High Life

What Price Normandy?

June 02, 2018

By Aug. 11 Kluge’s counterattack is over as typhoons flying in pairs pick off the remaining Panzers. The Poles are massing in the Falaise Gap, sweeping up Germans who are now finally surrendering en masse. Our group stood at the corridor of death, as it is known, on the banks of the River Dives, imagining the Panzers scrambling to break out of the pocket while taking constant fire from around and above. Everything’s ripped up and slashed open. Our final view is that of the bronze statue of General Maczek, the Polish hero who lived to be 102 and who sealed up the Falaise in the final battle after 77 days.

A half a million casualties, 200,000 dead—what price Normandy? Sixty-seven hundred dead per day, more per ratio than in the Somme. Dead horses everywhere, dead men and destruction. The sounds of battle are mortar fire, slow; artillery shells, faster; heavy artillery, much faster. Detonation brings earth-shattering time to press one’s face to the ground and pray it stops, then another chilling howl and more destruction. That’s war, not Hollywood bullshit. All the beautiful thoughts about dying for a cause quickly disappear. Aerial bombing leaves men out of their minds, some tearing at their brains before falling dead. Heroes like George W. Bush, Dick (nine deferments) Cheney, Bill Clinton, Mohammed bin Salman, and others of their ilk send young men to fight. I want to revert to the good old days, when leaders led from the front—you know the type: Achilles, Leonidas, Alexander, Miltiades, Ney. But I’m wasting my time. Shoot anyone over 30 who wants war.

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