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Opinion

June 8, 2014

Column: Famed war correspondent describes D-Day aftermath

Editor’s note: Friday marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allies invaded the beaches of Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

War correspondent Ernie Pyle landed in France the next morning. Writing for the Scripps Howard News Service, Pyle filed three columns about the invasion, the first of which appeared in American newspaper June 12, 1944. It is reprinted below.

Pyle, renowned for his poignant description of the courage and determination of the American soldiers he followed into combat, was killed by a machine-gunner’s bullet in April 1945 while covering the battle for the Pacific island of Ie Shima.

A Pure Miracle

By Ernie Pyle

Scripps Howard News Service

NORMANDY BEACHHEAD, June 12, 1944 -- Due to a last-minute alteration in the arrangements, I didn’t arrive on the beachhead until the morning after D-day, after our first wave of assault troops had hit the shore.

By the time we got here the beaches had been taken and the fighting had moved a couple of miles inland. All that remained on the beach was some sniping and artillery fire, and the occasional startling blast of a mine geysering brown sand into the air. That plus a gigantic and pitiful litter of wreckage along miles of shoreline.

Submerged tanks and overturned boats and burned trucks and shell-shattered jeeps and sad little personal belongings were strewn all over these bitter sands. That plus the bodies of soldiers lying in rows covered with blankets, the toes of their shoes sticking up in a line as though on drill. And other bodies, uncollected, still sprawling grotesquely in the sand or half hidden by the high grass beyond the beach.

That plus an intense, grim determination of work-weary men to get this chaotic beach organized and get all the vital supplies and the reinforcements moving more rapidly over it from the stacked-up ships standing in droves out to sea.

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