he had secrets

My father had secrets, forged while a young man in a faraway place.  They consumed him the rest of his life, while he always smiled and was generous and cheerful, he was distant and never forged close bonds.   I never understood until I visited Normandy, that lush verdant place where the land met the sea and so many young men came never to return.

Even now the farms and paddocks show a rural flavor, and the night there is pitch black.  The single lane roads were gobbled up by our Defender, as we gamely navigated to our B&B.   Our hosts Tony and Pat were gracious and friendly, and we took two superb tours with Tony where he showed us the stories of the brave young men who landed there to stop the tide of evil that threatened the free world.

We saw the fortifications ordered by Rommel  that are still strong and secure and cliffs that only Rangers could conquer.  But it hit me hard at two cemeteries reading comments left by old men from both sides who needed to confess the horror.

My father boarded a Higgens boat, little more than a plywood tub with a swinging front door and with forty other men dared the shells, and mines and bullets as they neared the shore.  He was the only one who survived.  His best friend, drowned.  Dad somehow swam to shore in water so full of blood that the waves crested with pink foam.  There was no cover on the shore.  The bombers who had bombed the night before to create fox holes had dropped the bombs three miles inland.  The beach held only death and horror.

Three things stand out.   In a little village church they  setup a field hospital using the pews as beds.  Still 68 years later, you can see the bloodstains that mark this place of worship.

Blood stains this pew some 68 years after a soldier was tended here.

In the fine US cemetery there is a section where an old sailor recalls the Marines climbing down the rope mesh to board the tiny Higgens boats as they bobbed in the rough seas.  He  recalls how the men cursed and wept as they descended the ladders to Hell.

And the last was in the German cemetery where a machine gunner wrote that the Germans had fired and killed and pushed them back into the sea again and again, but still they kept landing.

This mount contains the remains of as many as 50,000 German soldiers, every one son, uncle, father, brother

Yes, my father had secrets, he was only 19.

9 Comments on “he had secrets”

  1. 2b14u says:

    I can not imagine. Thanks for giving this old history teacher something to think about. My Uncle was in Europe and my Mom said that after he came home she was chewing gum and popped the gum with her mouth. He dove behind the door to hide when he heard it. What a life chaning experience it was to those young men.

  2. Eric Alagan says:

    Terrible waste of lives…it is good that you wrote this as we need to remember…

  3. jelebelle says:

    Beautifully written and lyrical.

  4. Written, once again, like a poem, an ode to man you’ll always remember. Truly lovely.

  5. emjayzed says:

    A very touching post, may we remember them always.

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