Skip to main content

My father skippered the LCT 549.

The LCTs were the landing craft transports that carried soldiers onto the beach, and ferried the bodies back.

Up until a few months before he died in 2006, my father still had PTSD nightmares of the morning before the Normandy invasion.

When I lived in the UK, he visited once. We drove to Slapton Sands, and walked on the beaches where they trained. It was so easy to see that these were friendly, gentle beaches. Not at all like the traps that awaited them on Omaha Beach.

The midnight-early morning of the invasion, the navy of "Amis" (French slang for Americans, it also means "friends"), my father had sailed with the flotilla across the short stretch of water separating the mouth of the Dart River in England from France. The order came for the entire fleet to shift position, to move to the starboard (I think). The line of his LCT got tangled in another ship's line. He watched in desperation as day began to break. He said they were like sitting ducks, stuck in front of the German positions buried into the cliffs above Omaha Beach.

The Germans held their fire.

As a family, we always remembered D-Day on certain American "holidays."

From the time I was a child, my father slept in a bedroom separate from my mother. (She was addicted to prescribed pain medications and was an alcoholic, so we will never know the sequence of emotional events.)

When we would tiptoe into his room, he would wake with an exaggerated start and yell. I never understood why.

Many years later, my sister remarried. My new brother-in-law gave my father what he thought was a gift. Something about a history of D-Day. My father angrily threw the gift at his new son-in-law. "What do you think I would do with these? read and remember?"

In his 70s, my father had heart surgery to open up a few clogged arteries. In his post-operative delirium, he tried to climb out of his hospital bed. The nurse was a Vietnam Veteran, and literally climbed onto the bed to hold my father down and keep him from hurting himself. A few years later, following a major stroke at age 81, my father started to have TIAs (transient ischemic attacks, or small, silent strokes). We would take him to the ER, where he would try to climb out of the hospital bed, yelling,

"Over there! over there! I have to get over there, NOW!"

The last time we took him in, there were no beds:  a winter flu had taken up all the beds with children and elderly. The hospitalist looked at me and asked, "What the hell is your father talking about?"

I explained that he had PTSD, that he was reliving D-Day, that he was stuck in front of the German positions, and was trying desperately to escape. That if it was OK with him as a physician, rather than leaving my father yelling in a hospital bed in a corridor for the next two days, we would like to take him home. But that the physician had to play this out with me. I was only the daughter.

That the doctor should tell him, 'McKee! McKee, this is an order! I want you to go home now.' The doctor did as I asked.

That day, we took my father home.


In the hours that filled that awful day on Omaha Beach, my father and his crew made several trips to the beach and back. My father wrote an autobiography. I remember reading it and being so horrified, that I never read it again. I do remember my father telling me the story of the flag.

He made it back to Slapton Sands, near the Dart River, in England. He was so exhausted that he fell asleep. He awoke to someone banging on the hull of the ship, "Dammit, take down the ensign (flag)!"  My father pulled on his uniform, took down the flag, wadded it up, and pushed it into the bottom of his duffel bag.

Several months later, he returned to the US. He and my mother had married in 1936. She had gone to live and work in New York after he had joined up. She was working as a ticket-taker in Grand Central Station in New York City. The story goes that he walked into Grand Central in his whites, spotted her behind the ticket window, and got in line. "Two one-way tickets to Las Vegas, please," he said. She threw the tickets in to the air, handed her supervisor her cash box, and walked out with my father.

I don't know when he discovered the flag. I do remember that in the 1950s in Los Angeles, that flag flew every holiday outside our home. He refused to get it dry-cleaned ("too expensive"), and threw it in the washing machine. It may look like it's been through a war, but it was really only Maytag.


About 10 years ago I heard about this fellow Howard Dean. One of the amazing (aren't they always amazing) adventures in my civic re-engagement was working at the polls for a few elections. I brought my father's flag in once. Hung it on the wall above the voting stations.  Some guy walked in and said, "Who put that dirty rag on the wall? those colors should be retired!" (He was correct, the flag should only be displayed when it is beautiful and shining). But I explained that the flag was a symbol of why we were all there that day.....

Which brings me to today.

It is yet another anniversary of that most fateful day in history.

I, for one, remember. I have walked the beaches of Normandy, and understood the tragic folly of the US strategy that day. If it hadn't been for the Air Force dropping men behind enemy lines, we probably would not have won the day. The cemetery above Omaha Beach is darkly gorgeous and cold with the memories of history.

I, for one, remember what it is like as child growing up with a father with PTSD. Growing up, the man across the street had been a POW in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Never left the house. We couldn't play basketball in the backyard. Couldn't make noise. Terrible alcoholic.

A former Marine lived next door to the POW. And you know what? I don't remember my father, or the Marine neighbor, or any of the Veterans in the town ever looking after their own. Or trying to help with the kids who lived there and grew up with a father who was so, so badly damaged.


And where are we now, as a country? who among us takes the time, makes the effort to do something for our troops, our Wounded Warriors and our Veterans? how many Americans just lived through the past ten years without any memories, without any connection, and less understanding of what we just did to over two million of our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who deployed to OIF, OEF and now OND (Operation New Dawn)?

For the next 50 years, children of this generation of veterans will feel the distance and pain of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers who returned from war...but returned as different people. Distant. Withdrawn. Filled with nightmares, anger, hopelessness and despair.

Fifty years and over $500 billion to care for them. If we do nothing.

In the past 10 years, the US Army Medical Research & Material Command has worked with insufficient funding to develop new treatments and therapies to keep kids alive on the battlefield. Their evaluation process is, in my opinion, the best in the business - better than any venture capitalist, better than NIH reviews. But USAMRMC funding lurches from year to year. It was effectively cut with the sequester, because so many civilians work in research and provide healthcare as scientists and physicians.

I have my father's flag. It is folded in a box, out of sight, in a closet. But not out of mind. Waiting for....I keep dreaming that I will have it framed some day.

Two years ago, COL Dallas Hack MD, Director of US Army Combat Casualty Care Research Program, told me, "If I had more money and more technology, I could save lives on the battlefield."

I pray for peace, but know that the killing will not stop in my lifetime. Their nightmares will not end. The children will remember the killing and the nightmares.

We must do more for our military.

Because their war never ends.


Originally posted to asilomar on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 09:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks asilomar for sharing the flag story (35+ / 0-)

    My dad went ashore on D+2 with Patton and served as a combat medic through the entire campaign to Germany. He came back to the US three months after VE day. He rarely talked about the war except for some of the funny things like when they would find good things to eat or drink. I am sure he saw imaginable suffering and carnage. He always thought it was a miracle that he was never even wounded. I am sure the war had an effect.

    He was very well adjusted and loved by his family, friends and the people he worked with. But like many of his generation, and combat experience, he was very emotionally reserved. He was a great dad who taught by example. He has been gone since 1985 but I still miss him very much.

    I take great satisfaction that he was very proud of what I had accomplished before he died and I was fortunate to be able to do some very nice things for him and my mother before he passed away.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 09:56:21 PM PDT

  •  Excellent Diary. (18+ / 0-)

    Thank you for sharing your father's story with us.

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 10:54:10 PM PDT

  •  My Father was in the Naval Armed Guard, and (30+ / 0-)

    on D-Day he was aboard one of the damaged hulks towed to and scuttled at Omaha Beach to create breakwater (Gooseberries). He and his gun crew mates remained aboard to provide anti aircraft cover during the assault and in the days following to help protect the supply activities and inflow of reserves to the Normandy battle.

    He always served on Merchant Marine Ships and two of his ships were sunk by enemy action. He was haunted all his short life by the war. The night before he died, at 45, he was yelling to his buddies and responding to orders in some long ago air attack on one of his ships.

    A few years ago my Aunt Jeanne said to me that the family got my Dad's living body back after the war, but he wasn't in it anymore. We all loved him for his jokes and songs and his quiet kindness, but too much drink always took him back to the war and then days of dark silence.

    I always feel close to my Father on D-Day. He wasn't in my life very long, but I know where he was on that momentous day in 1944 and what he was doing. I can't help being proud of him even as I know the war he served in was a horror that stalked what little life it left him with.

    I hope all of you who had Fathers who fought on June 6th 1944, were able to share years of rich and full life with your hero. I hope you got to know them.

    Thank you asilomar. Lest we forget.

    •  just a reminder.. (10+ / 0-)

      D-Day was 69 years ago now --  literally a lifetime ago.  for most people alive today, its grandfathers, and great grandfathers or even great-great grandfathers who fought in WW2.

      We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

      by ScrewySquirrel on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 07:12:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm 17 yrs older than my Father was when he died. (10+ / 0-)

        My Fathers grandchildren weren't born until years after his death, so they haven't any living memories of him at all. He exists to them only in pictures and family stories. Their generation has been visited by war when a brother and cousin, a noncom in the 82nd, committed suicide before his 4th deployment in the current endless war.

        But today is about D-Day and Dad's children, nieces and nephews, now in their late 50s and 60s remember him. And I'll call Aunt Jeanne today. Dad brought up 2 beers to her room and talked with her for an hour before he left for basic training. She says it was  the 1st grown up conversation and 1st beer she had. She was 14 and he was 18.  

      •  "passing of the years...have softened the horror" (8+ / 0-)
        the Army historians who wrote the first official book about Omaha Beach, basing it on the field notes, did a calculated job of sifting and weighting the material. So saying does not imply that their judgment was wrong. Normandy was an American victory; it was their duty to trace the twists and turns of fortune by which success was won. But to follow that rule slights the story of Omaha as an epic human tragedy which in the early hours bordered on total disaster. On this two-division front landing, only six rifle companies were relatively effective as units. They did better than others mainly because they had the luck to touch down on a less deadly section of the beach.


        In the command boat, Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta pulls a Colt .45 and says: "By God, you'll take this boat straight in." His display of courage wins obedience, but it's still a fool's order.


        Above all others stands out the first-aid man, Thomas Breedin. Reaching the sands, he strips off pack, blouse, helmet, and boots. For a moment he stands there so that others on the strand will see him and get the same idea. Then he crawls into the water to pull in wounded men about to be overlapped by the tide. The deeper water is still spotted with tide walkers advancing at the same pace as the rising water. But now, owing to Breedin's example, the strongest among them become more conspicuous targets. Coming along, they pick up wounded comrades and float them to the shore raftwise. Machine-gun fire still rakes the water. Burst after burst spoils the rescue act, shooting the floating man from the hands of the walker or killing both together. But Breedin for this hour leads a charmed life and stays with his work indomitably.

        First Wave at Omaha Beach, written in 1960. "the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes."

        i always think of that article on D-Day....

        "See? I'm not a racist! I have a black friend!"

        by TheHalfrican on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 09:08:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you, Grabber: Lest we forget. (3+ / 0-)

      The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

      by magnetics on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 01:25:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, asilomar. Lest we forget: (27+ / 0-)
    For the next 50 years, children of this generation of veterans will feel the distance and pain of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers who returned from war...but returned as different people. Distant. Withdrawn. Filled with nightmares, anger, hopelessness and despair.

    Fifty years and over $500 billion to care for them. If we do nothing.

    Their nightmares will not end. The children will remember the killing and the nightmares.

    We must do more for our military.

    Because their war never ends

    Decades after his death (upon the death of my mother) I inherited boxes upon boxes of my father's "things".  Along with things of my mother.  I could not bear to go through these boxes & so they were stored for 6 years until my grief allowed...

    I recently was able to begin opening them.  And discovered secrets,  answers & questions that will now remain forever unanswered.

    One secret was the hundreds of successful bombing missions my father flew during World War II-the target my country of origins...

    After WWII, my father returned to this country that he had successfully bombed & adopted me.

    After WWII, he strictly flew either rescue or defense (SAC) until retirement.

    He shared many things with me throughout our lives-about the early days of being a flight instructor, jet jockey, aerospace medicine etc but never ever mentioned his involvement in WWII nor spoke about WWII.  Only the times before & after.

    And I never asked.

    He was an old school career military officer with whom I butted heads with through the '60s & most of the '70s...never knowing that someday I would open a box and come to an understanding long after his death.

  •  Dropping men behind enemy lines (23+ / 0-)
    f it hadn't been for the Air Force dropping men behind enemy lines, we probably would not have won the day.
    The father of the family upstairs from us when I was a kid parachuted into Normandy as part of the 101st Airborne.  Participated in the Battles of Saint-Mere Eglise, Carentain, Bastogne...

    He never really talked about it, not to me anyway.  I heard from his daughter that once, 60-odd years later, in his old age, when hospitalized and heavily medicated, he was vividly describing the tracers associated with the ground fire that the Germans were throwing up against the troop transports in skies over Normandy.

    Can't imagine how terrifying it was for those kids, barely old enough to get a driver's license and maybe a drink, many not old enough to vote.

    At Ease, Cameron.

  •  Equine therapy (8+ / 0-)

    It's one of the only methodologies that actually helps vets of all ages gain a bit of control back. PTSD is something that affects far more than the soldier who has been at war, as is beautifully, heart-rendingly described in this diary.  But there are other ways to get it... mine is from the violent marriage that I stayed in... horses are my way out.

    Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given. (Unknown author, found in Guide to Texas Etiquette by Kinky Friedman)

    by marykmusic on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 05:26:50 AM PDT

  •  My father navigated a B-17 on that day, bombing (20+ / 0-)

    enemy troops in the rear. After the war, he drank far more alcohol than before, according to my mother.

    He and my Mom put three children through school, including graduate school. My sister is newly retired from teaching. I spent 30 years in the computer field before moving on to my second career as a novelist. My brother is an MD specializing in orthopedics and at 66 has never shown an interest in retiring. These are the children a high-functioning alcoholic with PTSD and his wife raised.

    But we never accepted that he was an alcoholic until 2 years after his death. My concept of an alcoholic was a bum sleeping in the gutter. No one knew what PTSD was until after the Vietnam War.

    Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here:

    by Kimball Cross on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 05:59:52 AM PDT

    •  It was called PTSD only recently (10+ / 0-)

      After the Civil War, it was called "soldier's heart." The term post-World War I was "shell shock," and it was considered the mark of a coward. After World War II, it became "battle fatigue."

      They've known what it was all along. The symptoms and causes are the same, only the descriptors change.

      There is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from Midtown and how late is it open? -- Woody Allen

      by Mnemosyne on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 07:47:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gen. Patton famously considered battle fatigue (0+ / 0-)

        to be cowardice. When I was young, alcoholism was still considered a moral failing.

        Only after Vietnam did the medical community and society as  a whole come to understand this is something that happens to people who've been through war, or other intensely stressful situations.

        Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here:

        by Kimball Cross on Sun Jun 09, 2013 at 05:29:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Daddy was a B-17 pilot (or maybe co-pilot) (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, magnetics, worldlotus, chimene

      stationed in the UK at the time and left the Army Air Corp in Jan 1945 - that's all I know.  He committed suicide in 1972, but had left the family 10 years earlier.  His 2nd wife said she'd send my brother Daddy's records and medals but she never did.  When I tried to find them via government records request I was told there'd been a fire at the repository in St. Louis in the 1970s and the only thing they had was his last/discharge pay stub (which at $25 was a little too expensive for something with so little information so I didn't get it).  Maybe he was there, maybe he wasn't.  I'll never know.  All I know is that he never "fit" when he got back home.

  •  Political consequences of World War II. (14+ / 0-)

    (1) With the full revelation of the horrors of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism was radically discredited for at least a generation.

    (2) Racial supremacy theories were discredited also, thereby giving a huge boost to the civil rights movement.

    (3) Number (2) is true even though, as we were to discover in the 1960s, many of the men who fought the 3rd Reich were themselves racists. It often takes decades to see the full importance of a major historical event.

    Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here:

    by Kimball Cross on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 06:05:15 AM PDT

  •  My Dad's 20th Birthday was D-Day (19+ / 0-)

    In 1984,  I took a solo bicycle trip through Normandy, entering each small town on the anniversary of it's "liberation". (I should write a diary about that).

    I called my Dad every night. He was thrilled and asked me so many questions. I took a thousand photos to show him.

    We had always had a difficult relationship, but I suddenly began to understand why he was so f*cked up emotionally. So angry, so tired, so unstable. I understood why he NEVER talked about the war and why he never showed us his medals or (albeit limited) his memorabilia.

    PTSD ruins families. Unacknowledged trauma ruins lives. So many young men came home, but not really.

    It's happening again, but it's worse now because we know how war trauma infects society. It's a shame we keep letting it happen, but politicians who so proudly stood and voted to send them there decry the "costs" of helping them come home safely to their families, to themselves.

    "When will we ever learn?" the song remains the same; only the names of the wars and the wounded change.

    •  Three in my family. (11+ / 0-)

      My great-uncle was wounded at Anzio. My mom has told me how he struggled with PTSD (not the term they had for it at the time) in the years after the war. He lived to be 95, and my brother and I were lucky enough to spend a lot of time with him in the 1960s and 1970s. He was kind and gentle, beloved by all who knew him.

      My nephew in the Army infantry did a tour in Iraq and then one in Afghanistan. He has a little PTSD and a little hearing loss. He seems pretty stable now and intends to make a career of the Army. But if he could've afforded college, or if there had been any damn civilian jobs, he never would've joined the Army in the first place.

      His sister, my niece, is living with a young man who did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Marine infantry. His struggles with PTSD have been bad. A very intense physical-fitness regimen, coupled with a job on the night shift (when he wasn't sleeping anyway) have helped more than anything else. A couple months ago his employer laid off the night shift, and now he's having problems again despite sticking with the CrossFit program. My niece says the nightmares are awful.

      I have told him about my great-uncle's eventual happy life. I wish a similar happy ending for all those who bear burdens seen and unseen.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 06:54:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  DSC, I would love to read a diary of your trip... (10+ / 0-)

      and conversations with your father.

      My mother was in LeMans at the time. She and her family lived through the occupation. Two of my uncles in their early 20's had left for the Pyrenees as the Germans had tried to send them up to Belgium to work in factories. One died shortly after the war from ulcers. My mother always said that it was due to constant fear of getting captured.

      The night of June 5th, my grandfather had one ear glued to the radio and his eyes looking Northwest. My mom said that they knew something was happening but not sure what.

      I've walked all over those beaches, cemeteries, gun emplacements, and what not. I love the area. But to go to those beaches and understand what had happened there is a very spiritual endeavor.

      Please write a diary on this.

      While not all republicans are bigots, all bigots are republicans.

      by Maximilien Robespierre on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 07:12:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My father was in the Pacific ... (12+ / 0-)

    on a destroyer. But the symbolism is the same.

    I really must find a good sig line!

    by Rileycat on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 06:12:27 AM PDT

    •  Mine was on a destroyer escort in the Pacific. (6+ / 0-)

      I learned a little, my brother heard a lot and won't say. My father, as per his wishes, is buried in the Military Cemetery in Hawa'ii.

      To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. Roger Ebert

      by lexalou on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 07:29:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My dad was a bomber mechanic & engineer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northcountry21st, BusyinCA, Rileycat

      Served in the USAAC and ATC in North Africa, Morrocco, Casa Blanca.  His best friend served in the Pacific theatre and one of his airline friends was at Normandy on D-Day.  George always went for the reunions, but my dad and my honorary uncle (his best friend) didn't talk much about the War.  My uncle rarely mentioned it, although we could get my dad to tell us stories about basic training and flight training, but not much about actually being overseas.  

      There is still a photo of his B-17 crew with their bomber hanging on the wall at mom's house.  They are all gone now, he was the last.  

      When he died in 2007, we found a box in his closet with my son's name on it.  His theatre and service ribbons are there, some insignia, a few books about WWII, particularly about the aircraft, and a photo album and two notebooks.  He wrote a letter to my son in the books every 6/6 and every 12/7 for 27 years and told a different story in each letter about something he remembered from the places he'd served, his buddies, what it was like for him and my uncles and his cousins who all served.  What he could never say to me or mom, he wrote down for Ryan. We treasure that.  

      He never wanted Ryan to enlist - they saw Saving Private Ryan together and they both came home in tears.  

      "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

      by Ricochet67 on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 05:48:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Slapton Sands....I read those words and shuddered. (16+ / 0-)

    The whole area was cleared of inhabitants for live firing exercises because the gradiant of the beaches, type of sand and the fact that the salt marshes behind the beaches closely resembled some of the real objectives in Normandy.

    On 28th April, 1944 - just 7 weeks before D-Day, a convoy of 8 LST's headed in to Slapton Sands on a night exercise, was ambushed by German E-boats. The slaughter was horrible, with over 600 US dead.

    This was hushed up at the time, for both morale and security reasons.

    There is a memorial - in the shape of a Sherman tank recovered from the seabed from an earlier exercise - on Slapton Sands.

  •  I wrote a story about (15+ / 0-)

    Pvt. Bill Millin, the "Mad Piper of D-Day" at the Jonathan Turley Blog last Sunday. Link here. I was going to reprise it on DKos today, but not feeling well.

    Private Bill Millin had one of the most unlikely friendships in the entire war. He was very close to Brigadier (General) Simon Frazier, The Lord Lovat, The 15th .4th Baron Lovat DSO MC. He was also the Chieftain of Clan Frazier. Lord Lovat was the only member of the Royal Family to see combat that day. He was an iconic figure, wearing a light colored turtleneck sweater so he could be seen easily by the troops he led. He commanded about 100 commandos who went inland ahead of the regular troops to help secure the bridges being captured by the paras and glider troops. Bill Millin marched with them, playing his pipes the whole way.

    As for Private Bill Millin, the 21-year-old commando waded ashore armed only with his bagpipes and his sgian dubh stuck in the top of his sock. Those two men must have clanked when they walked. They remained friends the rest of their lives.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 07:15:39 AM PDT

  •  One of the commenters to my story (20+ / 0-)

    left this comment. This pretty well sums it up for me:

    After Saving Private Ryan hit the screens, I read an article about the reaction of D-day survivors who watched the film. One gentleman left the theater shortly after the film began. He remarked that viewing the beach scene was to much too bear, that it was the most realistic recreation he had ever seen.

    “So, that was what it was like,” he was asked.

    “Not even close,” he replied.

    h/t commenter Oro Lee.

    There is no way a film can make it close to the real thing. For one thing, a battlefield does not smell like anything else on earth. The smell of cordite, burning rubber and fuel, and the smell of intestines blown apart.  Hunters who have dressed large game animals know that smell, but even then, the contents are not spattered all over everything around them. Ugly? Hell yes. I wish more of the old men who send kids to war knew those smells, the heat, the vomit, the terror and the screams. To do what a friend of mine, now deceased, had to do. He was on the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill. One of his jobs was to pick up body parts and put them in steel garbage cans after they were hit twice by Kamikazes. It affected him the rest of his life.

    We have had a few Presidents who have actually faced an enemy over gunsights, and it changed them. Harry Truman was an artillery officer who commanded a unit that fired some of the last shots of WWI. He knew the battlefield, and in my opinion, was one of the reasons he ordered the atomic bomb to be used. He wanted the war over with immediately. George H.W. Bush was a decorated combat veteran who had shot and been shot at. A friend of mine who is a combat vet, said Bush ordered an end to the first gulf war because he had first hand experience with the meat grinder as a young man, and had no appetite for more killing. We were not so lucky with George the Lesser.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 07:41:19 AM PDT

  •  My father-in-law (7+ / 0-)

    was the youngest son of a prosperous German Jewish family in Frankfurt. After Kristallnacht, when he was 16, they sent him to America to make sure that at least someone got out. (Fortunately, they were wealthy enough to buy their way out a little while later.) He returned to Europe on D-Day, an American private, as part the second wave at Utah Beach driving a truck loaded with dynamite. As part of the combat engineers, he acted more or less as a stevedore for a few days, getting materiel up the beach and headed inland.

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 08:29:15 AM PDT

    •  My father was a combat engineer who landed (5+ / 0-)

      at Omaha on D-Day. He crossed Europe in the vanguard of Patton's army driving a truck loaded with TNT.  He talked about many parts of what that was like, but he never really discussed the landing.

      He was also reticent to discuss in detail his worst day of the war - the crossing of the Rhine River under heavy German tank and artillery fire. His squad of engineers were sitting ducks in little canvas boats. He lost most of the men he commanded that day.  Enough engineers survived the crossing to disarm the German charges, before the enemy could blow up the bridge. Patton's army rolled on, but at great cost.

      Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

      by OIL GUY on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 10:19:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  After a few days on the beach (6+ / 0-)

        he went back to driving explosives. The second day, while backing off the road because of a flat tire, he actually tripped a mine and blew up his truck. Somehow he only sustained minor injuries and while he was at the repple-depple waiting for new orders someone noticed that he spoke both German and French and was familiar with Belgium, having gone to boarding school there. A major in the engineers figured he'd be a handy guy to have as a driver, so that's how he spent most of the rest of the war. He was at the Bulge, too.

        Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

        by milkbone on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 11:36:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am thankful for your father's service and all... (4+ / 0-)

    the other men and women like him. They truly saved the world!

  •  I've got a flag, too. From my uncle's 1946 funeral (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, worldlotus, BusyinCA

    Uncle Alan, like so many others at the time, enlisted to go fight in the war. He died not from "enemy action" but from from cirrhosis. He did not drink, but was, like almost 200,000 other GIs, compulsorily "vaccinated" with an unlicensed, largely untested yellow fever vaccine that unfortunately contained hepatitis viruses.

    He got a soldier's funeral, like a lot of fellow GIs who were killed by the stupidity of one or another chunk of our huge military machinery. Veterans of more recent wars have their own sicknesses and scars to show for various similar applications of "military intelligence." Like my own Agent Orange exposure, or all those vets with "Gulf War Syndrome," or more concrete diseases from more recent vaccination and "prophylactic medication" binges. And sure, some of the military medical types were "only trying to do the right thing" by inoculations and medications intended to keep the Troops in the Field until they were really burned out. Like dosing GIs suffering withering PTSD with antidepressants and sending them and their skills back into The War.

    Uncle Alan's coffin-drape flag is cotton, 48 stars, and showing its frail and frayed age. When I was younger, my dad and I flew it on those then more meaningful, less commercial commemorations like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, from a line strung between two big old elms in our front yard. My dad was exec officer and then skipper of a 108' wooden submarine chaser in the South Pacific. Most of what he did was following mine sweepers around, shooting up the exposed mines with .50-cal and 40mm fire. He had his remembrances, like I have mine. (Both of us have one in common: We were ordered to go to sea into what the Brass knew was a typhoon, him and his 30-odd crew on that wooden sub chaser to "escort" a convoy that never left port, me and my unit in a chartered WW II-era, Korean-manned LST  to rush to I Corps just before that Tet thing in 1968. We both barely survived that idiocy. )

    America's participation in WW II was mandatory and inevitable, but really resulted from the military-industrialization of "the West" starting before WW I, and the cultural sicknesses known collectively as the Great Game and, if you believe the observations of Barbara Tuchman, in her studies like "The Guns of August," a kind of atavistic death-wish lust for Grand Combat. A disease that plagues us, like hepatitis plagued and shortened the lives of thousands of Good War veterans, to this day.

    The gulf between the images in the popular mind of what war is, and what the whole enterprise really is, is enormous and maybe unbridgeable, since we believe only what's comfortable and what we want to believe. Imperial war is nothing but a racket, a fool's errand -- sending Troops trained to maneuver and fire to do what? Kick down doors in Kandahar? Assassinate village elders marked by "someone" as "friendly to the enemy?" Support the local economies by tolerating and even funding the growing of poppies? Give Viagra and bricks of shrink-wrapped $100 bills to warlords who are "loyal" or not as the wind direction changes? Pay gunmen not to shoot at us? Buy and move $400-a-gallon vehicle fuel to "the front," wherever some careerist Brass Hat decides that is, this week? Launch Hellfires at "signatures" and wedding parties?

    The planet is heating up. The old ways of thinking and doing business, of which war-making is one of the most consumptive and negative and invasive parts, ain't going to work except for the greedy few. It's all well and good to get all misty-eyed about the sacrifices (in many cases, totally involuntary, ask Pat Tillman how that works, and a result of idiots in charge and "policies" and "goals" that have nothing to do even with "rational national interest," let alone survival of the species or even just the nation. But somehow manage to result in trillions of dollars of Real Wealth being transferred to the MIC and various dictators who are momentarily friendly to what our rulers tell us is the Pursuit of Democracy and Freedom (tm).

    It's time to stop this shit, time to stop glorifying or sanctifying with tears and mawkish remembrances, what I can tell you from personal experience (complete with nightmares and that kind of stuff) is nothing worthy of glory or even praise. Maybe millennia ago there were reasons to wrap the warrior in laurels if he survived, or in bronze and epic poetry if he died "valiantly," the kind of martial come-on that would keep the young men (and now young women -- go figure) willing to be spear-catchers and cannon fodder for the tribe. A quarter of the planet's real wealth goes to military industrialism and the Game of Empires. It's killing us all, and it's time to stop.

    By the way, here is an honest statement, at last, of The Meaning of Memorial Day, from an Iraq veteran:

    ...As a young soldier, I began the fight believing in the mission to my very core. We were in Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. After the WMD claims dissolved, I fought to stabilize the region and get rid of the al-Qaida insurgency in Iraq. [sic -- it was actually in Afghanistan, but that's another story...]

    Like many other American soldiers and civilians, I was manipulated into believing that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were interchangeable enemies, both guilty of the same thing. Each of us had our rationalization for fighting, our own personal excuse for being in the war. When I realized that much of the fighting resulted from our very presence in the country, I clung to my Catholic faith.

    Catholicism helped me cope with my involvement in Iraq in different ways. It was a comfort for me, especially during the hard times, and gave me a reason to stay in the fight. I began to fight to convert people to my belief system, and would discuss the differences between Christianity and Islam with my interpreter, an Iraqi national, and any other Iraqi civilian who would listen.

    I kept laminated prayer cards, depicting Gabriel, St. Michael, the pope and a crusader's cross, in my utility pocket. For me, the fight became a holy one, a sort of modern crusade. A myriad of reasons, rationalizations, excuses.

    But then I finally admitted the truth to myself. I was fighting so that the United States could ensure its interests in the region whether it was oil, strategic troop placement or finding an additional ally in the Middle East — or a combination of them all. And you might think I became disillusioned. While it is true that I am no longer religious, I did not allow my time overseas to have a negative impact on my life. I have come to terms with my service in Iraq and realized that fighting for economic interests, while not as ennobling as fighting for freedom, actually protects the American way of life in its own fashion. In retrospect, we shouldn't have gone to Iraq, but once we were there, we had little choice but to complete the mission.

    Regardless of how the American public feels about the war in Iraq, maintaining our standard of living sometimes comes at a high cost. War, and other subtler military moves, must be made in order for our nation to remain in contention as a world superpower and maintain the prosperity we have enjoyed for the last century. What makes the difference is how we commemorate the men and women who have died to protect our prosperity.

    Is this what it's really all about, "protecting our prosperity," which is really only the prosperity of a very few in our vast and accelerating income disparity, and iDiot iConsumption of our culture? Making a mockery even of all the Patriotic Noise that old Gen. Smedley Butler so rightfully referred to as "nothing but a racket"?

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 11:39:16 AM PDT

  •  A difficult story beautifully told. (3+ / 0-)

    Thank you for your story, and thank you for honoring your father's service and the sacrifice of so many in this way.

    I wish there were a Wizard of Oz to give the GOP a heart, Democrats courage, and the media a brain.

    by Malacandra on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 12:17:05 PM PDT

  •  Thanks, asilomar, Liked And Tipped. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grabber by the Heel, worldlotus

    I totally forgot today was D Day

    [Continually Updated] Links For Our ♥Marines All Our ♥Troops And ♥Veterans
    Thank A Vet For Your Freedom And Give One A Hug Too!

    Momma's take their daughters in whenever we go out! Gotta Love Them!

    Thanks for writing this diary asilomar.

    Some people forget what Americans have gone through to preserve Democracy. hint, the rich and republicans, who totally need to get a clue.

    My Father was in WWI, Navy. I had many relatives in WWII also.

    We Remember!

    Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

    by rebel ga on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 02:20:05 PM PDT

  •  There may be hope for a treatment for PTSD (3+ / 0-)


    Why can't we spend money on this and other diseases instead of trillions on wars and weapons?  Our vets deserve better.  My wife's father came in D+75, fought and was wounded in the Bulge and was trapped behind enemy lines for 13 days in Cologne in the Ruhr Pocket battles.  Of 100 men in his original company, only two survived the war.  We have their photo as a company before deployment, and it is a very sobering realization that all those young men but two were dead a year on from that photo.  He had "survivor's guilt" his whole life, and for many years, PTSD that caused him to wake with violent starts.  He won two bronze stars for his service, but that service scarred him to the day he died.

    America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

    by monkeybrainpolitics on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 03:39:12 PM PDT

  •  Beautiful & Sad story , yet one of many (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I too am a child , nephew and cousin to WWII veterans.   So many of them dealt with the aftereffects of the "War" and they need to be thanked, honored ,  and wrapped in warm gratefulness.  Some gave their lives, some suffered through the trauma both mental and physical.  We should NEVER EVER forget what the "Greatest Generation" did for all of us.   Despite  all of their sacrifices and problems these men went on to build a great Country , the Modern America.  Some debts we can never repay.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site