A?Veteran Remembers June 6, 1944
EDITOR’S?NOTE: The following piece was submitted as a Letter to the Editor. With the historical significance of the date, the letter is printed here.
To the Editor:
What happened the morning of June 6, 1944? I?can sit at my dinner table today, and not get an answer. If you were not sixty-eight years old, or older, you were not there, either. Your father could have been there. He might have been in one of the biggest assemblies of what is said was the biggest assembly of war armada ever assembled in the waters of Europe, the English Channel. Now, you can cross this channel in some thirty minutes. Not then. There is a tunnel under this English Channel, England to France. This was a war zone. Countries were placed at odds, never before in history. You can fly from Paris, and land in Chicago, and be on a tour of our country within a day. Not then.
What was this all about? A man who called himself Hitler, took charge of a country, a German speaking country. He decided to dominate the neighboring countries and he almost succeeded. I was on Omaha Beach, in Normandy. That day, June 6, 1944. General Bradley, one of the commanding Generals, was about to call the whole thing off. If he had, I would have been stranded on the shores of France and no place to go. This lasted for about eight hours. There was a spotter in a church belfrey in Vierville-Su-Mer and a pill box bunker, deep in a bluff overlooking the sea. They held command. This was Omaha Beach.
How did this all happen? I had mentioned to my grandson, not too long ago, about a place called The Eagles Nest. He wanted to know more about it. That is the English word. The Germans had another word. Time magazine was aware of it, so was Life magazine. Time tried to describe it. It was a fortified area in the Alps mountains perched on a steep slope in southern Germany, across the border from Switzerland, a beautiful view, suitable for any commander of a whole country to the North, called Germany. This Commander-In-Chief had a residence there. It was down the slope with an outlet to a tunnel connected to this Eagles Nest. The house had a large picture window to the north. I spent less than an hour on this exclusive property.
High level social gatherings were held here. Only the elite used the elevator of some four hundred feet, I?am told. The day I was there, the elevator was not working. You understand, this within hours of the takeover by American troops of this, so well publicized, hideout, secret residence of Hitler. Well guarded, and seclusive, this was a well-guarded residence of Hitler. No tank could ever get to it. The winding, uphill road, of about a mile from Berkdesgarten, with a railroad connection, was well suited for a war residence of a commander with the power of Hitler. If you were true blood, you jumped at Hitler’s command.
Our goal was to take charge of this most valuable piece of real estate in all of Germany, and this we did. I was one of them.
Some reports say that Hitler did not spend much time here. My thought is that a lot of uncertainty was discussed here. I will describe the large oak table which would seat about a dozen people. Image Hitler’s High Command sitting there. I?could tell there were tensions. There were tensions perhaps smoking cigarettes would accomplish. Measured in meters, this table was about one meter wide and about four meters long. Present pictures of this area do not show this table. I took a picture of the fireplace from this table. Presently, this area shows a round, cloth covered table. Not so, when I?was there. About 1955 the place was blown up. Perhaps this table went with it. Later, the place was restored. It is now a restaurant, a tourist attraction.
I want to emphasize the cigarette butts that left distinctive marks around this table. It appears that tensions were high at more than one session of the high command, commanded by Hitler. This table was lined, on all sides, by marks left by burned-out cigarettes.
I was one of those who, after the declaration of Peace, May 8, 1945, had the privelege of witnessing this situation, left by a retreating army of aggression, now in submission, left by a new world to take over.
All that was left of this north viewing valley view house, was the ground floor. There was a large bomb crater in the back yard on the way to the tunnel to the Eagles Nest.
Hitler’s car sat a the guard house by the entrance gate, unguarded. We did not stop to see what was in the tunnels. Our time was limited. We had proof of accomplishment, which had looked hopeless on the day of June 6, 1944, when I looked out over rough waters of the English Channel, watching men and machines land on Omaha Beach, only to be destroyed by an unwelcome opponent, steeped in a cause aimed at destroying humanity of its choice.
Not far to the east, some forty miles west of Salsburg, is a town called Kehl. Standing in front of a stucco house with a machine shop, his business, was the name Joh Greiner, his shiny, stiff leather kilts fit as an apron. I did not fraternize. He did not know I slept in his neighbor’s orchard the nite before. This was the end of WWII in Europe.
The landing area on Omaha Beach is now a tourist attraction. Visitors are offered sand from Omaha Beach, the sand that almost caused us to fail. Dry sand and heavy equipment have an affinity that defies movement. This is one summary of WWII.
On September 2, 1945, I landed, by boat, from LeHavre, France. That same day, the Japanese surrendered to McArthur on the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Harbor. On September 7, 1945, I left the Army, my military service complete.
I stood on the Missouri, near the plaque where McArthur signed the Declaration of Peace with the Japanese, Ending World War Two. The Missouri was stationed in Bremerton, Washington. It is now in Hawaii for the public to view.
(signed)Loren M. Greiner