This June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, and so the media outlets have been providing lots of footage and reports about it for the last few weeks. It’s hard to believe that so many years have passed since that event and even harder to believe that so few of those who served are still alive to remind us of the trauma.
The recent interviews of WWII veterans are are almost just too much to bear, not least because of the pain and suffering those vets continue to endure. They aren’t able to really say much in the interviews, so that doesn’t account for the effect. It’s really just seeing them try to talk about it and all the visible pain that persists that is so horribly moving. And despite the horrors and victories that came with D-Day, the war, of course, went on and on.
I cannot help but think of my own father as I watch these interviews. He enlisted on his eighteenth birthday and served for nearly four years as a gunner, first on the Q-ship Asterion and then on the USS Atlas, an LST. He rarely spoke of the war. Even when asked direct questions, he would only offer up a phrase or two about the fine men with whom he served.
Incredibly, this year my brother located an actual “secret” US Fleet file for the Atlas written just after the landings at Utah Beach. He found it posted at the USS Atlas page on facebook of all places. Characterized as the “Chronological Narrative of Operations through June 17, 1944,” the document comprises 14 pages of log entries and briefs. Even without embellishment, it reads “scary”… unknown planes overhead, bombs dropping, communication failures, and big guns being fired without authorization. The following comment made toward the end of the document gives needed context: