When 160,000 American, British, and Canadian soldiers flung themselves at Hitler's Fortress Europe on this day seventy years ago, it was the first step on a long march.
They marched through Normandy and Brittany, through Lorraine, across the Rhine into Germany, until Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz and Colonel General Alfred Jodl signed the articles of capitulation at Reims. It had been a little less than a year.
It is possible to follow that march, in articles lifted from the archives of The Sun and The Evening Sun, recently published in Written Under Fire: Baltimore Sun Correspondents' Dispatches From Normandy to the German Surrender.
The Evening Sun's Holbrook Bradley was with the 29th Division on the beach at Normandy. Here is part of his account:
"The scene through which we passed was one of the most desolate we've ever seen. The few houses along the shore were almost blown to bits, evidence of heavy navy gunfire early on the first day. Up on the hills, German concrete emplacements were completely blasted off the ground, and mazes of barbed-wire entanglements were ripped through in large sections.
"A few hundred yards up the beach we came upon one of our burial grounds. Long rows of bodies, sewn in white cloth, lay face up to the sky. Medics and members of Graves Registration units checked the bodies to make sure of their identification.
"A few yards farther on we came upon those dead who hadn't yet been prepared for burial. They were the boys who had hit the beach first, for the most part lads who went in before any of the installations had been cleared out.
"Some never made it to the shore, for their white and waxlike bodies still had pieces of seaweed hanging from them. ...
"We knew now why our landing had been held up, why there were still others behind our division yet to come ashore. Those first few hours on the shore must have been a living hell. And we saw there had been no discrimination in the way the men fell, for the two bars of captains were among the plain uniforms of the privates."
Today The Baltimore Sun publishes an article by Matthew Hay Brown about four Maryland veterans who took part in D-Day. One of them, Harper Griswold, was named a chevalier of the Legion of Honor earlier this year. What he says: "The ones that deserve this medal are the guys that never came home."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun