posted at 5/23/2014 3:31 PM EDT
In response to dustcover's comment:
Each Memorial Day I say a prayer for my now-deceased uncle who landed at Normandy at T minus 13. Thirteen minutes after the first boot hit the sand, he was amidst the chaos. What hell it must have been.
But Memorial Day also reminds me of a previous battle in a previous war that Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae describes as a ‘nightmare’ in a letter to his mother.
McCrae fought in the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium where the German army launched one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war. They attacked the Canadian position with chlorine gas on April 22, 1915, but were unable to break through the Canadian line, which held for over two weeks.
In a letter written to his mother, McCrae described the battle, "For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds.... And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way."
Alexis Helmer, a close friend, was killed during the battle on May 2. McCrae performed the burial service himself, at which time he noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres. The next day, he composed this poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance.
So although it relates to an earlier era, I’d like to share it in remembrance of those fallen in battle.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
By the way Hammah, you "ol' doggie", I've been out of New England for almost 50 years except for annual visits to family so I still remember my Bostonese like this game is now "OVAH" Obviously, I need not know but I would guess your name is really "Hammer"...HA!
Wow...I really appreciated reading the above Re: Flanders...gave me goosebumps. I do not intend to minimize Normandy and the bravery there and, of course, I'm partial to the Marines as I cite the following:
There are many estimates of casualties of 5000 dead and 10000-15000 wounded Allied troops at Normandy. I would like to mention that at Okinawa there were 14000 dead and 65000 casualties and Iwo Jima 6800 dead and 26000 casualties, of course these campaigns were one to 2 months long, most were Marines but many Army too.
I visited Normandy and I saw at the Museum “6 June 1944 D Day” uniforms, weapons, films etc. In a film, one of Normandy’s beaches is called “Arromanches” where an artificial port was created so that 1000s of Allied Forces with heavy equipment could come ashore. Visible today still are the remains of the floating harbor. If anyone goes, you’ll see Nazi bunkers all over but most impressive is “Point du Hoc” where 3 companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed 100 feet up a vertical cliff with barbed wire at the top & grenades being tossed down on them. I, couldn’t make this climb with nobody above trying to kill me.
I have seen many Military sites in the world, our own Gettysburg, Bastogne, Anzio, Waterloo etc. but none has left me with more of an awe inspiring sensation than to see on about 175 acres the American cemetery on a plateau facing Omaha Beach with as far as the eye can see white crosses & Stars of David. It was chilling !!!
It was interesting as we walked around that there was a German tour & I recall the French guide saying that many local innocent French citizens were killed that day in the bombing and it was like she was very angry about it. I mean we had the Nazis believing our main attack was to be at Calais but we had to tell the locals to get out of their houses. Yup, of course, there would have been no sympathizers alerting the Germans to this. To me, this was an acceptable casualty of war.