Tag Archives: D-Day

Meet four heroes of the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944

Map of D-Day landings (click for larger image)
Map of D-Day landings (click for larger image) (courtesy of Time magazine)

I thought it might be a good idea to write up something about D-Day in order to help people understand some of our military history, and to put the spotlight on some real heroes. I don’t regard artists, athletes, dancers, singers, actors, or other celebrities as heroes. It really alarms me that so many people know more about these fake heroes than they do about real ones.

Weakness emboldens aggressors

For one thing, many people don’t understand how British and American libertarian isolationism made World War 2 into a much bigger mess than it needed to be. As historian Victor Davis Hanson explains in the lecture I linked below, the Allied nations were much stronger and better equipped than the Axis nations before the war started. But Germany and Japan didn’t think that the Allied nations would do anything if they were aggressive. We know this from their writings and correspondence. They thought that British and Americans were just too scared of blood and death to ever go to war to stop them.

Germany and Japan tested their hypothesis out by re-arming and annexing territory from their neighbors. Britain and America were led by libertarian isolationists, so they didn’t fight back. The aggressors correctly understood that libertarian isolationists didn’t have the will to oppose them, even if they were weaker than the Allies. But the more they re-armed and annexed territory, the stronger they became. The Allied nations waited too long to confront them. And that’s why World War 2 was much harder to win than it needed to be.

Libertarian isolationism actually causes wars, because weakness emboldens aggressors. This is the lesson of history. But since libertarian isolationists don’t study history, (too busy with legalizing drugs, legalizing prostitution, promoting abortion, and redefining marriage), they haven’t learned the lessons of history.

Here’s a very good lecture about the causes of World War 2 by an actual military historian, Victor Davis Hanson:

So, that’s the first point I wanted to make: libertarian isolationism causes wars. Although libertarians claim to oppose war, they actually cause war, due to their weakness in the face of evil. So who stops wars? People who favor a strong defense, and show a willingness to fight back against aggression are the ones who REALLY oppose wars. This is called “peace through strength”, and you can see it in action in the Cold War, where Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet Union by making their aggression costly.

Heroes of D-Day

My second concern was to promote the real heroes of D-Day, over the fictional heroes of movies, fiction, music, dancing, sports, and other entertainment nonsense.

Here are the four heroes I chose:

  • Major John Howard
  • Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort
  • Brigadier General Norman Cota
  • Major Richard Winters

Let’s take a look at each of them.

John Howard

So let’s take the heroes in order. Major John Howard led elements of the British 6th Airborne Division to take two vital bridges southeast of Sword beach. He did this in order to prevent German socialist counterattacks coming from the east. After they took the bridges, they had to repulse German tanks with nothing more than their useless PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank) grenade launchers. The PIAT was nothing more than a grenade launcher powered by a coiled spring. It was very inaccurate, and only effective to 50 yards. But that’s all the British paratroops had to stop tanks, and they made it work. You can read about him in this book by Stephen E. Ambrose, entitled: “Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944“. This New York Times article tells the story in brief. He also is played by Richard Todd in the famous movie “The Longest Day“.

Benjamin Vandervoort

Lt. Col. Ben Vandervoort served with the 82nd Airborne Division. I read about how he lead an infantry attack against German Tiger tanks (!) and infantry in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book “Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany“.  Ben Vandervoort broke his ankle during the D-Day landing, but he insisted that the medic just “lace it up tight” so that he could supervise the attacking and holding of Ste. Mere Eglise, southwest of Utah beach, against a vastly superior enemy force.  This article tells about how he defended against elite German SS infantry and heavy Tiger tanks at Trois-Ponts, during the Battle of the Bulge. He was outgunned and outnumbered 20 to 1, and had just a few lightly-armed soldiers, two low-power 57mm anti-tank guns and some bazookas. He is portrayed by John Wayne in the famous movie “The Longest Day“.

Norman Cota

Brig. General Norman Cota is my favorite person in World War 2. At 51 years old, he nevertheless landed at  D-Day, and rallied terrified Army Rangers to follow him up the bluff, by telling them that Rangers ought to lead the way. “Rangers Lead The Way” later became the motto of the Army Rangers. He always led from the front, demonstrating how to attack a German machine gun position in a farmhouse to a group of American soldiers who were pinned down. He actually grabbed a bunch of grenades and led the assault team against a heavy machine gun! You can read about him in this short article. You can read about him in Stephen E. Ambrose’s “D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II“. He is portrayed by Robert Mitchum in the famous movie “The Longest Day“.

Richard Winters

Major Richard Winters served in the 101st Airborne Division. Winters led an assault against a superior force of heavy machine guns and 105mm field guns. His tactics were so brilliant that they are still studied at West Point today. You can see Richard Winters and Carwood Lipton in the HBO “Band of Brothers” series, or read this book by Stephen E. Ambrose entitled “Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest“, which is the basis for that series.

OK, we’re done. But I’ll post some video clips from Band of Brothers:

Carentan:

Foy:

Bloody Gulch:

Night Patrol:

I hope this convinces you that military heroes are far more important than the “heroes” of fiction and entertainment. It’s alarming to me that people invest more and have more respect for characters in Hollywood science fiction movies, and other such make-believe nonsense. We need to be rooted in reality. In reality, men who fight and die fighting evil to protect your freedoms are the real heroes. People who take military history seriously are able to give respect and gratitude where it is due – a very important part of being a mature, moral human being.

Remembering Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Remembering Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Remembering Lt. Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.

Remembering Lt. Richard Winters on D-Day: The Battle of Brecourt Manor

Richard D. Winters Monument
Richard D. Winters Monument

The caption says, “Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” Now let’s see what Dick Winters did during World War II.

MIssion: locate and destroy artillery
Mission: locate and destroy enemy artillery

Brecourt Manor

I want to link to this article from Investors Business Daily about Lt. Winters action at Brecourt Manor.

Here’s the summary of what Dick Winters did on the morning of June 6th, 1944:

First Lt. Dick Winters leapt into leadership on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His commander’s aircraft was shot down as the men parachuted at 600 feet. When Winters headed to earth, he was in charge of a small platoon.

When he landed, he had to command Company E with 148 men, because his commander had been lost along with the plane.

Yet in the chaos, Winters could locate only a dozen other soldiers for their first task: take out a 50-man German artillery battery.

“Winters ordered his assault force to strip down to only essential weapons — guns and grenades — to use against the well-prepared defenses, then deployed his machine guns to cover his advances,” Keith Huxen, senior director of research at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, told IBD. “Waiting for the proper moment, he led a charge across an open field, gaining the first gun placement, and then they moved down the trenches, systematically destroying each gun.

“In the process, Winters discovered a map detailing all German gun positions to kill American soldiers coming up from Utah Beach, which saved many lives.”

Joined by five reinforcements during the fight, Winters lost four dead and six wounded. The Yanks managed to kill 15 Nazis, capture 11 and wound many others.

Winters’ maneuvers are still studied at West Point as a case of successfully attacking a fixed position, despite being outnumbered.

Winters (1918-2011) was born in Ephrata, Pa., and the family moved to Lancaster when he was 8.

He later attributed his character and desire to go to church regularly to his mother.

Winters attended local Franklin & Marshall College and earned an economics degree with top honors in 1941. He enlisted in the Army in August to shorten his service time, rather than wait to be drafted if America was to join the war.

The diagram below shows where everything was positioned. The Rangers attacked through the trenches containing the four guns, while being raked with fire from multiple MG42 heavy machine guns across the open field.

Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor
Assaulting the guns at Brecourt Manor

The operation was one of the most famous actions in the Normandy invasion, and you may have seen it portrayed in the Band of Brothers DVD series.  But the article notes that when Dick Winters read the script for that series, “he asked that the profanity be cut from the dialogue of his character, since he never swore”. When the producers told him it was too late to change it, he wrote them a letter of resignation from the production, because “I don’t want these boys and girls thinking it is acceptable using profanity”. In the end, the movie makers removed the swearing by the actor portraying Winters.

If you are looking for a reason to buck the culture and stop swearing, there’s a good reason for you right there – Dick Winters never used profanity.

You can watch the scene from Band of Brothers in low resolution here:

If you play Combat Mission, like I do, you can watch a 28 minute AAR from the simulation of the battle.

Operation Market Garden

More from the article I linked above, this time from Operation Market Garden:

Near Nijmegen on Oct. 5, Winters’ platoon was a position where any movement carried risks. Rather than retreat when fired on by a larger force behind a dike, he led a charge to the top and on the other side discovered a company of 150 Nazi SS troops. Despite having only 40 men, the Americans opened up with everything they had, then shot up a company of enemy reinforcements.

The fray ended with 50 Germans dead, 11 POWs and countless wounded, with few casualties among the Americans.

“This was Easy Company’s crowning achievement of the war and my apogee as a company commander,” Winters told Kingseed. “This demonstrated its overall superiority, of every soldier, of every phase of infantry tactics: patrol, defense, attack using a base of fire, withdrawal and, above all, superior marksmanship with rifles, machine guns and mortar fire.”

Dick Winters is a brave man, someone I admire him very much. And I am grateful for men like him.

I blogged about another hero of the 101st Airborne Division, Ronald Speirs, in a previous post.