August 4, 2014

The Normandy of PFC Elzie L. North.

70 years ago a guy called Elzie L. North, age 22, from Duval county Florida, jumped off a boat on a beach in France. Within an hour from dawn 341 of his fellow men had died in the sand, the waves and the rising tide.
The day would be known as D-day, the beach would be known as Omaha beach.

Elzie was a soldier of the U.S. Army, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. They had to fight their way on the west side of Omaha beach, at the heavily defended Vierville exit. They took the worst hits: they were in the first American attack waves. Over a wide beach, through barbed wire and obstacles, up the steep dunes and cliffs, with German guns and artillery on top to pick the targets. And new allied waves landing in their back, counting on their progress.

At the end of the day, a very long day, they had reached a little farm 1 mile inland next to Vierville. 
Only if you have visited the beaches of Normandy you can imagine the enormity of that job: the beach is unending, the sand wearing you down, the dunes are forbidding. No place to hide.
But he and his group fought their way further into Normandy, towards the town of Saint Lô. After a bloody house to house fight in a bombed and totally destroyed town, he was killed on June 18th 1944.
Elzie is buried in Plot J, Row 18, Grave 14 of the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-mer. Among  9.385 others.

The other drawing is from Sainte Mère Eglise, where paratrooper John Steele's parachute was stuck on the church steeple. Immortalized by the film: "the longest day" and the excellent book by Cornelius Ryan. There is still a puppet hanging on that tower; you wonder how he got off at last.
(Remark; I just picked a random grave on the Colleville cemetery, to give one of the many crosses a face and a story. The story is assembled by reading a lot of sources. But it could very well be inaccurate).


Mark Leibowitz said...

Really well done. Your commentary added a lot to the excellent sketches

Rene Fijten said...

Thanks Mark

matthew_c said...

Yes, very moving post.