Jewish World Review June 6, 2014 / 8 Sivan, 5774
D-Day, the Sixth of June: 'He don't know where, he don't know when'
By Paul Greenberg
JewishWorldReview.com | A scrap of childhood doggerel has become only a memory of a memory by now. They say that's the way the little gray cells record and re-record memories, taping over the previous one and changing it here and there each time it's rehearsed.
By now that little ditty has acquired the patina of a folksong you might have learned at your mother's knee, like "O Susanna." But the sing-song lyrics keep coming back every D-Day.
Was it Cab Calloway or
Hitler got the heebie-jeebies,
He knows we're comin', but
He don't know where
and he don't know when,
But we made our reservations--
And we're comin' in . . .
And on this day 70 summers ago, D-Day, the Sixth of June, we came. Like an avenging army -- and navy, air force, marine corps, coast guard and everything else. Terrible as an army with banners, as the Good Book says. And we did not come alone. There were GIs and Tommies, Free French and valiant Poles, the Canadians and Scots and remnants of every captive people of
Has there ever been a greater or more American force than the one assembled that day? Or a more eclectic one? They might as well have been a cross-section of the country:
A world in arms was out there approaching the French coast. And it was about to surge, hurling itself against Hitler's vaunted Atlantic Wall, his unbreachable Fortress Europe that would be breached that day by a tide as unstoppable as the spirit of liberty itself. However long suppressed, light was about to come back to
There was no stopping such an armada, the greatest the world had ever seen. It covered the Channel as far as the eye could see, a great host come to incarnadine the multitudinous seas with its blood, prepared to turn the green one red. At last, a saga worthy of Shakespeare -- and Cab Calloway.
Old Hitler's got the heebie-jeebies,
He's lookin' mighty slim,
He knows we're comin', But he don't know where
and he don't know when,
But we done made our reservations,
And we're movin' in ...
The code words had already gone out to the French resistance over the
It was the signal that the time had come. The invasion was about to begin, and the message was clear: Rise up and strike! The gliders had been dispatched from
The first wave of Americans landed in the wrong place on Utah Beach, luckily. For they came ashore on an only lightly defended stretch of the beach. Their commanding general,
The boys at Omaha Beach weren't so lucky. It was a death trap, lined with obstacles, the heavy guns in the impregnable bunkers pre-sighted and murderous. Well, supposedly impregnable. At 13:35 hours 6 June, the German 352nd Division was able to tell High Command that the American assault had failed and been thrown back into the sea. Only the Americans didn't know it. We kept on coming. And the German units on other sectors of the beach were reporting attacks -- from their rear. Somehow the Americans had got through, and behind them. The invasion hadn't failed. It only should have.
The Americans were already clambering up the cliffs. Amid the smoke and fire, the dead and wounded, rising and advancing, our flag yet waved. The Allies had landed. To stay.
By the end of the day, more than 150,000 men were ashore at Gold, Juno, Sword,
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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