Today, the media is flooded with commemorations and tributes to the men who fought for a foothold on the continent of Europe seventy years ago. The powerful ceremony in Normandy has done fitting honor to these veterans. The BBC played recordings from seven decades ago, giving a sense of how precarious the operation must have seemed at the time to all who lived through that day.
What more can I add? There is little I can say that will further illustrate the scope or significance of D-Day. Books and movies capture the drama and emotions of that event far better than my mere words can. So let me pay tribute to one man who set foot on Omaha Beach among the wreckage of his division and plunged into the cauldron of the Normandy hedgerows for six weeks before he received a million dollar wound outside of St. Lo: my grandfather.
Grandpop Rabuck fought in Company E of the 175th Infantry Battalion, which served in the 29th Infantry Division. The 175th was in reserve, landing on D Day+1. They missed their landing point by a mile and a half, and they had to walk along the beach seeing the carnage that had been wrought upon their fellows in the 115th and 116th. Their struggle was portrayed in the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. Journalist Ernie Pyle accompanied them, and his words capture both the hope and horror of that moment.
The photo above is the memorial to the men of the 29th, sitting at the base of the Vierville draw, the path up the bluffs from Omaha that the early assaults failed to capture. The 29th is still remembered fondly in France, and a candy maker in Isigny produced a commemorative box of caramels in their honor. Below is the larger (and sort of ugly) memorial to the National Guard units who fought in WWII, of whom the 29th was one. They were true citizen soldiers.
|The blue and grey design of the 29th Divisional patch signifies that the unit was originally raised in the border states. Most of the men in the unit came from Maryland and Virginia. I'm not sure how my grandfather ended up there.|