Senate Passes Bill to Award Congressional Gold Medal to US Army Rangers

H/T War History OnLine.

Long overdue recognition for these Army Rangers.

Credit: dod.defense.gov
Credit: dod.defense.gov

Earlier this year, the US Senate unanimously passed a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to US Army Rangers who served in World War II.

The bill was not officially announced until after the anniversary of D-Day. The bill was sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

And Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Both of the sponsors are veterans. They announced the passing of the bill in a joint announcement.

The Rangers are famous in part for scaling the Pointe du Hoc cliffs during the invasion of Nazi-occupied France on D-Day.

A gold medal awarded in May 2015 in recognition of U.S. fighter aces.
A gold medal awarded in May 2015 in recognition of U.S. fighter aces.

Duckworth stated that the US Army Rangers fought in some of the most important battles during WWII. She said that she was grateful that the Senate passed the bill and that she looked forward to it becoming law.

Ernst said that many Rangers had approached her about getting the Congressional Gold Medal for the WWII Rangers since she has connections to the Ranger Regiment and the Ranger Rendezvous at Fort Benning in Georgia. She called it a “thrill” to see that the bill had passed unanimously.

United States Army Rangers
United States Army Rangers

The Rangers were formed in the mid-1700s to fight in the French and Indian War. Major Robert Rogers wrote nineteen standing orders for the Rangers which are still used today.

In WWII, the Rangers took part in battles in Northern Africa, including the critical Battle of El Guettar.

They took part in the D-Day landings where they gained fame for their work in clearing German gun emplacements which allowed Allied landing craft to reach the beachhead without encountering German fire.

Rangers also played a role in the Pacific theater where they liberated American POWs in the Philippines.

Representative Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, has taken the lead on getting the bill passed in the House of Representatives.

There is another effort currently taking place to get the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Merrill’s Marauders.

Army Rangers, D-Day, Pointe du Hoc
Army Rangers, D-Day, Pointe du Hoc

In 1943, President Franklin D Roosevelt and the other leaders of the Allies recognized that the US needed to engage in a long-range penetration effort in order to disrupt the supply and communication lines of the Japanese while the main forces worked to re-open the Burma Road.

Roosevelt issued a call for volunteers which received around 3,000 responses from US servicemen. Officially named the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), it was codenamed “Galahad” and became popularly known as “Merrill’s Marauders” after their leader Brigadier General Frank Merrill.

Army Rangers en route to liberate allied soldiers in the Cabanatuan POW camp.
Army Rangers en route to liberate allied soldiers in the Cabanatuan POW camp.

With no tanks or artillery to support them, the Marauders walked over 1,000 miles through dense jungle.

They engaged the enemy in five major battles and thirty minor engagements. They defeated the Japanese 18th Division who had conquered Singapore and Malaya and vastly outnumbered the Marauders. They disrupted supply and communication lines completely.

To top it all off, they captured the Myitkyina Airfield which was the only all-weather airfield in Northern Burma.

No other American force had marched as far, fought continuously for as long (four months) or showed as much stamina and endurance as the Marauders.

Every injured Marauder was safely evacuated, which required carrying the wounded to an evacuation point and then hacking out a landing strip from the jungle.

When the mission was over, every single member of the Marauders was placed in the hospital for tropical diseases, exhaustion, malnutrition, or an “A.O.E. (accumulation of everything).”

The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions.”

A Friend Asks For Cards To Make Veteran’s Birthday Special

H/T War History OnLine.

We need to make this birthday real special for Vincent Corsini.

Courtesy of The Greatest Generation Foundation
Courtesy of The Greatest Generation Foundation

D-Day veteran Mr Vincent Corsini (ICo/116th/29ID) will be celebrating his 96th birthday this July 4th (coincidentally).

His wife, unfortunately, has been hospitalized since early January and due to COVID-19 he has been unable to properly visit her.

In addition to his wife being in the hospital, he has been living alone under quarantine these past few months. I would love to flood his mailbox with birthday cards and well wishes.

Originally from Kings New York, Mr Vincent Corsini joined the Army in 1943 and served as a member of I Company, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division. As such he participated in every major action involving the 29th from D-Day to the Siegfried Line.

Wartime portrait of Vincent Corsini. Photo from Vincent Corsini’s personal collection.
Wartime portrait of Vincent Corsini. Photo from Vincent Corsini’s personal collection.

Of the nine companies landing in the first wave, only Company A of the 116th RCT at Dog Green and the Rangers to their right landed where intended. E/116, aiming for Easy Green, ended up scattered across the two beaches of the 16th RCT area.

G/116, aiming for Dog White, opened up a 1,000-yard gap between themselves and A/116 to their right when they landed at Easy Green instead. I/16 drifted so far east it did not land for another hour and a half.

Vincent Corsini in Paris, c. 1944. Photo from Vincent Corsini’s personal collection.
Vincent Corsini in Paris, c. 1944. Photo from Vincent Corsini’s personal collection.

On 6 June, he was part of the 3rd assault wave to hit Omaha Beach around 7:30 am landing at Easy Green sector (original landing sector was Dog Red, but they had drifted).

After an exhaustive fight inward, Vince and company fought for ~30 days through the hedgerows of Normandy through to St Lo on to Vire and then Brest. Vince served with the 29th until Oct 1944 when he was evacuated IVO the Siegfried line, finishing the war with ADSEC.

After the war, Vince returned to NY where he pursued his college education eventually taking a job as a draftsman and engineer. He married in the 50’s raised a family and retired in North Carolina.

Vincent Corsini, WW2. Photo from Vincent Corsini’s personal collection.
Vincent Corsini, WW2. Photo from Vincent Corsini’s personal collection.

When abled, Vince was heavily involved with the 29th Infantry Division Association, returning to Normandy 3 times for the 25th, 50th and most recently the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

I was lucky enough to be able to send him back for the 75th. In addition, I was able to petition his congressman and the NARA to have his records updated to reflect awards he should’ve received 75 years ago. Vince is the last original surviving member of his company.

Vincent Corsini today
Vincent Corsini today

His updated awards are as follows. Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, WW2 Victory Medal, EAME Campaign with 2 bronze star and Arrowhead device, French Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honour

For those of you that would like to wish this hero a Happy Birthday, please use the address below. Thanks in advance.

Mr Vincent Corsini
c/o Charles Kirkland
PO Box 1048
Fort Mill SC, 29716

Written by his friend, CJ Kirkland.

Oldest Living Survivor of the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis Dies Aged 98

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Jim Jarvis.

Credit: ABC
Credit: ABC

Jim Jarvis, the oldest survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, died on 6th June 2020 in Uniontown, Ohio.

Jim was a well-known character and attended the reunions of the survivors of the Indianapolis.

His sense of humor could be seen at these reunions when he appeared wearing shorts with a shark-skin pattern printed on them and a t-shirt sporting the slogan “USS Indianapolis Swim Team”.

The photo was taken before the ship delivered atomic bomb components to Tinian and just 20 days before she was sunk by a Japanese submarine.
The photo was taken before the ship delivered atomic bomb components to Tinian and just 20 days before she was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

The sinking of this heavy cruiser and the subsequent battle to stay alive until rescued, shaped the man that Jarvis became.

The USS Indianapolis was massive and heavily armed. She was a heavy cruiser of the Portland Class and served in the Pacific theatre during World War II.

In July 1945, she was tasked with a secret mission. The mission was to deliver cargo to Tinian Island in the South Pacific.

No one on board had any clue that the cargo they carried and delivered contained the components and uranium required to assemble the world’s first atomic bomb, codenamed ‘Little Boy.”

The atomic bomb “Little Boy” was dropped by a B-29 Superfortress bomber named Enola Gay and captained by Colonel Paul W Tibbets Jnr., on the 6th August 1945.

It exploded over the city of Hiroshima at an altitude of approximately 1,968 feet above ground level, causing widespread casualties and destroying everything in it’s wake.

A second bomb, “Fat Boy,” was dropped over Nagasaki, and these two bombs contributed to bringing about the surrender of Japan and bringing World War II to an end.

After delivering their cargo to Tinian Island, the USS Indianapolis set off through the Philippine Sea to join her battlefleet for an assault on the islands of Japan.

Three days into her voyage, she was spotted by a Japanese submarine. The submarine fired six torpedoes at the Indianapolis and, of the six, two hit their mark. Twelve minutes later, the USS Indianapolis slid beneath the waves.

Credit: www.legacy.com
Credit: http://www.legacy.com

As there was such a short time between the torpedoes hitting the ship and her sinking, 300 men never made it into the sea, and they went down with the ship.

This short interval also meant that there was no time to launch the lifeboats or gather survival supplies such as food and water.

This left 890 men clinging to what-ever wreckage they could find from the ship or treading water. More seriously, the radio operators did not have a chance to send an SOS before the Indianapolis slid under the water.

This left these men floating in shark-infested waters, under the blazing tropical sun with no shelter or provisions for the next 4-5 days.

In those horrific days, over 550 men died from dehydration, exhaustion, or were taken by the ever-circling sharks. When rescue arrived, there were only 316 men left clinging to the flotsam. Of those 316 men, only nine remain alive today.

After the war, Jim Jarvis married, and he and his wife were blessed with a daughter.

Last of the Desert Rats Passes Away at 107 Years of Age

H/T War History OnLine.

R.I.P. Jimmy Sinclair.

Wattie Cheung/Poppyscotland
Wattie Cheung/Poppyscotland

Jimmy Sinclair passed away at the age of 107. Before his death, he had the distinctions of being both the oldest living person in Scotland and the last surviving member of the Desert Rats.

The Desert Rats were the British troops that fought and defeated Erwin Rommels North Afrika Korps during World War II. Sinclair fought with the Cheshunt Troop of the 1st Regiment Horse Artillery in the 7th Armoured Division.

His death came just weeks after being celebrated on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

Tobruk, Libya, 18 November 1942.
Tobruk, Libya, 18 November 1942.

The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, called Sinclair “one of the most remarkable people” she had ever met. She went on to say that she was proud to call him friend.

Clarence House

@ClarenceHouse

“As the proud Patron of the Desert Rats Association, I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jimmy Sinclair at the astonishing age of 107.

“He was a true one-off, a man of remarkable humility, kindness and good humour.”

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The heads of two different Scottish charities for veterans called Sinclair an “incredible man.” They noted in a joint statement that Sinclair refused to wear his medals received for his service out of solidarity with his comrades who did not survive the war.

Sinclair was born in 1912. His mother died a month after he was born so he was raised by his grandparents.

After school, he began work as a slater. He joined the Territorial Army in 1931 and served with the Newburgh platoon of the Black Watch.

World War II began shortly after he married and he joined the Royal Artillery. He received medals for his part in the siege of Tobruk, the battle of El Alamein and assaults on Monte Cassino in Italy.

When explaining why that group became known as the Desert Rats, he recalled a time that he held a piece of chocolate in his hand and a rat came out from between the sand bags to take the chocolate and then disappear back into the bags.

Monte Cassino in ruins
Monte Cassino in ruins

He was badly burned at Monte Cassino which left him in the hospital for eight weeks. After his recuperation, he became the driver for Hugo Baring of Baring Bank.

After the war, Sinclair played trombone in an acclaimed brass band and worked for the Control Commission in Berlin.

His wife passed before him. He is survived by two children and three grandchildren.

Until the end, Sinclair enjoyed a shot of whiskey every evening before bed. When asked the secret to his long life, he responded simply, “Johnny Walker.” He also stressed the need to have a sense of humor and to keep a good attitude at all times.

He maintained a correspondence with Camilla, Duchess of Rothesay, whose father also served in the Desert Rats. She regularly sent letters and photographs to Sinclair. The Duchess called Sinclair “a true one-off,” and praised him for his humility, his kindness and his sense of humor. She went on to say that it was a privilege to have known him.

Sinclair never held a grudge against the Germans saying that the soldiers on both sides did not want to be there. He even began a friendship with Rommel’s son that continued until the junior Rommel’s death in 2013.

Sinclair had been the oldest known living man in Scotland since the death of Alf Smith in 2019 (at 111 years old). He was the last surviving Scottish soldier to have served with Field Marshall Montgomery in the 7th Armoured Division. His death came just one day before the death of Bob Weighton who was the oldest living man in the UK at the time.

OPERATION OVERLORD: THE GREAT GAMBLE

H/T  Warrior Scout.

One of the men mentioned in this story Harold Baumgarten was on Surviving D-Day on the American  Hero’s Channel.

The Allies victory on D-Day was complete—but only in hindsight does their triumph that day appear certain.

The endless training, the long and anxious wait for the start of combat, and the pounding trip through the English Channel had been trouble enough. Then Harold Baumgarten faced the hazy shore of Normandy, and a leap off a landing craft into neck-deep water – into hell. A private in the 29th Infantry Division, Baumgarten was in the vanguard of the attack on the beach that was soon to be called “Bloody Omaha.”

The cliffs ahead bristled with German soldiers and armaments, a mix of mortars and machine guns and rifles and artillery. Bombardments from Allied naval guns and bombers during the run-up to the attack had failed to dislodge the entrenched soldiers. They waited – and then gave the 19-year-old Baumgarten and his comrades a merciless reception.

“We were losing men right and left. The water was full of blood,” the veteran of D-Day, June 6, 1944, recalled years later. “There was a group of us running across the beach … When we got to about 135 yards away from the sea wall, a machine gun came from the trenches up on the bluff.”

Baumgarten felt a vibration on his right side and heard a loud thud. He turned his rifle over and saw a hole in the receiver. “[The] seven bullets in the magazine section had stopped the German bullet. Another thud behind me to the left, and that guy was gone,” Baumgarten said.

Baumgarten hit the sand behind a metal obstacle, a hedgehog, planted to ensnare landing boats. About the length of a football field still stood between him and the cover of the sea wall. He paused. To his right he saw a fellow soldier, Pvt. Robert Didmar of Fairfield, Conn., try to take cover: “He tripped over the hedgehog, spun completely around, and lying on his back [he yelled], ‘I’m hit! I’m hit! Mom! Mother!’”

Then Didmar fell silent.

Baumgarten looked to his left and saw Sgt. Clarence Robinson of Lynchburg, Va. Helmetless, Robinson was staggering; a gaping hole was visible in the left side of his forehead and his blond hair was streaked with blood. Baumgarten vainly screamed for Robinson to take cover. “He couldn’t hear me anyway,” he said. “The noise on that beach was horrendous, shells coming in, flame-throwers blowing up with guys getting on fire.”

Robinson staggered toward Baumgarten and fell near him. Clutching his Rosary, laying in about three inches of bloody water, Robinson began to pray. “And [then] the machine gun up on the bluff fired over my head, and cut him in half,” recalled Baumgarten, who over the next 32 hours was wounded five times. He was one of two men on his landing craft – which had carried 30 men onto shore that day – to survive D-Day.

Two years in the making

Baumgarten’s ordeal, the scene of carnage and helplessness, was just what Allied commanders had feared might happen as American, British and Canadian forces waded to shore at the vanguard of Operation Overlord, the long-awaited assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe. The coordinated attack, two years in the making, on the elaborate network of coastal defenses was unprecedented in scale – more than 160,000 troops, 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft, including more than 20,000 American and British airborne troops. But the extraordinary show of force and meticulous planning did not ensure success.

Allied commanders faced the prospect that German reserves numbering in the hundreds of thousands, backed by Panzers and other motorized vehicles, would overwhelm Allied paratroopers who landed inland and converge on the contested beaches, isolating and then dismembering the infantry fresh from the Higgins boats on the bloody surf. Some German commanders actually favored allowing the enemy to establish a beachhead and begin to push inland, so that they could be encircled and annihilated; “let them come,” was the phrase often heard.

The Allies could take confidence in having achieved air dominance in and near Normandy following a relentless campaign of destruction against the German Luftwaffe in the months preceding D-Day. But air power was just one piece – albeit an important one – of the strategic puzzle. Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower and his top lieutenants were all too familiar with a glaring weakness in their own forces: Most of the soldiers expected to breach Hitler’s Atlantic Wall had never seen combat. Although well trained and equipped, their response to a maelstrom in the landing zones remained an unknown. Fresh on their minds was the Battle of Kasserine Pass in North Africa in February 1943, when Afrika Korps forces led by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel routed mostly green American troops, forcing a 50-mile retreat. In anticipation of an Allied invasion of Western Europe in 1944, Hitler had placed the brilliant, battle-tested Rommel in charge of preparing the Normandy coastal defenses.

Rommel believed Germany’s best chance to defeat an Allied invasion was to do so at the landing points, and he drove soldiers and conscripted laborers to strengthen fortifications and add mines and beach obstacles. “The war will be won or lost on the beaches,” the famed “Desert Fox” general predicted. “We’ll have only one chance to stop the enemy, and that’s while he’s still in the water, struggling to get ashore. The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive.”

Rommel’s priority spoke to a fundamental worry of Allied military planners: Operation Overlord, which depended on the success of large scale amphibious landings at heavily defended beaches, didn’t have history on its side. Although the tactic was used successfully by the Japanese as early as the 1930s (against the Chinese) and staunchly defended by the U.S. Marine Corps over many years – as an alternative to attacking fortified ports – amphibious landings had a checkered record.

The disastrous World War I invasion at Gallipoli, by British, French and Australian forces influenced deep skepticism among British planners. And by 1944, Allied amphibious operations in the Pacific and Mediterranean had done little to inspire confidence. At Salerno and Anzio in Italy, Allied forces had landed in chaos and came to the brink of disaster. Plus, American marines had barely hung on during the invasion of Tarawa, suffering terrible casualties that fueled public outrage back home.

The difficulty of an amphibious attack was heightened by a logistical challenge: naval vessels had to not only carry the troops and equipment for the initial attack, but had to ensure a continuous supply of men, resources and equipment to support the Normandy campaign. Any major disruption of these supplies, whether by the enemy, weather or leadership blunders, could paralyze the invasion effort.

Ultimately, Allied military and political leaders decided that if unconditional defeat of Germany was to be achieved, there was no alternative to the largest amphibious invasion in world history. Failure would mean delaying the push to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny. Despite the mixed record with past amphibious operations, Eisenhower displayed unshakable resolve: “This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.”

Preparation for D-Day

In the run-up to D-Day, countless measures were taken to help ensure Operation Overlord’s success. More than a million people were involved, most in non-combat support roles. Ships, soldiers and supplies were assembled in gargantuan quantities in Great Britain; as one soldier recalled, “Half of England was under tarps.” While the Germans knew the Allies were massing for an invasion of Europe sometime in 1944, they didn’t learn when and where until troops filled the skies and approached the Normandy beaches on June 6.The extraordinary steps taken to maintain secrecy were successful.

Misinformation proved effective, too. As a result of a massive Allied deception campaign that employed dummy ships, planes, jeeps, armies and radio signals, Hitler believed the likely point of attack was at Calais, France, located at the narrowest part of the English Channel, just 22 miles from Great Britain. Meanwhile, Allied logistics teams assembled thousands of the innovative landing craft built by Higgins Industries in New Orleans, featuring drop-down gates for rapid unloading of troops and equipment. (Eisenhower would later credit manufacturer Andrew Higgins with playing a crucial role in winning the war, as his landing boats delivered marines and soldiers on D-Days around the globe.)

A final, vexing obstacle to launching Overlord was the weather. High winds and stormy seas in the English Channel delayed the invasion by a day, and frayed the nerves of paratroopers, foot soldiers, seamen and airmen. Suddenly, the fate of the free world seemed at the mercy of the elements. But then, early on June 5, 1944, forecasters delivered the promising news of a clearing sky for the following day. Eisenhower gave the long-anticipated order – “OK, let’s go!” – and the invasion fleet powered toward Normandy.

After personally thanking geared-up American paratroopers who would be among the first to hit Normandy, the Supreme Commander privately wrote and placed into his wallet a statement accepting responsibility for the failure of the invasion if plans went awry. “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops,” he wrote. “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” For emphasis, Ike drew a line under “mine alone.” Though he exuded confidence, It’s clear that Eisenhower was wracked by grave concerns.

The Day of Days

Confidence was evidential among American pilots and seamen who witnessed the armada’s approach to Normandy. As one P-47 fighter pilot, Lt. Charles Mohrle of the 405th Fighter Group, recalled, “Ships and boats of every nature and size churned the rough Channel surface; seemingly in a mass so solid one could have walked from shore to shore.” To Mohrle, a 23-year-old Texan who joined the Army Air Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the force appeared indestructible: “I specifically remember thinking that Hitler must have been mad to think that Germany could defeat a nation capable of filling the sea and sky with so much ordnance.”

Onboard the destroyer USS Harding, the ship’s executive officer, Lt. William Gentry, recalled a lingering quiet as the naval force came into clear sight of German batteries. “For several minutes nothing happened as we looked at Naziland and I guess they were looking back at us wondering how this tremendous bunch of ships had appeared out of nothing,” he said. “Suddenly, a German gun opened fire and as of that moment hell exploded from the mass of bombarding ships all along the miles and miles of assault beaches.”

Among those waiting for the Americans at Omaha Beach was Heinrich Severloh, a 20-year-old soldier in Germany’s 352nd Infantry Division. Severloh, who was inscripted into the Wehrmacht in 1942 one month after his 19th birthday, later described the thunderous “softening-up” assault from Allied bombers and naval artillery.

“Rockets and shells of the heaviest calibers thumped down continuously on our positions,” Severloh wrote in his autobiography. “The ground of the entire line of high coastal bluffs trembled under the head-on attack, and the air vibrated. Thick, yellow, choking dust filled the air … On the slope of our position, dry grass and gorse bushes began to burn.”

But when the shelling stopped, Severloh quickly recovered. As landing craft filled with soldiers reached the beach, Severloh said he did his duty. He shot American soldiers en masse as they emerged from the boats, using an MG-42 machine gun – which he said repeatedly overheated – and a rifle.

“I was a soldier; a soldier who was going to be attacked, and as such I now had to defend myself. I moved the safety lock of my machine gun to the off position and began to fire,” he remembered. “I could see the water spouts where my machine gun bursts were hitting, and when the little fountains got close to the GIs, they threw themselves down. After only a few seconds, panic broke out among the Americans. They all lay in the shallow, cold water; many tried to get to the most forward beach obstacles to find some cover behind them.”

Severloh reported firing thousands of rounds. “Soon the first corpses drifted about in the waves of the slowly rising tide. I fired further among the many dark forms in the water, which were still about 300 meters from the upper beach. After a little while, all the GIs on the beach had been brought down.” (Severloh, now deceased, noted in his book that “nobody can really imagine how terrible one feels” being personally responsible for many of the thousands of crosses at the Normandy American Cemetery.)

For many American paratroopers, whose critical job was to keep German reinforcements from reaching the beach landing zones, terror set in long before they set foot on French soil. “I looked at my watch and it was 12:30. When I got into the (airplane) doorway, I looked out into what looked like a solid wall of tracer bullets,” recalled Pvt. Leonard Griffing, a 19-year-old New Yorker in the 101st Airborne Division. “I said to myself, ‘Len, you’re in as much trouble now as you’re ever going to be in. If you get out of this, nobody can ever do anything to you.”

Zane Schlemmer, a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division months shy of his 20th birthday, landed hard and off target. “We had jumped extremely low,” he recalled. “I hit in a hedgerow apple orchard, coming up with very sore bruised ribs.” After clearing away his parachute, Schlemmer was unable to join his fellow paratroopers because of German gunfire spewing from a farm house. “The firing was quite overwhelming … I was alone. I had no idea where the hell I was other than being in France.”

An End to All Things

The ending to D-Day at Normandy is a dramatic story, popularly told through the writings of Stephen E. Ambrose, the films such as The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, through exhibits at museums. The invasion concludes with the Allies’ celebrated race across France – the beginning of the liberation of Europe. The Atlantic Wall was breached. The French flag flew again in the coastal village of Ste. Mere Eglise, and more Allied troops and supplies poured ashore, promising a hard-won victory the next year.

What seems unfortunate is that the result of this great sacrifice, of courage shown in defense of high ideals, often seems inevitable to students of history today. Of course the West would prevail, right? It was the irresistible force.

But the reality of June 6, 1944 was far different. Nothing was certain that day; it was a grim and dangerous moment in time, the ultimate test for America, its Allies, and its ideals. The risk of failure, of a very different chain of events, loomed large, and this understanding makes the outcome of D-Day even more significant.

Remembering D-Day

H/T  Town Hall.

Lest We Forget.

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This year marks the 76 st anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, and the long-awaited opening of a western front.

The year before, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had repeatedly asked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to open a second front on the Atlantic Coast of Europe, to provide his army on the east with relief.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in Europe, planned and carried out the liberation of Western Europe and invasion of Germany, code-named Operation Overlord. This large-scale invasion required hundreds of thousands of troops to be assembled and trained for amphibious landing. The plans had to account for beach attacks and required information on the terrain and weather tracking.

Before the invasion began, Eisenhower sent a message of encouragement and support to the troops. He compared the invasion with a “crusade” and noted that their goal was nothing less than “security for ourselves in a free world.” He expressed “confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle,” while noting, “We will accept nothing less than full victory.”

He ended with a request for assistance from “God Almighty upon this great and noble undertaking.”

The invasion began on June 6, 1944. It included nearly 3 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, some 11,000 planes and nearly 7,000 vessels carrying close to 200,000 tanks and other vehicles.

That night, Roosevelt broadcast his prayer. Biographer Jon Meacham noted, “the White House had distributed the text beforehand so that the audience — an estimated 100 million Americans — could recite the words with Roosevelt.”

“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.”

Imagine 100 million Americans reciting the words of this prayer with their president.

“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 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. …

“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. …

“Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”

There were more than 10,000 casualties among the U.S., British and Canadian troops, but the invasion succeeded in changing the direction of the war. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, the Germans surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

Take the time today to say a prayer of thanks and gratitude for those who fought for our country and won.

 

Franklin D Roosevelt-D Day Prayer

Below are the words to FDR’s D-Day Prayer.

I have also added the audio of FDR’s Prayer.

In today’s Christian atmosphere FDR would not be allowed to offer this prayer.

 

“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,” Roosevelt said. “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.

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Secret Documents Discovered That Could be The NKVD ‘Katyn’ Hit List

H/T War History OnLine.

I can remember when the Nazi’s were blamed for the Katyn Massacre.

They include details of several Polish police officers who were arrested by the NKVD from the town of Stowbtsy.
They include details of several Polish police officers who were arrested by the NKVD from the town of Stowbtsy.

The Katyn Massacre was tragic war crime committed by the Soviet Union during World War II. Historians believe that they are closer to understanding the true scope of that tragedy thanks to documents located in an archive in Minsk.

In 1939, the Soviets signed a non-aggression pact with the Nazi government of Germany. The agreement allowed the two countries to split occupation of Poland with Germany taking the western side and the USSR occupying the east.

Piszczałowski Palace was an NKVD prison in Minsk and one of the possible sites of the killings.
Piszczałowski Palace was an NKVD prison in Minsk and one of the possible sites of the killings.

When the Germans invaded the USSR in 1941, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to work with the Soviets to fight against Germany. A Polish army was formed in the Soviet Union.

When General Wladyslaw Anders began assembling this army, he asked the Soviets to release 15,000 Polish prisoners of war. He was informed that all those soldiers had escaped to Machuria and were not able to be found.

In 1943, the Germans announced that they had located mass graves in the Katyn forest near Smolensk. Over 4,000 corpses were found that had been shot in the back of the head.

The corpses were identified as Polish army officers who had been interned in a Soviet prison camp. Later investigations concluded that the men had been shot in 1940 prior to the German invasion.

In 1992, Boris Yeltsin released many documents related to the Katyn Massacre. Historians were shocked to learn that the order to kill the prisoners also included prisoners in western Belarus and western Ukraine.

In the documents, the head of the KGB at the time requested permission to destroy the files of 21,857 prisoners. This number is much higher than the number previously associated with the massacre.

The three NKVD officers who drew up the death lists under NKVD leader were Vsevolod Merkulov, Bogdan Kobulov, and Leonid Bashtakov.
The three NKVD officers who drew up the death lists under NKVD leader were Vsevolod Merkulov, Bogdan Kobulov, and Leonid Bashtakov.

In 1994, historians were able to gather the details on those murdered in the Ukraine when the Ukrainian government provided Poland with a list of prisoners from its archives. To this day, the identities of the Belarusian prisoners are unknown.

From the released Soviet documents, historians learned that there was a list which identified those murdered in Belarus.

Known as the Belarusian List, researchers have searched for clues to its whereabouts for years but have not been able to find it. The list is believed to exist in the Belarusian archives but the government of that country has not been willing to cooperate in finding it – denying that they even possess such a list.

Alyeksyey Melkin
Alyeksyey Melkin

But new clues were recently uncovered when historians discovered another file in the Belarusian archives. This document provides names and details of several Polish police officers who were arrested by the NKVD. Three of the named men were sentenced to execution by shooting and the fourth was sentenced to hard labor in a gulag.

Historians know that one of those men was Stanisław Jaskorzyńśki who was sent to a camp in Ostashkov. He was murdered in Kalinin and buried in Mednoye.

Researchers hope that they will be able to use the information about these officers to reconstruct the Belarus List.

Witold Pilecki: The Inspiring Story of the Polish Spy Who Took on the Third Reich

Finding the Belarus List has long been a high priority for the Polish government. With the latest discovery, Polish historians have vowed to continue working to learn the names of the Polish victims in Belarus.