Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jun

5

1944

2300: ‘I wish to God it were safely over’

The Chief of General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke at his desk in the War Office in London.

It is very hard to believe that in a few hours the cross Channel invasion starts! I am very uneasy about the whole operation. At the best it will fall so very very far short of the expectation of the bulk of the people, namely all those who know nothing of its difficulties. At the worst it may well be the most ghastly disaster of the whole war. I wish to God it were safely over.

Jun

5

1944

2200: BBC ‘the dice are on the table’

Resistance member setting an explosive charge on a railway line.

That Sunday, 4 June, I went to a party at a friend’s house. As I stood there with people dancing all around me, I had this strange feeling that I was like a little god, because I could see into the future. I wanted to warn all my friends to go into hiding, but of course I couldn’t say anything, not even to my parents, because I was sworn to secrecy. I stood there wondering how many of my friends would survive.

Jun

5

1944

2030: Eisenhower meets the men of the 101st

1st Lieutenant Wallace C. Strobel, who survived the night and subsequent week of fighting without injury. He died in 1999. The 502nd jumped into Normandy with 792 men. After six days of desperate fighting, only 129 were still standing and able to make the roadmarch back to St. Come-du-Mount.

You must remember that the men of the 101st and the 502nd Parachute Infantry especially were exceptionally well trained. We all felt we had outstanding senior and field grade officers. We had the best arms and equipment available and we had been very well briefed for the operation. We were at a peak physically and emotionally. We were ready to go and to do our job. While I think the General thought his visit would boost the morale of our men, I honestly think it was his morale that was improved by being such a remarkably “high” group of troops. The General’s later writings confirmed this.

Jun

5

1944

1700: with the invasion fleet at sea

Eisenhowers letter to the troops about to depart for Operation Neptune, distributed to some men directly, read out by commanding officers and ship's captains.

All remains quiet on board and around us except the splash of water over the bow and the wind thru the masts. The captain of the ship reads a message from President Roosevelt, General Eisenhower. The Captain himself gives us a message of hope and a prayer of safety and he was followed by Lt. Col. Teague, our Battalion Commanding Officer, and the Chaplain.

Jun

5

1944

1300: Minesweepers head the invasion fleet

The minesweeper HMS Speedwell.

Sailed at 1300 for France — many guesses as to where we’ll land. Our job is to sweep a channel through the enemy minefield to let everything else go in. We go in first — not a pleasant prospect. Told that at one spot a 16 inch shore gun can be brought to bear on us — unless the R.A.F. can knock it out.

Jun

5

1944

0415: The invasion is on

Paratroops of 22 Independent Parachute Company, British 6th Airborne Division, waiting to board the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle Mk V that will drop them over Normandy, RAF Harwell, 5 June 1944.

Thus has been made the vital and crucial decision to stage and start this great enterprise which will, I hope, be the immediate means of bringing about the downfall of Germany’s fighting power and Nazi oppression and an early cessation of hostilities.