Saturday, September 17, 2016
The Dead and Those About to Die
During World War II the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division, aka The Big Red One, had already fought in North Africa and Sicily and most thought they were due to be sent home when things drastically changed. Their beloved commander, Major General Terry Allen and his deputy, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. were transferred to other commands and Major General Clarence Huebner was put in command. The division was sent to England in preparation for the planned invasion of Europe. I never realized the extent of training that went on prior to the invasion of Normandy. After watching many war movies, I also did not realize that the soldiers were actually given assigned places based on what type of artillery they carried on the Higgins boats (the landing craft used to take the men to the beach). The 1st Division suffered massive losses during the landing at the eastern end of Omaha Beach due, in part to the failure of air support to bomb the armed pillbox guard posts above the beach. The other reason for the high losses was the extreme weight each soldier carried which made it difficult to run while being relentlessly fired upon by the Germans. In spite of these difficulties many of managed to survive and go on to help defeat the Nazis and end the war. This book contains a lot of first person information from the soldiers and commanders. The title of the book comes from a quote made by General George A. Taylor on Omaha Beach, "There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let's get the hell out of here." I first learned of McManus' books when my son was in his military history class at the Missouri University of Science & Technology, where McManus is the Curator's Distinguised Professor of Military History.