Friday, June 6, 2014

Two more memories of D-Day


As this 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion draws to a close, you might enjoy two very interesting articles providing insight into specific aspects of events.

The Telegraph writes about 'The Spy Who Saved D-Day'.

Juan Pujol García was a native of Barcelona. His experiences in the Spanish Civil War — in which he fought for both sides without ever firing a bullet — had given him a deep loathing of both fascism and communism. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was horrified at the increasing power of the Nazis, and approached the British authorities in Spain and Portugal to enquire if he could help for “the good of humanity”. Finding his offer repeatedly rebuffed, García decided on a more unorthodox route. He approached German intelligence in Madrid, and told them (quite untruthfully) that he was a Spanish official who regularly travelled to England. He explained that he was fanatically pro-Nazi, and just wanted to do his fascist duty.

The German authorities snapped him up, gave him some basic training, codenamed him “Alaric Arabel”, and sent him off to gather information on his next trip to England.

However, instead of heading for London, García made for Lisbon, where he began one of the most extraordinary and significant subterfuges in espionage history.

Not content with being an agent himself, he used a Blue Guide to England, a book on the railways, a few reference manuals, and a couple of old magazines to invent a handful of completely fictitious agents roaming England. He dreamt up lives and adventures for each of his agents, fabricated intelligence reports from them, and solemnly passed the information back to his German handlers in the Abwehr, where the communications were received with earnest appreciation.

. . .

Before long, British intelligence intercepted his messages, and was at first alarmed that there appeared to be a highly active enemy agent in Britain. But when they uncovered that he had significant German naval resources tied up in a hunt for a non-existent convoy, they realised he was, unbelievably, working a one-man disinformation campaign against Hitler. British intelligence quickly brought him to England, where they paired him up with Spanish-speaking MI5 officer, Tomás Harris, and set the two to work.

Under Harris’s guidance, García (now codenamed Garbo by MI5) increased his network of fictitious agents to 27 entirely made up people. The cast list included several military personnel, a disgruntled NAAFI storeman, the Welsh nationalist fascist leader of the Brothers of the Aryan World Order, an Indian poet, a Venezuelan student in Glasgow, and even one known just as “a low grade spy”.

There's more at the link.

Garcia would go on to mislead the Germans about the date, location and follow-up to the D-Day landings.  His false reports were one of the main reasons why Hitler refused to release armored divisions to drive the invaders back into the sea.  Garcia ended up the only secret agent to be decorated both by Nazi Germany (the Iron Cross) and Britain (the MBE).

The second article is from 1960, by S. L. A. Marshall, titled 'First Wave at Omaha Beach'.

Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: "My God, we're coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!"

His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.

Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot.

Already the sea runs red. Even among some of the lightly wounded who jumped into shallow water the hits prove fatal. Knocked down by a bullet in the arm or weakened by fear and shock, they are unable to rise again and are drowned by the onrushing tide. Other wounded men drag themselves ashore and, on finding the sands, lie quiet from total exhaustion, only to be overtaken and killed by the water. A few move safely through the bullet swarm to the beach, then find that they cannot hold there. They return to the water to use it for body cover. Faces turned upward, so that their nostrils are out of water, they creep toward the land at the same rate as the tide. That is how most of the survivors make it. The less rugged or less clever seek the cover of enemy obstacles moored along the upper half of the beach and are knocked off by machine-gun fire.

Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. At Boat No. 2, Lieutenant Tidrick takes a bullet through the throat as he jumps from the ramp into the water. He staggers onto the sand and flops down ten feet from Private First Class Leo J. Nash. Nash sees the blood spurting and hears the strangled words gasped by Tidrick: "Advance with the wire cutters!" It's futile; Nash has no cutters. To give the order, Tidrick has raised himself up on his hands and made himself a target for an instant. Nash, burrowing into the sand, sees machine gun bullets rip Tidrick from crown to pelvis. From the cliff above, the German gunners are shooting into the survivors as from a roof top.

Again, more at the link.

Both articles remind us of the different forms of bravery that motivate men . . . all of which are vitally necessary to win a war.

Peter

1 comment:

Coconut said...

There's a reason the first men over a castle wall were offered officer's shares in the loot.