We remember the day like it was yesterday. The Allied Forces’ invasion of Normandy in WWII. The D-Day landings within the Normandy beaches on the morning of June 6, 1944. The screams of death, the shouts of hope, and the gasps of relief as men and women came ashore, all within these beaches and the surrounding sea.
The first floor of a building became a shooting range as B Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2 RAR) prepared for the Normandy landings. A number of the soldiers were to be interviewed for the history of the regiment, and two of the men were to be photographed together. The soldiers would be photographed in a break room, and each would be asked to write a brief account of what happened on D-Day.
It took me a long time to write this, but finally I got around to it. I want to share with you a new publication I have written that is an account of D-Day. I believe it is the first of its kind and a rarity in the literature world. It was written by journalist Roelif Loveland who was a soldier in the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army.. Read more about normandy landings and let us know what you think.
Roelif Arthur Loveland was born in the city of Oberlin, Ohio, in the year 1899. When the United States entered World War I just as he was graduating high school, he decided to enlist in the US Marine Corps at the age of 18. He was injured and gassed while serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in France, in some of the worst battles the AEF would see throughout the war: Belleau Wood, Soissons, Saint Mihiel, and lastly, the Meuse-Argonne. After the war, Loveland went to Oberlin College and subsequently worked as a newspaper reporter. After a brief spell at the Cleveland Press in 1922, he secured a job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where he would work for the next 42 years.
Loveland built a name for himself as a writer of “color” pieces (as well as the odd verse), and the Plain Dealer dispatched him to Europe to cover the Allied invasion of France in 1944. Loveland covered Lieutenant General George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army as it surged through northern France after landing in Normandy. He shared a jeep with Ernest Hemingway, a war correspondent who was also accompanying Patton’s force. Loveland made it a point to include soldiers from the Cleveland region in his reports virtually every day, following in the footsteps of Ernie Pyle, the famed Scripps-Howard newspaper syndicate correspondent whom he met in London and liked. Loveland was one of the first reporters to arrive in a liberated Paris, and he followed the Third Army all the way to the German border before the Plain Dealer called him back to the States.
After returning home, Loveland worked for the Plain Dealer for a year, covering the Cleveland Indians baseball team. He was then promoted to associate editor, and eventually to editorial writer and columnist. At the age of 78, he died in 1978.
Loveland’s longstanding Plain Dealer editor, Philip W. Porter, produced and edited a collection of his international dispatches, essays, and editorials in 1979. “After examining Loveland’s work, I came to the conclusion that I truly don’t know how to write,” Porter wrote in the book’s foreword. “Loveland did,” says the narrator. He was one of the all-time greats, if not the all-time greatest.”
Loveland joined fellow Clevelander First Lieutenant Howard C. Quiggle aboard a Martin B-26 Marauder on a bombing mission in support of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. His report of the invasion, one of the first of its kind to publish in an American newspaper, appeared on the top page of the Plain Dealer the next day. It is reproduced here with the Plain Dealer’s permission.
ENGLAND’S NINTH AIR FORCE MARAUDER BASE, 6 JUNE— We saw the curtain rise on the greatest drama in global history, Hitler’s invasion of Europe.
We witnessed it from the balcony of God’s sky, in a combat-bound Marauder piloted by a Cleveland kid, First Lieut. Howard C. Quiggle, 17118 Lipton Avenue. Our bombardier dropped 16 250-pound bombs on military installations near the area where our troops were to come ashore for the invasion. S.E. Flak flew around us, and tracer bullets missed us by narrow margins, but our bombardier dropped 16 250-pound bombs on military installations near the area where our troops were to come ashore for the invasion.
Being one of thousands of people riding on the tail of a comet to witness history being made leaves a witness devoid of feeling and unable to speak clearly.
How can words adequately depict the deathless bravery saw on the French shores? What words can adequately describe a sky packed with planes, fighters, and bombers sacrificing their lives to provide the infantry with the best possible chance of success? What a fantastic team effort!
They woke us up early this morning and demanded that we get out of bed. It’s a bit difficult to eat at this hour. Following that, a briefing was held. Some of the lads were still under the impression that it was a dress rehearsal and that they would be told to return to their beds.
They changed their minds when the station commander, Col. Richard T. Coiner, began by reading a letter from Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, in which the general praised the Ninth Air Force for its previous achievements and urged the soldiers to give their all to the task at hand.
The Ninth Bomber Command’s commanding general, Brig. Gen. Samuel Anderson, then walked to the front of the briefing room, instructing the elite group of combat men to stand at attention.
The general warned them that the work ahead would be difficult, and that they would have to rely on hidden strength, which always appeared to appear in American fighting men when they needed it. He warned them that they would have to fly a lot of missions every day, and that their ability to destroy enemy sites would have a significant impact on the war’s length.
Col. Coiner said, “This, gentlemen, is it.” “The invasion will be led by us.”
The men were then led in prayer by the chaplain, Capt. Clarence R. Comfort, with every head bent. They didn’t know what they’d be up against, but they expected it to be difficult, and they wanted to act like men regardless of how afraid they were. The briefing was unusually long, which may be a sign of something.
When the pilots took to the skies in their sleek, deadly Marauders, they didn’t wear dazzling armor. They appeared bulgy, and no man wearing a Mae West life preserver, a parachute, a flak suit, earphones, and a flak helmet can appear otherwise. We had to remove any personal letters and other items from the plane before boarding. By choice, I was assigned to Lieut. The Dottie Dee, Quiggle’s jet, is named after his wife. When you’re embarking on a weird excursion at that hour of the morning, it’s nice to be accompanied by a local lad. It is, without a doubt, a little frightening.
In 1944, Roelif Loveland was a member of the US Third Army. Susan Loveland (Susan Loveland)
The moon was in the sky when we started, and it accompanied us all the way, and we were soon riding through clouds that looked like lavender cotton wool. I can’t think of a more gorgeous place than heaven. Angels, on the other hand, would probably be able to ride the clouds better than we could if the Dottie Dee hadn’t been purring away so beautifully.
Purring is a derogatory term. The Dottie Dee screams, but the noise is muffled by your earphones. When you’re flying toward the enemy in a fighter plane, the plane becomes your own tiny world, and none of life’s pleasures exist. And your peers become the most important people in the world to you, even more so than Winston Churchill or Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Sergt. William J. Burns, 36, of East Hartford, Conn., reported to his tail gunner post. As waist gunner, Sergt. James W. Russell, 21, of West Monroe, La., arrived.
Lieut. Quiggle was the pilot, while Second Lieut. Anthony V. Petraitis of Scranton, Pa., sat alongside him as co-pilot.
The top turret gun was manned by Sergt. Edwin Rodie, 23, of Fresno, Calif., while the nose was manned by Second Lieut. J. W. Goodwin, 26, of Dothan, Ala.
I took a position in front of the pilots and watched England drift away. We noticed the invasion ships not long after that, because the work had been flawlessly coordinated.
On D-Day, Allied bombs hit a German command post. (Getty Images/Interim Archives) )
The sea—or, to be more precise, the channel—was teeming with them, as thick with ships as the sky was with clouds. Large naval vessels stood beside the landing craft, while fighters hovered over the ships, defending them.
Nothing that could have been done to save lives was done. The lads had everything that could possibly be given to them.
On the French shore, we witnessed our own navy warships shelling German positions. As the shells hit their targets, we could see red sparks. They were colossal shells.
Flak began to fall quickly, and tracer bullets rained down like red hot rivets in front of us, but the expression on the face of the Cleveland lad piloting the jet remained unchanged. He followed the route to the target, then the bombardier completed his job, and the plane surged into the air, with flames shooting up from underneath.
Because of the poor weather, the bombing was carried out from a lower altitude of 4,000 feet rather than the typical 12,000 feet. This isn’t the healthiest option, but it was the only one available.
Then we went back to square one. We took off at 4:45 a.m., but it was already light. Guns were fired at us once more, but this time they missed us horribly. The Allied battlewagon continued to rain down shells, and anytime it was essential to notify our identify, Petraitis handled the situation with flares of the appropriate colors.
All danger appeared to have passed in a matter of minutes. When the threat had passed, the sergeant, who had completed 20 missions, observed, “I’d sure hate to do this for a living.”
We returned at breakfast time, and the daylight revealed tense faces.
I’m sorry if this has been misrepresented, but I’m glad for the opportunity to witness the conclusion of this epic life and death play. I’m also delighted that now that I’ve watched it, I can share some of my thoughts.
The sight of the ships and landing craft going towards France will never be forgotten, just as the appearance of the Holy Grail will never be forgotten by a knight. MHQ
The headline for this article in MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History’s Summer 2023 issue (Vol. 33, No. 4) is: Eyes on an Invasion | Classic Dispatches
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