Thursday, June 7, 2012

Impressions of D-Day

A Quick Photographic Journey
Sixty-eight years ago today, the Allied Expeditionary Force was moving inland to Normandy's hedgerow country after a long day slugging against the Atlantic Wall.  My grandfather, Thomas W. Nycum, Jr. of the 20th Field Artillery Battallion (4th Infantry Division) was one of 160,000 Allied participants.  Each August in Conneaut, Ohio, this event is recreated with the help of hundreds of reenactors on the coasts of Lake Erie.  Portraying a Stars and Stripes Army newspaper correspondent, I took a vast number of photographs covering the event.  Enjoy some of these impressions of D-Day.

Preparing to depart for the boats.  A majority of the real men of D-Day departed from the area of Portsmouth to head across the English Channel.  One American engineer billeted with a British family before the invasion noted, "When we left, [they] cried just as if they were our parents. It was quite a touching thing for us. It seemed like the general public seemed to know pretty much what was going on" (Antony Beevor, D-Day, 9).  Important events indeed.

Some GIs of the 1st Infantry Division at rest before departure to the boat loading area.

A number of Landing Crafts were present for the demonstration.  The LCs of 1944 were originally so crowded that few men could see over their helmets to the landing ramps. Soldier John Raaen of the 5th Rangers noted that the assault craft was "buckling like an unbroken horse," creating much seasickness amongst the passengers. In a short time, the crafts "reeked of vomit" (Beevor, 93).

I was among the 5th Rangers in the third and final wave.

Crouching down in one of the many "impact craters" on the beach.

War correspondent Ross Munro wrote of Allied troops during the invasion: "From dune to dune, along the German trench system and through the tunnels . . . the troops fought every yard of the way" (Ronald J. Drez, Voices of D-Day, 290).

A GI finishing off a clip of ammunition with his M1 Garand.

Moving up the beach.  Note the phrase on the helmet.

Reloading the Garand.

American troops gather at the "shingle" before the final push.

Corporal Robert H. Miller of the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion recalled, "I got about ten feet up the beach when I saw just a big white ball of nothingness, and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back looking up at the sky. My first thought was that my legs were blown off because I had tried to move them and nothing happened. . . . [But] for some reason I just couldn't move and couldn't operate at all" (Drez, 237). Fear proved just as able of injuring or stalling a man as easily as a bullet could.

Several thousand spectators were present, as one can see from the background of this photo.

Members of the 29th Division work their way uphill.

They came across these guys...

Looking across the beach.

Dozens of WWII veterans were present at the event.  I had always been curious as to whether some vets might be angered that their hard fought battles were being mimicked by reenactors.  However, I have never found this to be the case.  They act as appreciative of us as we are of them.  That's as nice as gesture as one can receive in my view.  


  1. I think all the veterans were very pleased and humbled that young people care about them and what they did...

    Eric Montgomery, Veterans Coordinator

  2. Too bad those soldiers who died in combat cannot comment as to whether they approve. Perhaps it isn't so much that people are recreating these mock battles, but that they then, as this post puts forward, hold it up as some solemn commemoration. I've seen these reenactments up close, and the vast majority of people just love powder and explosions. Some people join a bowling league, others reenact.

  3. You certainly raise some good points and concerns. The tastefulness (or lack thereof) of certain reenactments/living history demos rest solely in the demeanor of participants. I too wish we could learn how more vets feel about this hobby.

  4. ALL the veterans I know, whether they come to the event or not, have ALL expressed to me their appreciation for what the reenactors are doing. I wish Anonymous would identify who they are by coming to the event and asking the veterans present how they feel in person.

    Eric Montgomery, Veterans Coordinator