Doug Noble

Liberating the City of Light

ERNIE PYLE

Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) was one of the top correspondents during World War II. Embedded with the American forces in Africa, Italy, France and then the Pacific, his Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated column was published in 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers nationwide. Unfortunately, during the Battle of Okinawa, he was killed by enemy fire. In addition to his columns he wrote several books, including Brave Men and Here is Your War.
Here are some excerpts from one of his lighter and most entertaining columns: “Liberating the City of Light.”

PARIS, August 28, 1944 – I had thought that for me there could never again be any elation in war. But I had reckoned without the liberation of Paris – I had reckoned without remembering that I might be a part of this richly historic day.

We are in Paris – on the first day – one of the great days of all time. This is being written, as other correspondents are writing their pieces, under an emotional tension, a pent-up semi-delirium.

For fifteen minutes we drove through a flat garden-like country under a magnificent bright sun and amidst greenery, with distant banks of smoke pillaring the horizon ahead and to our left. And then we came gradually into the suburbs, and soon into Paris itself and a pandemonium of surely the greatest mass joy that has ever happened.

The streets were lined as by Fourth of July parade crowds at home, only this crowd was almost hysterical. The streets of Paris are very wide, and they were packed on each side. The women were all brightly dressed in white or red blouses and colorful peasant skirts, with flowers in their hair and big flashy earrings. Everybody was throwing flowers, and even serpentine.

As our jeep eased through the crowds, thousands of people crowded up, leaving only a narrow corridor, and frantic men, women and children grabbed us and kissed us and shook our hands and beat on our shoulders and slapped our backs and shouted their joy as we passed.
I was in a jeep with Henry Gorrell of the United Press, Capt. Carl Pergler of Washington, D.C., and Corp. Alexander Belon of Amherst, Massachusetts. We all got kissed until we were literally red in face, and I must say we enjoyed it.

Once when the jeep was simply swamped in human traffic and had to stop, we were swarmed over and hugged and kissed and torn at. Everybody, even beautiful girls, insisted on kissing you on both cheeks. Somehow I got started kissing babies that were held up by their parents, and for a while I looked like a baby-kissing politician going down the street. The fact that I hadn’t shaved for days, and was gray-bearded as well as bald-headed, made no difference. Once when we came to a stop, some Frenchman told us there were still snipers shooting, so we put our steel helmets back on.

The people certainly looked well fed and well dressed. The streets were lined with green trees and modern buildings. All the stores were closed in holiday. Bicycles were so thick I have an idea there have been plenty of accidents today, with tanks and jeeps overrunning the populace.

We entered Paris via Rue Aristide Briand and Rue d’Orléans. We were slightly apprehensive, but decided it was all right to keep going as long as there were crowds. But finally we were stymied by the people in the streets, and then above the din we heard some not-too-distant explosions – the Germans trying to destroy bridges across the Seine. And then the rattling of machine guns up the street, and that old battlefield whine of high-velocity shells just overhead. Some of us veterans ducked, but the Parisians just laughed and continued to carry on.

Source: Ernie’s War: The Best of Ernie Pyle’s World War II Dispatches, edited by David Nichols, pp. 351-54.
Also online at: https://sites.mediaschool.indiana.edu/erniepyle/wartime-columns/

Independence Day – July 2nd, 4th, or ? You Choose

PILE OG CASKS FOR A BONFIRE

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain in 1776 actually occurred on July 2, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence.This resolution had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain’s rule. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five,(John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author). Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it two days later on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2.. Historians have long disputed whether members of Congress even signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4 ,though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

By a remarkable coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only two signatories of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as presidents of the United States, both died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration, Jefferson even mentioning the fact.(Only one other signatory, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, survived them, dying in 1832.) Although not a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, James Monroe, another Founding Father who was elected as president, also died on July 4, in 1831. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, was born on July 4, 1872; so far he is the only U.S. president to have been born on Independence Day.

Father’s Day

Grace Golden Clayton

Father’s Day is a relatively modern holiday, so different families have different traditions. These can range from a simple phone call or greeting card, to large parties that honor all of the “father figures” in a particular extended family.

The first observance of a day honoring fathers was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father and suggested that her pastor Robert Thomas Webb honor all of the fathers killed in the Monongah Mining Disaster. This disaster occurred in December of 1907, and killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children.

Clayton’s event was never promoted outside the town itself, and no proclamation of it was made by the city council.

On June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Smart Dodd. Her father, the civil war veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. She was also a member of Old Centenary Presbyterian Church (now Knox Presbyterian Church), where she first proposed the idea. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909 h, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday to honor them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city”.

In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity. In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She gained the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday. By 1938, she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the holiday’s commercial promotion.

Americans resisted the holiday for its first few decades, viewing it as nothing more than an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes.

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak at a Father’s Day celebration and he wanted to make it an officially recognized federal holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.

In 1957, Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father’s Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus “[singling] out just one of our two parents”. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

D-Day – “Thank God for the United States Navy!”

NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER PICTURE

“Thank God for the United States Navy!”

That quote comes from a very grateful Major General Leonard Gerow, commander of V (5th) Corps, which consisted of the 1st (Big Red One) and 29th infantry divisions that landed on Omaha Beach.

Much has been written about Operation Overlord, the invasion of mainland Europe on D-Day, June 6th,1944, but little has been said about the Multinational Naval involvement (Operation Neptune) and the destroyers that may have saved the invasion.

Omaha Beach was one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during World War II. It was an open beach, some 8,000 yards wide and 400 or more yards deep, and the most heavily defended portion of the Normandy Coast. Unfortunately, landing here was necessary to link the British landing to the east at Gold Beach with the Americans landing to the west at Utah Beach.

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha Beach. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong and inflicted heavy casualties on the landing U.S. troops. Under heavy fire, the engineers struggled to clear the beach obstacles, and later landings had to bunch up around the few channels that were cleared. Weakened by the casualties taken just in landing, the surviving assault troops could not clear the heavily defended exits to get off the beach.

Half an hour before the landing, Naval ships sitting 12 miles offshore started shelling the German installations, but the 100 plus American bombers sent in to soften up the area for the landing were hampered by fog. Instead of bombing the German installations overlooking the beach, they bombed further inland, leaving the German beach installations fairly intact.

General Omar Bradley, the commander of the ground forces, sensing the possibility of defeat on Omaha Beach, directed naval destroyers to sail to a point a thousand or less yards off the beach and shell German installations with their 5-inch guns.

This tactic was not new having once before been used during a landing on a Japanese-held island in the Pacific. The landing craft carrying the Marines were grounded on a reef several hundred yards offshore making them “sitting ducks” for Japanese guns. Moving into the shallows, destroyers protected the Marines while they made their way to the beach.

As the destroyers cruised back and forth in the shallows just off Omaha Beach, they took fire from the German artillery, mortars and small arms. They were successful in not only destroying many German emplacements, but also distracting the Germans, thereby reducing the amount of fire the troops were getting, allowing them to move forward off the open beach.

This is why, when General Gerow went ashore to set up the V Corps headquarters, his first message to General Bradley was: “Thank God for the United States Navy!”