Bag of Randomness for Thursday, June 6, 2019

  • I finally got around to watching that Walter Cronkite interview with former President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the 20th Anniversary of D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery which I posted recently. Ike provides a very interesting bit of trivia. On that very day, D-Day, June 6, 1944, his son was graduating from West Point.
  • Things I didn’t know about the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial or simply found interesting:
    • It forms a latin cross and unintentionally happens to point to the United States, specifically between Eastport and Lubec, Maine.
    • It has a time capsule which will be opened on June 6, 2044.
      • This sealed capsule containing news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings is placed here by the newsmen who were here, June 6, 1969.
    • The cemetery contains the graves of 45 pairs of brothers (30 of which buried side by side), a father and his son, an uncle and his nephew, 2 pairs of cousins, 3 generals, 4 chaplains, 4 civilians, 4 women, 147 African Americans, and 20 Native Americans.
    • The last burial at the cemetery occurred just under a year ago:
      • On June 19, 2018, Julius H.O. Pieper was laid to rest next to his twin brother, Ludwig J.W. Pieper, and became the 9,388th servicemember buried at the Normandy American Cemetery.
    • The codename for the Battle of Normandy was Operation Overlord.
    • The oldest active battleship at Normandy was the USS Arkansas, commissioned in 1912. After the war, it was elected for the atomic naval tests at Bikini Atoll. It survived the airborne atomic explosion but sank a month later during the second submerged atomic detonation from ninety feet below the water surface.
    • I thought that land was considered U.S. soil, and for all intents and purposes I suppose it is, but technically the land is considered a perpetual concession.
      • Like all other overseas American cemeteries in France for World War I and II, France has granted the United States a special, perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery, free of any charge or any tax to honor the forces. It does not benefit from extraterritoriality, and is thus still French soil.
    • An overlooked fact, German’s also buried their war dead nearby.
      • La Cambe is a Second World War German military war grave cemetery, located close to the American landing beach of Omaha.
      • Initially, American and German casualties were buried in adjacent fields but American dead were later disinterred and either returned to the US or re-interred at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
      • After the war over 12,000 German soldiers were moved to the cemetery from approximately 1,400 field burials across Normandy. The cemetery is maintained and managed by the voluntary German War Graves Commission.
      • The sign in front of the cemetery reads as follows:
        • The German Cemetery at La Cambe: In the Same Soil of France
          Until 1947, this was an American cemetery. The remains were exhumed and shipped to the United States. It has been German since 1948, and contains over 21,000 graves. With its melancholy rigour, it is a graveyard for soldiers not all of whom had chosen either the cause or the fight. They too have found rest in our soil of France.
    • Before this cemetery, a temporary one was established. I didn’t know the bodies had to be moved, which I imagine was a very solemn, unpleasant,  and emotionally heavy thing to do for the people who actually disinterred and reinterred the bodies. Here’s the remarkable story about the Army’s graves registration soldiers.
      • “It was a job that had to be done in war; it was certainly no disgrace, but it was something you always thought about being done by someone else.”
      • When the bodies began arriving, he helped unload them—the first time he had touched a dead body. He fashioned shrouds out of discarded parachutes that littered the countryside and hired French workers to dig graves, paying them with freshly printed invasion currency. 
      • Graves registration men had to go underwater to cut corpses entangled in landing craft propellers, something Private John D. Little of the 607th called “the worst experience I would ever encounter.” Time was of the essence; the sight of bodies would be damaging to the morale of the thousands of fresh troops coming ashore.
      • Prompt burial was necessary not just for morale; it was crucial for reasons of sanitation, especially in warm weather. The odor of decomposition was almost unbearable. “We stuffed our noses with cotton and wore cloth across our faces,” Private Dowling said. No matter how often they washed out the one-ton trailers used to transport bodies, the odor lingered. 
      • They had to be careful, too, because the Germans sometimes booby-trapped bodies.
      • Dog tags, a pair of government-issued identification disks, were the primary means of identification. If they were missing, graves registration men would take prints of all 10 fingers and prepare a dental chart. If the body was in bad shape, they would inject fluid into the fingers to allow for usable prints or, in extreme cases, remove skin from the fingertips to get prints. 
      • In 1946 Congress authorized the return of bodies, at government expense, for burial in the United States at an eventual cost of nearly $191 million. The families of 170,752 fallen servicemen chose this option, and graves registration units oversaw the return of these bodies. 
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2 Responses to Bag of Randomness for Thursday, June 6, 2019

  1. Bryan B. says:

    Good D-Day centric info today.

    I only knew about Eisenhower’s son graduating from West Point on D-Day from watching Band of Brothers. The character played by Colin Hanks shows up as a replacement officer in E company and one of the other officers makes light of the fact that he graduated on the same day that most of the company was dropping on Normandy. Later, in an unrelated scene, one of the men in the company mentions that the new officer graduated from West Point with Eisenhower’s son.

  2. Alec666 says:

    Plot “E”, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, France.
    I have always found this also interesting

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