German post. Pointe du Hoc is forever engraved in our memories.
The BBC news this evening brought us the joy of victory. The Allies had established a foothold, but it was laced with very heavy losses. The stopping of this madman, and the tyranny he wrought, was the ultimate sacrifice to win a war that had become global. To paraphrase Mr. Winston Churchill’s famous speech from another battle, ‘never was so much owed by so many to so few’. Though it was to be a long, hard and vicious struggle for the next year, the war in Europe finally ended. That celebration would be another story. But there was still the Battle Though we kept a stiff upper lip, the bottom lip trembled a great deal when bad news inevitably arrived. of the Pacific to be won.
The 26 cemeteries surrounding the D-Day beaches tell of the immense sacrifice that was paid. Over 90,000 young men are remembered in the Battle of Normandy 1944, half of them the enemy – after all, they too are someone’s sons. War is a terrible thing, but more terrible are the megalomaniacs that cause them.