Alan Moorehead: ECLIPSE (Fighting in Normandy - 1944)

The following excerpts are taken from Alan Moorehead's Eclipse: An Eyewitness Account of the Invasion of Europe first published in 1945, a year after the invasion..


[June 6th, the day of the landing, General Jodl ordered from Hitler's headquarters that the Allied bridgehead must be 'cleaned up by midnight.' He was told that this was impossible.]

ROMMEL by the middle of June had taken his decision. Or rather the decision began to be forced on him, partly by his own imperious aggressiveness and partly by the dreams of Hitler. The Allies had won the first 'battle of the beaches.' Well and good. They could still be driven off. They could be contained in the narrow bridgehead. They could be continually harassed and attacked. Then at the first sign of weakness the panzers would make their drive through to the sea. The battle of France was going to be fought in Normandy. And the order was: 'Attack. Keep on attacking.'

It was a policy the end of which no one could see, a bull-at-a-gate policy, a short range policy, a gambler's policy that might eventually suck up every German reserve in France. And it was the policy which we could most nearly have wished for. There were still two strong German armies in northern France; the Fifteenth, north of the Seine, and the Seventh, grouped round the bridgehead. In addition there were still the forces in the south. Even at this early date the Germans decided to abandon southern France. All troops down there which were capable of movement were directed northward on to the bridgehead. At the same time several panzer divisions were brought across from Russia, and Rommel began to milk the Fifteenth Army. Bit by bit the reinforcements were brought up to the line in Normandy and out directly into battle. A series of chiselling attacks were developed along the line; principally around Caen.

This is the point at which the flying bomb enters the story. The launching sites were established north of the Seine, largely in the area between Amiens and Dunkirk. They were designed to destroy London. It was also hoped that they would break up the invasion by smashing the embarkation ports in southern England. But the programme for the flying bomb was much delayed. First there had been the fantastically lucky and successful raid by the RAF on the experimental station at Peenemunde, when so many of the German scientists had been killed. Then when some two hundred launching sites had been established the RAF had blotted them out. The opening barrage of flying bombs, which was planned for the autumn of 1943, was only ready to come operation on a limited scale in the summer of 1944: nine months late.

With some reason Germany placed tremendous hopes in the flying bomb. Vast underground factories were at work. There was a reasonable chance that by October 1944 they would be able to increase by five times the number of missiles in their original barrage. One can imagine that Rommel was therefore instructed with some urgency that the launching sites north of the Seine were to be protected at all costs. It was reasonable to suppose that the Allies might attempt another landing in the Calais area in order to silence the flying bomb. How far then could Rommel milk the Calais garrison, the Fifteenth Army, in order to reinforce his troops in Normandy? He needed the troops badly at the bridgehead. He was running round the outside of a perimeter, while the Allies sat compactly inside. Given the whole of the Fifteenth Army he might smash the invasion, or at least contain it until the rains came and he had thrown up a defensive line. But could he take the risk of entirely denuding the flying bomb sites of their garrison?

In the end it was a compromise. He took divisions away from the Fifteenth Army one by one. As the German position round the bridgehead became more and more critical he accelerated the process. At length only a skeleton army remained north of the Seine. Some forty divisions were committed to the Normandy battle, and when they were outmaneuvered and beaten there was nothing left in all France; not even enough men to defend the flying bomb sites for a few weeks.

The whole battle of Normandy becomes clear if this point is understood; the fact that one by one the German divisions were lured on to the Allied lines round the bridgehead, and there cut up one by one. Had they all been committed together the Allies might well have been contained in Normandy for another six months or a year. It might have been another, larger Anzio. Alternatively, had Rommel abandoned the Normandy battle in June, and withdrawn his forces to stand on the Seine or even back on the Rhine, the war might have been still further prolonged. As it was, he suited our purposes perfectly. ...


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Ernest Hemingway's 1954 Noble Acceptance Speech

Ernest  Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.
No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.
It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.
How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.
I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.

Ernest Hemingway: Old Man At The Bridge

Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

An old man with steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks, and men, women and children were crossing it. The mule-drawn carts staggered up the steep bank from the bridge with soldiers helping push against the spokes of the wheels. The trucks ground up and away heading out of it all the peasants plodded along in the ankle deep dust. But the old man sat there without moving. He was too tired to go any further.
   It was my business to cross the bridge, explore the bridge-head beyond and find out to what point the enemy had advanced. I did this and returned over the bridge. There were not so many carts now and very few people on foot, but the old man was still there.
   'Where do you come from?' I asked him.
   'From San Carlos,' he said, and smiled.
   That was his native town and so it gave him pleasure to mention it and he smiled.
   'I was taking care of the animals,' he explained.
   'Oh,' I said, not quite understanding.
   'Yes,' he said, 'I stayed, you see, taking care of the animals. I was the last one to leave the town of San Carlos.'
   He did not look like a shepherd nor a herdsman and I looked at his black dusty clothes and his steel rimmed spectacles and said, 'What animals were they?'
   'Various animals,' he said, and shook his head. 'I had to leave them.'
   I was watching the bridge and the African looking country of the Ebro Delta and wondering how long now it would be before we would see the enemy, and listening all the while for the first noises that would signal that ever mysterious event called contact, and the old man still sat there.
   'What animals were they?' I asked.
   'There were three animals altogether,' he explained. 'There were two goats and a cat and then there were four pairs of pigeons.'
   'And you had to leave them?' I asked.
   'Yes. Because of the artillery. The captain told me to go because of the artillery.'
   'And you have no family?' I asked, watching the far end of the bridge where a few last carts were hurrying down the slope of the bank.
'No,' he said, 'only the animals I stated. The cat, of course, will be all right. A cat can look after itself, but I cannot think what will become of the others.'
   'What politics have you?' I asked.
   'I am without politics,' he said. I am seventy-six years old. I have come twelve kilometres now and I think now I can go no further.'
   'This is not a good place to stop,' I said. 'If you can make it, there are trucks up the road where it forks for Tortosa.'
   'I will wait for a while,' he said, 'and then I will go. Where do the trucks go?'
   'Towards Barcelona,' I told him.
   'I know of no one in that direction,' he said, 'but thank you very much. Thank you again very much.'
   He looked at me very blankly and tiredly, then said, having to share his worry with someone, 'The cat will be al right, I am sure. There is no need to be unquiet about the cat. But the others. Now what do you think about the others?'
   'Why, they'll probably come through all right.'
   'You think so?'
   'Why not?' I said, watching the far bank where now there were no carts.
   'But what will they do under the artillery when I was told to leave because of the artillery?'
   'Did you leave the dove cage unlocked?' I asked.
   'The they will fly.'
   'Yes, certainly they'll fly. But the others. It's better not to think about the others,' he said.
   'If you are rested I would go,' I urged.' Get up and try to walk now.'
   'Thank you,' he said and got to his feet, swayed from side to side and then sat down backwards in the dust.
   'I was only taking care of the animals,' he said dully, but no longer to me. 'I was only taking care of the animals.'
   There was nothing to do about him. It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing toward the Ebro. It was a grey overcast day with low ceiling so their planes were not up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck that old man would ever have.

This Be The Verse

Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.  
  They may not mean it but they do.
They fill you with faults they had
  And add some extra just for you.

But there were fucked up in their turn
   By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
   And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
   It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as fast as you can,
   And don't have any kids yourself.


John Donne: Meditation XVII

Now this bell, tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.(Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris)

John Donne (1573 - 1631)

Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. 
The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; 
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the SeaEurope is the lesse, as well as if  a  Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Rudyard Kipling: Gypsy Vans

Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

Unless you come of the gypsy stock
That steals by night and day,
Lock your heart with a double lock
And throw the key away.
Bury it under the blackest stone
Beneath your father's hearth,
And keep your eyes on your lawful own
And your feet to the proper path.
Then you can stand at your door and mock
When the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't right that the Gorgio stock
Should live as the Romany do.

Unless you come of the gipsy blood
That takes and never spares,
Bide content with your given good
And follow your own affairs.
Plough and harrow and roll your land,
And sow what ought to be sowed;
But never let loose your heart from your hand,
Nor flitter it down the road!
Then you can thrive on your boughten food
As the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't nature the Gorgio blood
Should love as the Romany do.

Unless you carry the gipsy eyes
That see but seldom weep,
Keep your head from the naked skies
Or the stars'll trouble your sleep.
Watch your moon through your window-pane
And take what weather she brews;
But don't run out in the midnight rain
Nor home in the morning dews.
Then you can buddle and shut your eyes
As the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't fitting the Gorgio ryes
Should walk as the Romany do.

Unless you come of the gipsy race
That counts all time the same,
Be you careful of Time and Place
And Judgment and Good Name:
Lose your life for to live your life
The way that you ought to do;
And when you are finished, your God and your wife
And the Gipsies'll laugh at you!
Then you can rot in your burying place
As the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't reason the Gorgio race
Should die as the Romany do.