On the Beach

On the Beach

My father came ashore on Omaha Beach in 1944, not on D-Day but two weeks later, as part of the 3rd Armored Division. For almost a year, Daddy and his fellow soldiers fought across northern Europe. By the time World War II was over, the division had accrued five battle stars: Normandy, France, the Hürtgen Forest, the Ardennes and Central Germany. My father had been a part of the 3rd Armored Division since its modern incarnation in early 1941, before Pearl Harbor, and he was with it for the duration. I’d wager there weren’t many of his peers who could have said that in May, 1945.

I was poking around the Web on the subject of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, when I found this amazing video. It is a two-minute film, in color, of ships landing on Omaha Beach carrying the 3rd Armored Division. My father would have been on one of these ships. This was after the fighting of June 6, but the film gives a very clear picture of the beach and the effort being made to establish a foothold in France. The narrator makes one mistake. At one point, he refers to the 3rd as “the 3rd Army.” This, of course, would have been Patton’s army, which was not yet in France. Even during the war, this mistake was common. Correspondents on occasion credited the colorful Patton and his 3rd Army with feats actually performed by the 1st Army’s “Spearhead Division,” which in reality took a backseat to no one. You can look it up.

74 responses to “On the Beach”

  1. This was my parents’ generation. Neither were part of the military as my Dad was a Farmer and my Mom was a nurse. But today we would look at them and say that they were just kids. A LOT of brave kids sacrificed their lives for freedom. We are eternally grateful.

    The youngest D-Day veteran would be 92….let that sink in.

  2. Thanks for this post, Jimmy. My dad was sent into France sometime after D-Day, I’m not sure when. When he talked to us as kids about it, he told stories of funny things that happened, but not the bad times. I wish I had learned more from him, but his personality turned for the worse as we both grew older and we found it hard to talk to each other. I wonder how much of that related to whatever he experienced during the war?

  3. I kept trying to say a bunch of different things, but I can’t really manage it. We have the soldiers that landed on the beaches of France, those that fought below the 38th parallel, those that fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and those that fought and are fighting in the deserts of Southwest Asia. They all sacrificed greatly for the ideal called America. Those sacrifices HAVE to mean something! I wonder if we are still (or can be) worthy of them?

  4. My dad had already been shot down and died in Italy but his fellow “Snoopers” went on to France to fly reconnaissance.

    Flying a F-6A Mustang armed with cameras for 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Corsica and Italy. His fellow pilots went on to support the 7th Army in Southern France.

    • As the D-Day armada was departing Portsmouth, Rome was falling to Allied forces under Gen. Mark Clark. Italy, Churchill’s notorious “soft underbelly of Europe,” had been a very difficult and deadly campaign and, until that moment, had represented the brunt of Allied efforts in western Europe. However, after the invasion forces had landed in France, Clark is reported to have said, “Well, we’re just a sideshow now.” Or words to that effect.

  5. A link from today’s comic strip of the day:


    Sketches from an American artist pilot in WW II. Notes and comments from his letters, and friends. He was killed a few weeks after D-Day, over France. I wandered through the web pages for quite a while. Sadly, the book published is long out of print. I may decide that the $100 for a used copy on Amazon is worth the price.

    Jimmy, I think you’d appreciate the art and the artist.

  6. Only 89, I missed serving in WWII, put in my 2 yr A.D. as an admin. officer on Long Island, W. Ger., and the UK, the latter 2 as postal officer w/ knowledgeable 1sgts. Thanks, Jimmy, for the insights.
    “.. worthy of them?” Not the loudest of the current crop, but that’s usual, isn’t it?

  7. When I listen to the narrator on the video I hear him say, “3rd Armor Division’, not 3rd Army. Regardless, thanks for posting the link, Jimmy.

  8. Jimmy, as great as D-Day was, I’d like to bring attention to those soldiers that came at the Japanese from the rear. My dad was in the Coast Artillery Corps or Army Mine Planter Service. He landed in China on gliders with a few hundred other soldiers. He was, at one time, part of a reconnaissance team working with Merrill’s Marauders. He was a staff sergeant in charge of a platoon of 52 men. They landed in China and those with him marches 2000 miles through China into Japan to attack from he rear. While crossing a river a sniper shot a hole in my dad’s helmet. Luckily he was wearing the liner (a lot of the men didn’t, too hot), and that saved his life. The bullet did a few circles between the helmet and the liner leaving my dad with a headache for a few days, but, otherwise he came home safe. As far as I know there was only one movie made (I can’t remember the name), about these brave men who trekked through thick jungle, facing unknown human and nonhuman predators. It has army footage of the gliders landing and my dad was in the last glider. He survived and brought all his men back alive.

  9. Today’s ceremony was very moving. The survivors there at the very site, 75 years later. President Trump telling incredible stories of bravery, resilience and determination under horrific conditions– then pointing to the heroes of the stories, in the flesh and sitting right there. Probably the last major remembrance milestone these old soldiers will attend, and after they’re gone it’s all up to the historians to tell the story.

  10. Jimmy, your post inspired to try to find out more about the uncle of mine who died in France during the liberation. According to the online information I have now found, his unit was landed on D Day plus 4. He was KIA on 26 July 1944, while his unit was part of the force taking St. Lo. Vick, Forrest, d. 26-Jul-1944, Private, 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, Alabama, Plot D, Row 14, Grave 26, Purple Heart. There were even photos of the unit in action: https://9thinfantrydivision.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/47thinfantry-regiment-25th-july-1944-normandy2.jpg

    • Mark, how does one begin such a search? Wife has a relative who flew recon over Europe. Family lore – mainly from a sister – says he either was shot down or he hit a bridge…but, which? We do know his grave’s location in England.

      • I started with the grave record. It gave his unit information, date of death and the award of the Purple Heart. From there I searched online for the unit information and found a unit history that gave information about where it served and had photos. In Alabama’s case, the state archives maintain lists of servicemembers who were KIA, perhaps yours does too? There is a website called Find a Grave which lists many burial records. Hope this helps.

          • I’ll give it a try, although I doubt I’ll be able to come up with a serial number. [I suppose “separated from the service” includes death.] His family name is rather distinctive, as are his two given names, so I suspect there was exactly one person of his name in the entire history of this country.
            Many thanks.

            BTW, the sister mentioned as a source was – still is – the aviator’s sister, not my MBH’s sister.

  11. What Jackie didn’t mention was that she was one of over 50,000 WWII war orphans whose fathers died before their children’s births. 2nd Lt. Jack Hodgson died 19 Jan 1944. Had he survived that mission, he would have had to fly only 10 more missions to rotate back to the States, where his daughter was born February 7, 1944. He was 22 years old when he died.

    • I can’t begin to imagine the hardship each of those young mothers and their children faced. We’ve heard of only the smallest part of the difficulties Jackie faced. The website I posted earlier was done by the son of a father he never met. That those tragedies were echoed in the lives of over 50,000 other children is heartbreaking.

  12. May God Bless all our brave solders, may we always honor them and preserve what they sacrificed so much for. God’s Grace upon them and His Peace with their families.

  13. If you’re interested I just finished a good book about the 3rd Armored division in Europe starting a few weeks after landing in France. The book is “Spearhead” by Adam Makos. It gives a first hand account of a tank gunner from Belgium through the end of the war. It gives an accurate account of the German people they encountered in their push to end the war.

  14. As a follow-up to my post about Jackie’s father, 2nd Lt Jack Hodgson, the aircraft in the photo is an F-6C Mustang assigned to his unit, the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. I believe that at the time of his death the unit was flying F-6A and F-6B fighters, one of which he was mostly likely flying. But externally, either would be pretty much identical to the F-6C. Prior to the US becoming involved in the war, he, as many other Americans did, went to Canada and joined the RCAF; was sent to the European theater; and was later transferred to the USAAF.

    Note the two German “kills” indicated on the fuselage. The Mustangs were fighters, but Lt Hodgson was flying the unarmed version (named “The Pat”) on a photo recon mission when he was shot down. Ironically, he was misidentified and shot down by a British RAF pilot. Because of that, records of the incident were sealed for 50 years, and Jackie did not learn that until 1994. His body was never recovered, and he was listed as “MIA Presumed Dead” for seven years, then reclassified as “KIA”.


  15. My dad seems to have been a memorable and lovable man child. Fifty years after his death I obtained the list of his surviving fellow pilots and crewmen. I phoned every single man.

    Through their memories .my father’s life at the last emerged and I met my father. I spoke to his wingman present at his death /shooting. Spoke to his mechanic who told of cursing the kid for sitting on wing smoking.

    The stories kept coming and the life of these incredible “spy” pilots flying unarmed photo planes behind enemy lines, diving like crop dusters down to ground and holding steady in long passes while film ran before pulling out.

    But it was the young kids being kids, the memories of my dad’s many famed stunts like stealing an Army transport vehicle for their use, then “seizing” for government use each pilot an automobile from the local citizens. He had to give them back.

    My phone bill was gigantic. I called and tracked for months, wrote letters, emails. But I met my father.

  16. I hope those of you reading the above feel you met Jack, if just briefly. I think I would have liked him a lot. I like to think that would have been mutual.

  17. The memories recounted above are examples of what makes the book The Longest Day a great read. Instead of history written to read like a memorial whose subject is a marble statue or bronze plaque. These memories and books like that bring the participants back to life, make them real human figures who we can imagine talking to, having fun with at another time, and learning from. So, although he is dead, thanks to Cornelius Ryan, and thank you to all who have shared what you know of your own families who took part in this.

  18. If any of you have telescopes (or friends with telescopes) this weekend (and the next few days) is a great time to view Jupiter.

    1) On Monday the Earth and Jupiter will be at their closest until sometime next year. With good binoculars, you can easily see its four largest moons.

    2) Jupiter’s most famous feature, the Great Red Spot, is unravelling. If it doesn’t reverse itself it may be something future generations will only read about and see in historical videos.


  19. I’m very grateful to those who served, especially those who gave their all.

    And, Ghost, I couldn’t agree more with that “kale no” T-shirt. Kale and cilantro both taste terrible to me.

  20. My favorite new tee shirt we are selling?

    What The Cluck? It has big graphic rooster on it. Chickens are very popular this year.

    Ghost disapproved of Freshly Laid so we are not selling it.

  21. Today’s 9CL quotes the most delightful tune from the G&S opera I care least for, “Yeomen of the Guard.” Guess Brooke is a Savoyard, of sorts. Maybe that’s why I like him more than most of you do. Cannot post 2 URLs at once, but today’s “Pibgorn” stretches limits [literally] a bit, lower right corner. Clod has the hots for Pib. Longish drive today, possible rain & tunnerboomies. Pray.


  22. So about today’s A&J: Anyone remember the one where little Gene is all excited saying how we are going to land on Mars…someday…maybe…if we have enough money? I can’t remember Arlo’s wry comment as the final panel, but I had it up in my office for years. That must have been during the George H Bush years maybe??

  23. Home resting today while Ghost minds the shop. I have cellulitis and lymphedema in left arm, very swollen, on antibiotics in addition to normal chemo stuff. I dislike being a patient, I am not patient.

  24. Awake eating saltines for my midnight pain meds, every 6 hours by Ghost’s alarm. The meds make me nauseous so counter with crackers and lots lime water for hydration.

    Cannot understand anyone taking drugs recreationally. What do they like? The online articles mention euphoric rush but I don’t even feel much sense of relief of pain.

    Idea is you will still be in pain but tolerable.

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