Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, June 6, 2013

D-Day – Great War Connections

There are many interesting connections between the D-Day invasion and the Great War. I thought we would share a few today on its 69th Anniversary.

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United States National Guard Memorial,
Omaha Beach, Vierville-sur-Mer

America's National Guard Memorial for both World Wars is located at the west end of Omaha Beach. That section of the beach was where the 29th Division landed on 6 June. This is the area featured in both Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day (remember Robert Mitchum as General Norman Cotta?). It was also the place where the Bedford Boys met their fate. The 29th Division, a unit formed with National Guard troops from the Atlantic Coast region, also fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of WWI. The distinguished service of the division in what are the most famous American battles of both World Wars contributed to the selection of this site as the National Guard's National Memorial. The large panel to the left on the photo above describes the contributions of the National Guard to the U.S. victory in WWI.

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Erwin Rommel with Pour le Mérite

Except for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, almost every senior officer on both sides at Normandy had served at the fronts in the Great War. The most highly decorated of these, however, was Atlantic Wall commander Erwin Rommel. He is shown here wearing his Pour le Mérite, awarded for his service at Caporetto in 1917. Rommel's reputation as a general bounces up and down a bit, but if you are ever able to visit Caporetto and track his actions there, you will undoubtedly conclude he was one fantastic lieutenant.

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Graves of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.,
Omaha Beach Cemetery, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer

There is a single American who fell in the Great War buried at the Omaha Beach Cemetery with all the casualties of the 1944 campaign. It is President Theodore Roosevelt's son Quentin, a former Nieuport 28 pilot with the 95th Aero Squadron. He was shot down and killed in July 1918, then buried near his crash site. His brother, Theodore, Jr., died in 1944 from heart disease shortly after leading the initial assault on Utah Beach as the assistant commander of the 4th Division. At the family's request, Quentin was re-interred to lie in peace next to his brother. The gold star on Ted's grave indicates the Medal of Honor which he received for his actions at Normandy. Ted had also served with distinction and had been seriously wounded in World War I.


  1. Thanks for the great post. The diversity of information is a treat to the reader.

  2. I don't think including Rommel's picture over other options, especially Eisenhower or many Allied generals is appropriate here. Unless you are including a selection of generals from both sides, beginning with allies.