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World War II - D-Day
D-Day, during World War II, June 6, 1944, symbolizes the most significant military accomplishments of this century (Alter, 1994). It was an assault in Normandy, France, between the United States and German Soldiers ("D-Day," 2004). World War II was a preventable tragedy and its occurrence represented an immense political failure. It was a national trauma that permanently changed us. The shared experiences of scrap drives rationing, anxiety issues, and personal loss inspired a generational solidarity that still endures. The need to finance the war led to the development of income tax withholding. In 1941, only 7 million Americans filed tax returns and by 1944, 42 million did. Migration of individuals to California and Northern cities was a result of the war (Samuelson, 1994).
According to Charles Richardson, of the North Shore regiment, at the time of war, he and his peers had trained and practiced for so long and were ready to go to war. They came up on the beaches and they were all singing away, laughing carrying on like always. He was almost twenty-two years of age. As they approached the beach, their platoon Sargeant, Perly White, who was twenty-five years old, was hit with an armored piercing. It was glanced off of him but there was a dead silence all of a sudden, from that moment on. They all realized for the first time that "this was for real," Richardson claimed (Humphreys, 2004).
Boys seemed to become men on that day, if they were lucky. The stories of those who fell on the beach are still told today. The stories are well remembered and are too terrible for many to talk about.
To some extent the war was not a success or a failure but simply a national trauma. Staying out of the war, would have been a calamity. It would have guaranteed Hitler's victory, allowing him to develop nuclear weapons and he would have left the United States without major allies. Isolation caused a delay that proved costly, in rearming. In mid-1941, some American soldiers trained with wooden guns. The delay also had costly consequences, including the division of Europe after the war. If the allies had invaded France in 1943, American, British and French troops would have liberated much of Eastern Europe. But in 1943 America was not yet ready to invade.
World War II affirmed the United States economic power. By 1944, average family incomes were perhaps 25% higher than in 1941. To some the success of the war time collaboration of business, along with government, calls for more of the same now. In fact, the cooperation was not all that smooth. Mobilization was marked by a bureaucratic confusion that cut munitions output 10 to 20%. Public support for complex economic controls broke down once victory seemed inevitable (Samuelson, 1994).
We need to keep in mind that during the war, we made plenty of mistakes. The problem is that many times, memories of wars are inevitably clouded by victory or defeat. Our triumph in World War II on D-Day has obscured many errors. Compared with other countries' losses, our losses were low: 405,000 dead of the 16 million who served; however, some frontline casualty rates were horrific and stemmed from minor mistakes that could have been prevented. There was a rivalry between the military branches, as well. This interservice rivalry between the navy and General MacArthur caused the navy to invade, at a huge cost in lives, many Pacific islands with small military value (Samuelson, 1994).
There were over 320,000 Allied soldiers that participated in the war that day, also known as Operation Overlord. A young Harvard Business school graduate was there as well, Lieutenant John Bentz Carroll. He was assigned to the regimental advance headquarters of the 16th Infantry, 1st Division; he was in the second wave of landing craft to splash onto the "Easy Red" sector of Omaha Beach June 6, 1944. Lieutenant Carroll was one of the few members of his headquarters to survive the first terrifying minutes of the D-Day assault on Normandy. He describes his account of that day, which he accounts as a chaotic scene, amid a storm of shot and shell. It was a 1,000 man transport attack boat that he was on and that Navy craft held a reinforced infantry battalion, plus a few extra troops, up to 1,600 to 1,700 men. There were all kinds of boats everywhere he said, carrying American troops. Tanks, artillery, corps artillery and corps specialists were carried by all kinds of vintage 1920 boats; anything that floated seemed to be carrying troops. Some of the troops were on the boats for a week to 10 days, which may have been difficult for them. They had all pulled in and lined up at the harbor in Portsmouth while we were loading, so we could move as one body, Lieutenant Carroll said ("D-Day," 2004).
The living conditions were not too good during the war. They were hampered and very limited. According to Lieutenant Carroll, there was a lot of talking when our infantry first went aboard; however, by the second night, we all knew we were going in on D-Day the following morning, everything became quiet ("D-Day," 2004). Men began to get out pencils and paper and began to write to their loved ones at home. Most of the games the troops had been playing, such as craps, disappeared to a large extent and the men began to develop a quietness among them, as they knew what they were going into.
They arrived five to six miles offshore about 2:30 A.M. And immediately transferred to a landing craft. The troops began to unload the ropes down the boat. The ropes were great big mats down the side of the boat. It was a 30-foot drop. The waves were very choppy. He and his peers and got into a landing craft which held 75 to 100 men at the maximum. There were also landing craft that were larger, which held much more troops. Enemy fire began to knock off the boats up to a mile out. There was not a doubt then that all the German forces knew the attack was on. It was full light by now, about 7:00 to 7:15 A.M. Two hundred yards out, we took a direct hit. It knocked out an ensign and a sailor beside him, who were steering the craft in the rear. They disappeared along with the controls. The boat started to get out of control. It weaved and wobbled. They were about two blocks from the shoreline. Heavy fire continued to shoot at the front of the boat. The ramp ended up opening up, probably due to the loss of controls and the men in the front were being struck by the machine gunfire. Everyone began to jump out into the water. The water was at least 10 to 15 feet deep, but Lieutenant Carroll did not wait long to jump. He kept seeing the men getting hit and went over the side. As he was going over, he thought he saw the colonel being hit in the water and he was right.
At that point every man acted for himself, on his own instinct. He remembers that when he saw the colonel go over, the other troops followed that example and began to go overboard too. He remembers struggling for air and trying to get to the surface. He didn't figure he would have any trouble swimming the short distance to the beach. His big trouble was with the tide though. The machine gun bullets were hitting all around and killing a lot of men that were in the water. It was a good thing though, that the tide was moving the troops in the water rapidly. Because…[continue]
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