Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

The Winning Side Writes History…

Posted by middlerage on June 9, 2014

But of the Winning Side, Usually Only Those Who Survive Write the History…

Even though we won that day on the beaches of Normandy, all of the received history is about courageous triumph in the face of horrible odds. However this fascinating article from a “combat historian” – an army colonel who was there and taking notes – finally gives a view, though foggy, of what fully three-quarters of the men went through: neither courage nor cowardice but rather death, epic tragedy, and absolutely no advancement off the beach. If your squad (a pitiful few) managed to take out a machine gun nest and get off the beach you were written into eternity. But this article finally gives voice to those who didn’t survive, or only barely survived hunkering in the tide until the next day.

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. Three times that number were shattered or foundered before they could start to fight. Several contributed not a man or bullet to the battle for the high ground. But their ordeal has gone unmarked because its detail was largely ignored by history in the first place. The worst-fated companies were overlooked, the more wretched personal experiences were toned down, and disproportionate attention was paid to the little element of courageous success in a situation which was largely characterized by tragic failure.

– S. L. A. Marshall, 1960 [emphasis mine]

Read the whole thing at the Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1960/11/first-wave-at-omaha-beach/303365/

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