Wednesday, June 3, 2009

D-Day Feature in American Rifleman

D-Day – June 6, 1944 – the largest amphibious invasion in history. Movies, books, and magazines have all tried to convey the individual stories of courage and heroism, and yet many stories remain untold. Many will never be told. With the 65th anniversary of D-Day only a few days away, American Rifleman has devoted an article in its June 2009 issue to “The Men & Guns of D-Day.” The article is primarily focused on the American paratroopers and the amphibious forces that landed at Omaha and Utah beaches, though there are a few other stories as well.

Included is the story of Privates John Steele, Ken Russell and Sergeant John Ray who had the misfortune to land in the square in Ste. Mere-Eglise. Both privates famously landed on the cathedral whereas Sgt. Ray landed in the square. A German shot Ray upon landed and turned his attention to Steele and Russell presuming Ray was dead. Ray’s last act was to draw his M1911A1 pistol and kill the German to prevent him from killing the helpless Steele and Russell.

There’s also the story of Sgt. Leonard “Bud” Lomell who fought with the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc. Their mission was to knock out the colossal 15.5cm K418(f) guns that could wreak havoc on the invasion forces. As it turned out, the guns had been removed weeks before because of aerial bombardment, and these deadly pieces of artillery never fired a shot on D-day.

The amphibious forces faced several bunkers and casemates called Wiederstandsnesten by the Germans. These could be armed with anything from machine guns to heavy artillery and infantry. Franz Gockel, one of the Germans manning Wiederstandsnest 62, was interestingly not armed with a German manufactured MG34 or MG42. Instead he was using a captured Polish CKM Wz.30, which was based on the Browning M1917.

Overall it’s a great article, though the title is a bit misleading. The article is really about the men of D-day, and mentions what guns they used. I have absolutely no issue with taking that approach to the article because of the legendary heroics and sacrifices made by so many on that fateful day. We as a nation must never forget what made us so great in those fateful years, and we should also never forget the price we paid when tyranny ran unchecked.

Until next time!!!

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