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tv   Washington Journal Author Alex Kershaw on D- Day 75th Anniversary  CSPAN  May 27, 2019 8:00am-9:16am EDT

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normandy. [video clip] soldiers -- >> soldiers, sailors, and airmen, you are about to embark on a big crusade . the eyes of the world are upon you. the hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. in company with brave allies and brothers in arms under their fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the german war machine, the elimination of nazi terror, and security for ourselves in a free world.
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your task will not be an easy one. you're in the me as well-trained, well-equipped, and battle-hardened. he will fight savagely. but this is the year, 1944. much has happened since the nazi tramps of 1940 and 1941. there was great defeat in open airle, man to man, and our offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and capacity to wage war on the ground. our homefront has given us an overwhelming superiority in and place at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. the tide has turned. the freemen of the world are marching together in victory. i have full confidence in your devotion to duty, skill, and battle, and we will accept nothing less than full victory. good luck, and let us all beseech the blessing of almighty
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god upon this great and noble undertaking. guest: this morning on "washington journal" and "american history tv" we are the national d-day memorial and bedford, virginia, joined by alex kershaw, author of nine books, including his latest, "the first wave." alex kershaw, thank you for joining us this morning from the d-day memorial in bedford, virginia. like we us why -- looks may have lost our signal from bedford, virginia. the d-day memorial located there in bedford, near blacksburg, virginia. we hope to get our guest alex kershaw back up here momentarily. we will be opening up the phone lines for your calls and
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comments. here is how we're going to do that. once we get the signal reestablish, on the seven if it that a verse or he of d-day coming up june 6, the phone line will be (202) 748-8000 for those of you in the eastern and central time zones. (202) 748-8001, mountain and pacific. and for all others, world war ii veterans, i'd should say, and families, that is (202) 748-8002 . so we look forward to your calls as we way to reestablish contact with alex kershaw and they bedford, virginia. we want to give you a look at a newsreel, and you have probably seen some of this footage before. imagesf the first visual american sought as they reported from the d-day landings on june 6, some six days later here in the u.s. let's take a look. [video clip] england, last-minute
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instructions before taking off 100 miles across english channel. .hese are the heroes as the transports take off, the general wishes them godspeed. another set of brave men, zebra striping's on the aircraft and invasion equipment, and they await the terrific allied powers. backing up the mightiest shipson by air, 4000 carried the war to the enemy by sea. because good, navy, air forces
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land hundreds of -- the coast guard, navy, and air forces land. they isolate this strategic harbor is the immediate objective. [blasts] president roosevelt said, let our hearts be soft -- enemy's defenses are had, the supreme moment of invasion. this is the assault. [gunfire] guest: film of the invasion of 1944.dy on june 6,
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that film did not get to the u.s. until 60 years later and would have been showed in unity -- movie theaters and such. startedis when american seeing the film reporting of d-day. alex kershaw's new book is called "the first wave: the d-day warriors who led the way to victory in world war ii." this is ahead of the 75th anniversary of d-day, the normandy invasion. for facts and figures, the number of trips that landed on normandy beaches, 156,000, including 73,000 americans. the allied armada ships included 6900 ships and landing crafts, 50,000 vehicles, 11,500 planes used. ,-day casualties that day killed, missing in action, and wounded, 2000.
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4000 of those were killed. the overall casualty count for the normandy county -- campaign, 425,000 allied killed, wounded, or missing in action. d-dayth anniversary of coming up in a week and a half, june 6. lines are (202) 748-8000 for the eastern and central time zones. (202) 748-8001 for mountain and pacific. and for world war ii veterans, families, that line would be (202) 748-8002. jack from first from providence, rhode island. sorry we not with our guest, but go ahead with your thoughts and comments. hi, thank you. the reason for the call is i wish we would get into the real history of how world war ii was actually decided. it was decided on the eastern front, ok?
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the fighting over there made the western front look like a firecracker. you know this, sir. you are an expert and a very bright man. ist i find so perplexing what is put on tv. the german army was so good, so good, that you needed three nations to beat it. and the fighting, for example, in one battle was the bigger -- was bigger than the entire western front. if the germans prevailed on the eastern front, there would not have been any d-day. it was the best army, and everybody knows it. why isn't this gentleman -- why didn't this gentleman write about that? guest: in your opinion, why do you think this has not been told as the war of the western front? caller: good question. they do not want to show how really good the german army was. it was the best. they were just beaten because
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the force ratio was 25 to one against it. guest: our next call is from franklin, north carolina. good morning. caller: good morning. a big shout to my grandfather in heaven, a world war ii vet. i am a vet from desert storm, and to go back to the question when do we send our events to combat or our troops to combat? senior say whenever our officers tell us to. thank you to all the veterans out there for your service. and i think that that caller from florida who called our president inept on this memorial day needs to get out of the hot sun. your: where did grandfather served in world war ii, crystal? caller: he was in germany, and
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he actually got lost in austria. civilian train, and it was an open car, to try and get back to base. and he told us that it was a good thing that our grandmother was such a sweet and lovely woman, because the austrian girls were so pretty that he thought about staying over there. influence in any you serving in the military? caller: you better believe it. i went to the navy though, and he was in the army. we think everyone. guest: appreciate it. john is next, trenton, new jersey. unfortunately, we lost our signal to bedford, virginia, with our guest. we apologize for that. when we get the signal back, we will be speaking with mr. alex kershaw. john, go ahead with your thoughts on this memorial day. caller: i am a vietnam veteran. my father was a pearl harbor
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survivor. before that, my grandfather was in the army. lady that just got in making a comment, she does not know what she is talking about. donald trump had bone spurs. i question that highly. for him to be out of the country on the memorial day, he should be up there laying wreaths on the unknown soldiers and paying attention to business. instead of going out and building a wall, he should go to the vietnam wall and figure out how many people died to keep him free and to keep his family free. i have very, very hard feelings because of that. thank you for your time. guest: the president is on a
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state visit in japan, returning to the u.s. to speak at the air force academy on thursday, but more travel ahead, including travel to the u.k. and to france. he will take part in the 70 foot that a verse or he ceremony -- anniversary -- the 75th anniversary ceremony of d-day there. ohio on this in memorial. good morning. caller: yes, thank you. i would like everybody to know that i am a military army brat of 18 years and a two-year army wife. my father served in the south during warbora-bora making pills 12 hours a day for our soldiers to go back into combat. guest: what kind of pills did he make? did it deal with illness in the jungle there?
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caller: everything. he was a pharmacist. stalatto,anthony j. came to this country and spent two years at ellis island with his parents. he signed up in the u.s. military as a medic. he worked hard that day and took a bullet to the shoulder, and other medics came and helped him. he felt better, he jumped up and tore out the lines and helped the other soldiers on the beach. a the end of the day, he took naziet to the side from a soldier. he did survive, and this was june 6, 1944, on normandy beach. so much fors sharing that story on this memorial day morning.
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we are rejoined once again from bedford, virginia, by alex kershaw, who has written about d-day. his latest book is "the first wave: the d-day warriors who led the way to victory in world war ii." kershaw, for the power outage. we are now back here life appeared what is the significance of you being there in bedford and the memorial you are sitting near? host: this is one place in asrica that gave more to me a european -- i am 63 years old, and i spent 53 years in europe and have enjoyed enormous prosperity in unity, and this one community here, bedford, virginia, saved more lives and sacrifice more than anyone else in america on d-day, june 6, 1944. 19 guys from this community of 3000 in 1944 died in the first wave on omaha beach.
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bedford, virginia, gave more than any other allied community on d-day, and that is why the memorial is here. i have very happy to be sitting right in front of it. guest: i have always heard that bedford gave more than any other american town, but you said more than any other allied community. host: yes, that is what the national d-day memorial proclaims, and that is true, yeah. company-a a d-day, from the 116 infantry regiment, national guard in the 1930's, we can warriors, they never envisioned that by 1944, they would be in the very first wave of the most critical assault of u.s. history. 180 guys who landed on omaha beach, and we believe 102 were killed in about half an hour. of those, 19 were from bedford,
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virginia. but there were 34 guy still in the company-a on d-day from this community here. guest: your book focuses on the individual stories, personal stories come of that first wave of soldiers, airmen, and marines, you write early in the book that it was 12:15 am, june 6, 19 44, the most important day of the 20 century, the first americans had arrived in france. was theou think d-day most important day of the 20th century? host: because it led to a europe you see today, civilization, human rights, democracy, the foundation of atlanta schism -- the foundation of the relationship between the u.s. and europe, the most important relationship in the modern world history. it led to the freedom of millions and millions of europeans in western europe. 19 million civilians died in
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europe in world war ii. when americans, british, french, and canadian slanted on d-day, gave countess millions hope that ,he barbarism and nazism the terrible genocide, would finally end. guest: our guest is alex kershaw. we welcome your calls and comments ahead of the 75th anniversary of d-day. for (202) 748-8001 -- (202) 748-8001 eastern and western time zones per mountain and pacific, (202) 748-8001. world war ii veterans and family, (202) 748-8002. we will get to your calls shortly. i want to start with a photo most all of us have seen at some point or another in our lives, the famous jaws of death photo, what is the significance of this photo that you have included in a similar version on the front of your book? is --it
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host: it is probably the best photo you can find what it was like for the first wave of troops at omaha beach. craft approaching one of eight centers on omaha, the second deadliest sector, and guys of that boat would be killed. it is a very atmospheric shot of what it was like to approach bloody omaha. over 900 americans would be killed on that beach, far more than any other allied soldiers and any other beach on d-day. it is a moment anticipating eminence of violence and slaughter and death. guest: alex kershaw, we have callers waiting period first to ralph in kentucky. served in world war ii, but he was part of the occupation force after combat. but i was wondering, how many men did we actually lose on omaha beach that day?
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--t: well over: well, we know it was 900. over 900 on omaha beach. compare that with the other american beach at utah, you had less than 200 casualties killed, wounded, taken prisoner. over 2000 killed, thousand casualties, so very different stories. utah beach was a huge success. omaha was a bloody disaster. host: joseph next in plano, texas. good morning. caller: how are you doing? host: fine, go ahead with your comment. guest: great, thanks. caller: one of the other callers said it was inappropriate to talk about the president on this memorial day. first of all come the sacrifices of the greatest generation has
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little to do about it. you have to remember, the president did his recruitment and his bone spur controversy, and somebody had to take his place. host: thanks. we have kind of moved on that topic. talking about d-day with alex guest, andr his new book "the first wave." next call. caller: thank you. i was privileged to be at the memorial a couple years ago unmemorable day, and they brought the schoolchildren next to that landing craft. those children went by, and there must've been 100 veterans there from various campaigns, and it was fantastic to see those children think those veterans in person. it is a great thing. it is a shame that it took so long to get that memorial built there. what do you think the difficulty
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was, mr. kershaw? guest: i think there is a difficulty with many memorials. the national world war ii memorial in d.c. was built far too late as far as most people are concerned. i think it took a long time for people to realize we needed to memorialize the second world war. it is a shame that we have to remember it is here. it has been open since 2001, opened by president bush in 2001, and we now have beautiful national memorials all over the americanin europe to sacrifice and loss in world war ii. host: in general, how are the men selected to be part of this first wave? were they looking for specific experience, character traits, or did they just need raw numbers? guest: a mixture of both. it is a great question. for omaha beach, it was a mixture of two divisions. the first division had been in combat before.
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some guys that landed in the first wave of omaha were in that -- had been in north africa and sicily and into omaha beach. other divisions included a division that was completely green, a national guard division, and not one of those guys had seen combat before. the problem was we only had so many men we could put in the battle that had actually seen, before. two thirds of the americans on d-day had never had a shot fired at them. it was a combination. the third key objective was difficult and challenging. we used elite troops, rangers. 101st airborne were elite trips, but most of those guys had never seen combat before. the vast majority of americans on d-day had never been in combat before. host: one of the green troops was a man you write a great deal
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about, lieutenant john spalding, leader of the 16th infantry regiment, the first division of the first wave of men on the beach. you write about lieutenant spalding and his second-in-command, a surgeon of the first infantry division, the big red one. what was their relationship? describe those first couple of moments when they stepped off the boat, lieutenant spalding stepping off that higgins boat into the water. guest: you have to remember that when they came in towards the bombinghe american would have been affected and all they had to worry about was the germans counterattacking. so when they dared to look over the edge of that landed craft about 200 yards from the beach, their hearts fell. they were utterly dismayed to see that nothing had been touched by preinvasion bombing. the ramp came down.
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spalding was at the front of the landing craft, and 28-year-old guy who had never seen combat before, from kentucky, had been a sportswriter before the war. he had to shout at his men that he was going to go first. noise level was absolutely extraordinary. veterans have described it to me as a constant wall of noise. every now and again you would cloth being torn by a machine gun, which would kill an entire platoon and could have killed spalding's landing craft in seconds. he goes into the water, and it is cold, a jolt. he goes under the water. he tries to get rid of his pack. comes back up and manages somehow to get to the beach. he then crawls across a foam shingle beach and finds protection finally by the ruins that had beenla
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heavily shelled. tok about an hour and a half get off the landing craft and lead his men 300 or 400 yards to flat sands and then across shingles and up a minefield that was part of a blood, and finally emerged at about 8:00 in the morning, becoming the first american officer to lead americans off the bloodiest beach on d-day. host: taking calls for alex kershaw as we look at the 75th anniversary of d-day here on "washington journal" and "american history tv." our call is from winston-salem, north carolina. yes, i had a granddaddy in world war ii, but they cannot find him because they locked him up.
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this happened to american people all over. [indiscernible] war,people missing in the and they were keeping them in jail. what happened to my granddaddy. they had him. and people saying something about donald trump. don't you know donald trump was a corporation men? new: walter next from albany, indiana. you are here with alex kershaw. caller: for everybody paying attention to this broadcast, no one thing,- know when it comes to losing a war or winning a war, that is a geopolitical matter. when it comes to the man on the ground eating the fire, it is more simple than that. when it comes to winning or losing a war, the winners walk
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out and the losers don't. a combat veteran. thank you for your time. host: alex kershaw, your thoughts on walter's perspective of what it took. was a well, there critical moment on omaha beach for the entire invasion. so many men had been wounded and killed, there was very little communication. thend 10:30, 11:00 in there was serious consideration of pulling american troops off of omaha beach. done, i believe d-day would have been a great disaster and it would have been a great defeat, not a great victory, for allied forces. the difference was made by individual americans, young officers getting their guys to stand up, walk into the line of fire, and have the courage to sacrifice their lives and lead
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others into enemy fire. it came down to individuals, maybe four or five dozen young officers on omaha beach. that made the difference between victory and defeat on d-day in omaha and for the entire battle. yes, we can reduce this massive invasion. two critical moments, and you can say key americans, american guts and courage, made the difference. host: i was amazed in lieutenant spalding's case and a couple other figures, how much gear was lost right away. spalding was waiting in the water, they tell him to ditch the machine gun and all sorts of gear, and they wind up on the beach with barely any equipment at all. does it surprise you that they were able to continue to fight was so much of their gear in the water or lost or elsewhere? one of the problems is that on omaha beach, there was very high surf. the night of june 5, there had been a storm, so when the guys
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came in, some had been in the water for three or four hours. some had circled several times. one landing craft, one veterans wereve out of six guys there for six hours before even landing on the beach. they did not care how many bullets were coming at them, they just wanted to get their feet on dry ground or on the beach. they should have gone in lightly armed. carryangers that did not massive equipment because the job was to get there fast and effectively and with minimum armament, minimum weight. when you jump into water with a 70-pound back, a rifle, and radio on your back and that gets as, that equipment gets wet, a spalding said, his uniform felt like lead weight. it slowed them down, the fact that the uniforms were very wet. spalding said when he looked to his left on omaha beach during
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the first wave, he saw guys staggering as if they were walking into a very heavy wind that morning because of the weight of their packs and of their wet uniforms. host: the book is "the first wave: the d-day warriors who led the way to victory in world war ii." alex kershaw's argus joining us from the d-day memorial in bedford, virginia, welcoming your calls and comments. we showed earlier the comments of do dwight d. eisenhower, his letter to the troops just before the invasion. a famous photo of him speaking with the 101st airborne. he was looking confident, but you write that he was quite concerned afterwards. and you said, afterwards he broke into tears after he wrote this. there was a womanr-old anglo-irish
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who he got into the jeep with after he paid farewell to everyone, and she said he had tears in his eyes. he said to her that it was very hard to look the americans in the eyes and no he is sending that guy to his death. it is a famous cliche, but i love him, the front he showed, the charm, when you look at the original film, the blue eyes, and the smile, not a moment of fear or intimidation that he shows to these young americans. he was a great leader and showed great confidence, but he was not confident at all. that were so many orders he had to use a lead pencil. he had a constant ring in his right ear. many cigarettes a day, very little sleep, basically a nervous wreck. but he was stoic for the generals and the men that were about to fight and die for him.
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needed to show confidence because it was a very, very risky operation. for the02) 748-8000 eastern and central time zones. (202) 748-8001, mountain and pacific. for those of you with world war ii relatives or world war ii veterans, (202) 748-8002. david from pennsylvania, good morning. caller: good morning. thanks for taking my call. i would like to remark about d-day. my father went in on utah beach, a sense itlucky in was utah beach. people focus on omaha, which rightly they should, but let's look at the whole picture and look at the canadians, the british, and utah and omaha. and everyone that stepped off the landing craft were as brave as anybody else.
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thein the a private war, look of the draw makes a big difference. it does not matter what happens. i mean, you can be lucky or you can be brave and you can be unlucky. it should be all those guys that stepped off that thing. i am a vietnam veteran, and my son served as a ranger during iraq and afghanistan. so i appreciate all those forward that stepped and did their bit. thebad we have someone in white house that don't. thank you for taking my call. host: alex kershaw? guest: yes, we have to remember that utah and omaha dominate the american narrative, but juno beach for the canadians, 900 americans killed, more than 900 in omaha, but over 300 canadians were killed at juno beach, the
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second deadliest beach on d-day. and we have to remember something very important about the canadians, our neighbors, great allies, very strong allies, they were all volunteers. every single guy, every single canadian that stepped out of a landing craft onto juno beach, every canadian that jumped out of a dakota on d-day was a volunteer. they do not have to be there, so that makes their courage special, i think, and unique. allieds a story of cooperation, superb ally cooperation, the pinnacle, you could argue, of allied operation. it was a joint effort. we fought side-by-side and died side-by-side, and the victory was brought by several nations. guest: one of the british soldiers you write about -- a picture of him here from 1942 -- it says he would lead a force on d-day of commandos with legendary panache and courage to
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tell us about him. old, a scottish aristocrat. that was only his third day in combat, d-day, a legendary commander leader. even by d-day, he was legendary among his troops because he cured out two very effective -- [no audio] like we may looks have lost our guest again we apologize about that. we will try to get alex kershaw back and pick up our conversation where we left off. we will continue to take your calls and comments. if you have a specific comment or question for mr. kershaw and can write it down and note it, we will continue taking your calls until we restore the signal. we are focusing on the 75th anniversary of d-day, which is a week and a half away, june 6, of course, here on this memorial day on "washington journal" and on "american history tv."
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sabrina is on the relatives line. sabrina is calling from ohio. we apologize that we lost power to our moat in bedford, virginia. go ahead with your comment or question. caller: thank you for having me call in. a worldranddaughter of war ii veteran, as well as my uncle fought and died in vietnam. i am now currently married to an individual in the army. i don't have any relatives related to d-day, but my grandfather fought in the pacific. one thing that i found that was interesting is that my grandmother was a woman explosiveworker in an factory in triumph, maryland, and she joked about how she used to make the duds that my grandfather used to use on his
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cruiser back in the day. host: so your grandmother was a veteran in her own right. she worked in the factory. caller: yes, correct. and it was a very dangerous factory. they only allowed women to work for so long because of the exposure to the nitrates that they were producing there. i have always thought that i would love to see some kind of national memorial for the women who worked in the factory and to the families who supported their veterans back home during this time. i know that there are various memorials out there for women who have worked in the factories, but there is not one that i know of on the national level. i think that they have made sacrifices themselves and would love to see something in their honor, as well. host: sabrina, thanks for those comments. howard is next in new york.
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good morning. caller: hello? host: go ahead. caller: ok, i am actually in helena, montana. army airson of an corps sergeant, and i would like to think mr. kershaw for his book, especially for the cover. i do read section of it to my dad, and when he saw the front tony copewondered how was doing. tony was a friend of his who was .n omaha beach his whole lending craft was being shot up, and the -- his whole landing craft was being shot up, and the only way he survived that -- he did take a shot in the shoulder and was pulled off to the side by his insurgent. aft -- by his sergeant.
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after that on a hospital ship over the next day or so, he identified that only two out of his whole army craft were still alive, and that was only because his sergeant pulled them off to the shore. there is a lot more to that story from tony when he told me, but that is about all i have. host: howard, have you written down or recorded some of these conversations? caller: yeah, i have over 80 world war iiad's events and his friends', yes. host: appreciate that. we apologize for the interruption with alex kershaw. your biggest full of first-hand accounts from veterans. what was your primary source, alex kershaw, letters home, personal diaries, interviews with surviving veterans? guest: a combination of many things.
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interviews with veterans, of course. unfortunately there are not many alive today. there were several guys during the five years when i was working during the book. but we were lucky in the u.s., britain, and canada. we have interviewed world war ii veterans at great length there is the national world war ii museum, imperial war museum, library of congress. i was able to delve into a history.trove of oral hundreds and hundreds of hours of oral history. we have done a good job of preserving the memories of these great warriors. scentlet me ask about the of theodore roosevelt, teddy hisevelt, jr., and participation in the invasion of normandy. incredibly, 56 years old, the oldest general officer on d-day. he basically begged to go in on
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the first wave on utah and actually did arrive in the first wave on utah beach. 6:28 was the time the first americans waded. there was a captain who remembered looking to his right and sing this 50 60 guy with a bad heart and a walking stick huffing and puffing his weight on utah beach on the first day of d-day. an extraordinary guy. i think he had a sort of complex and wanted to prove that he was courageous like his father, and that day he became a what -- one of only four americans who received honors for action on june 6, 1944. extraordinary courage, extraordinary american leader on d-day. host: teddy roosevelt, jr., and his son was actually in the invasion, as well, right? guest: amazingly, the father was
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in utah and the sun was on omaha. ongically, the father died july 12, 1944 come of heart failure. i think the stress of combat and leadership, the savage combat date injured after d-day, basically killed him. couple hoursjust a before his father died, was able to see his father and see how he was doing. calls fors go back to alex kershaw. this is janice in michigan. caller: mr. kershaw, my dad was a sergeant in the army air corps. and d-day was his 24th birthday. a scottishmy mom, girl, in a pub in manchester, inland, and they got married 1943. he put her on the queen mary when they learned she was pregnant with me, so his first
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child would be born in the u.s. but i have always been curious about the second wave. blakeman, was a photographer, and he went in on and published a book after the were called "over there," which was a collection of photographs he could -- he took. it is out of print, of course. but i was just wondering, what happened in the second wave? we have heard the stories about the first wave, and i look forward to reading your book. but what did the people in the second wave do, if you could please tell me that? thanks. guest: first of all, it is great to be talking to a fellow -- someone related to a british lady, to put it that way. the americans that came to england still an awful lot of
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our most beautiful young roses. the queen mary took around 7000 or 8000 british women back to the u.s. at one point after the war. the second wave, it depended where you were. let's go back to omaha beach. i am in bedford, virginia, right now, and when i was writing about the lads here, the boys who died on omaha beach, there was a guy from the second wave from lynchburg, virginia, and he said he came in on the second wave and when he landed on omaha beach after the bedford boys come after the first wave, all he could see was dead bodies. so you were as likely to die in the second, third, and fourth wave as you were in the first wave. by the time to second and third waves arrive, the germans had their machine guns and knew they were coming and it was target practice. and dark green sectors, so
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it was literally target practice. we have been talking a good deal about the landings on the beaches, and you write a great deal about the paratroopers and the gliders, the aircraft used two lane soldiers behind enemy lines. and how those gliders many men were delivered that way. guest: you have to imagine that you are in a glider -- say that tookritish spectacularly the first successful operation were let and they loose basically in a wooden and canvas glider at about 6000 feet around midnight on june 6.
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30 guys crash landed. they crash landed at 90 miles per hour in the glider. it literally was a suicidal operation, and they knew it. guys got concussions and were injured. there were many casualties in that operation. in that one case -- [inaudible] -- the first successful operation of d-day. you are crash landing basically in canvas and wooden plane. incredible to think they would volunteer to do that, let alone succeed and live. host: and the british and the americans used these gliders, correct? guest: yes, they did. americans and the british used the gliders. being a glider pilot on d-day was perhaps -- i would argue it
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was the most dangerous job you had. whatever happens, you are crash landing, and you better make sure that you were a damn good pilot, because you are then under enemy fire. trees.as hedgerows, think about it, you have lives in your hands and you're in a glider being fired at constantly, and you are landing with 15 feetd polls with barbed wire attached. there was not a more difficult job than being a glider pilot, no more dangerous on d-day. host: let's go back to more calls for alex kershaw. this is spencer in maine. caller: my grandfather was at omaha beach. he joined the navy when he was himself old and found in a little talked about group called the navy six beach
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battalion. they called them the sailors that looked like soldiers. they were attached to the army for the d-day landing. i believe in the first five seconds of "saving private ryan," the beach battalion is featured in the opening scene. i was just wondering if there is any -- if anything has been written about the six beach battalion? if there is anybody out there from that battalion, i did tweet to "washington journal" a picture of my grandfather. he made it. my father, his son, join the marine corps and went to vietnam. he did lose a leg, but he came home like my grandfather did and raised a big family. my grandfather is gone now, but any information on that battalion would be appreciated. host: if you want to tweet that,
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that would be great. we are @c-spanwj. guest: i am in bedford here, and to my left, you can see plaques for each of the individual units on d-day. you grandfather landed in the most lethal place and at the most lethal time on detail that any allied trip could find himself on at omaha beach. he actually came before the first wave. when you look at the 20 minutes in "saving private ryan," the amazing carnage and death and slaughter, your father belonged to those scenes. your grandfather was in those scenes, as were the bedford boys. he landed in a very dangerous place, indeed, and it is pretty much a miracle he managed to survive, especially since he succeeded the first wave, an extraordinary achievement. he would have seen an enormous amount of trauma and death.
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you should be extremely proud. host: there is a picture of your book of a captain, and almost looks like it is out of a movie. there he is with the helmet on and the cigar. you write that jumping with a cigar for that captain was pretty much standard for him. tell us about his role in the opening invasion, the first wave. guest: he was from upstate new york, 28 years old on d-day, and he had made 43 practice jumps before d-day. only on one, as he was about to amp out of the plane, he was pathfinder and he was officially recognized as the very first american, very first cowboy yank, to put his feet on the ground in normandy on d-day. extraordinary achievement. he made many practice jumps, not once in combat. on one occasion his men were
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looking at him as they were about to jump out, and they so that he did not have a cigar in his mouth. one of his men looked at him in --ck, looking very wordy worried because they were superstitious, and lillyman grabbed the cigar and put it in his mouth and jumped. atjumped from about 500 feet 12: 15 am, first american to land, took about 25 seconds to drop about 500 feet, and when his parachute hit that field in normandy, he still had a cigar in his mouth. style, and a and great warrior. he survived the war but was wounded later on d-day at market garden. he finished the war with many decorations. host: about how many allied in?ps paratroopped guest: about 125,000.
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you had the americans and also the british and canadian elements. host: suzanne is next in sacramento, california. caller: good morning. i thought of my mother when the previous woman mentioned the need for documentation of women mother was, and my at the navy yard. my father went to north africa of thely, and what saddest memories for my father was the fact that when he was on troop trains -- he was a black soldier, and they were not given seats. they were made to sit on duffel bags on the floor. when they had events with the uso, they sat behind the defeated of the people. really until president truman stilln, the army was
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segregated, and they suffered terribly. that story has not really been told, so i hope you might consider that for one of your future studies. guest: definitely. i think one of the great achievements of americans fighting in world war ii was that it transformed american society. the america we know today was built out of that transformative experience. segregation, for example, started to break down, the first segregation came from the expanses of black soldiers in world war ii, and it showed they deserved to be equal citizens. they were just as brave and competent as any other american fighting in the great conflict. host: we had the test test. test. test test. test. test test. test. test test here is a picture of hs grandfather. navy six beach battalion at omaha, the sailors that looked
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like soldiers, my grandfather. york,hear from pennsylvania, next. linda, go ahead. caller: good morning. thanks for taking my call. i have a question or comment for mr. kershaw. every now and then they show a movie on cable tv called "d-day," and tom selleck stars as eisenhower. i am sure it does not get into all the nitty-gritty, but it shows how much pressure eisenhower had on him to plan this, especially with the rotten weather in england, and he had considering the least loss of possible on these landings. there was one scene that i was whenuite clear on, eisenhower went to talk to the french president at that time, the french president was very
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difficult and said that he would and theow ike's plan french would do their own plan. i was not sure about that. of the covers the basics pressure faced in this war. i found it a very compelling movie. i am sure there are more horror stories. but i wonder if mr. kershaw has seen this movie or was aware of it. thank you. movie.i have seen the i am a big fan of tom selleck, but i do not think he has the same dreamy blue eyes as ike did . yes, we did have the british, canadians, and the americans. there were serious problems, and we do not expect him to be the national leader of the french. he was not an official we could negotiate with officially.
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your point about eisenhower, i do not think any man in the 20th century faces as much pressure as eisenhower did on june 5, 1940 four, when he alone was able to make the decision to go. not churchill, not marshall, washington, roosevelt, not the king of england. the french president might have wanted to influence ike. allied supreme commander, only he could give that decision to go, and it was a serious decision. when he gave the decision, a storm was brewing. the was pelting against building in which she was holding his conference with the commanders. when he looked out the window at around 4:00 in the morning on june 5, 1944, and was giving the decision of final orders to go, he was thinking, my god, what am i going to do? what am i doing? what am i sending these soldiers
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to? he was under crushing strain. let's not forget he had been under growing strain since january of 1944 when he came to london to take control. was so important, and so much was riding on the outcome. eisenhower himself told a friend in washington, d.c., a few weeks before d-day that it was a huge gamble. everything was on one number, no never, and i believe we would have gone back again. had we failed, it would have been the greatest failure in modern history for the u.s. and the allies. host: debbie is calling from south dakota. am calling from mitchell, south dakota. yes, i simply want to thank all the veterans of all the wars
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that the united states soldiers have fought in. uncle that and happened to have served in the u.s. navy in world war ii and were not directly near the d-day invasion. but my uncle harold informed me more of the history than even my own dad did. i have one question, mr. kershaw. do you think the fact that they had -- first of all, after pearl harbor, every available young man pretty much signed up, but they had the draft also. do you think that helped with the success that we had in world menii because the young were from so many varied backgrounds? the draft, without the draft we cannot have had
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victory in the pacific, and do not forget the european theater. american was waging two very intense wars over 3000 miles away from this country, from where i sitting today. hardly any americans suffered domestically. i think a handful were victims of japanese bombings on the west coast. americans did not experience war as the europeans did. yes, the draft was essential, and all americans from all different backgrounds gave pretty much everything to the second world war. . do not forget, it was a question of survival. host: we are joined this morning by the author of "the first wave." he is joining us from the d-day memorial in
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he's joining us from bedford, virginia, the d day memorial in bedford, virginia. the bedford boys one of your prior eight works, alex kershaw, a number of books about world war ii. what made you want to focus on d day and in particular the story of the individual soldiers? >> i will be honest with you. it is because they gave me an amazing life. i was born in britain 53 years ago. i fell in love -- i'm a g.i. groom. i met my wife in london when i was 28. i have lived in this country for 25 years. my son was born in los angeles. but i grew up in an era that was united and peaceful. we have enjoyed 75 years of peace in europe. that's the longest period in that continent's history a place scarred by time and memorial by killing and war and death. so i have been extraordinarily
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lucky, very, very lucky to have benefitted from the liberation of western europe. i consider myself english american but also very much european. i can't say thank you enough. i can't say ever thank you enough to the young men who gave their lives where i am sitting right now to allow me to have that life, to have that -- to enjoy those freedoms and to have done what i have been able to achieve in my life. because it was a gift, it was a beautiful, beautiful gift. >> let's hear from mike next in carbdale, colorado. >> caller: i just wanted to congratulate alex on another beautiful book, the first wave. i wanted to share to my father, an immigrant from ireland, born in world war ii, and then i had -- -- fought in world war ii. and then i had five other uncles fight in world war ii. one was killed. one was p.o.w.
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the book hit home for me. i wanted to ask alex, a scene from the bedford boys, if he could relate to the audience about what it was like for the western eun operator, a female, who started to receive the notifications of the boys who were dying in bedford. there were so many, they were actually people and families she knew. i would love to hear his comments about that. >> well, thanks for calling in, mike. irinterviewed elizabeth t. she was 29 years old in 1944. imgoing to go to agraveyard in bedford not far from where i am sitting right now, i am going to visit graves of several of the bedford boys who were brought home. 22 killed in normandy june 5th of 1944. half of them are not far, a
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couple of miles from where i am sitting. on the july 21st, 19 4. elizabeth t. went to work at the green's drugstore, still open today. she went to a western unit telegraph at the back of the store and turned on the teletype machine she told me it wouldn't stop for at least a couple of hours. these names kept coming through, killed in action, killed in action, missing in action. when i talked to her she told me there were so many names all she could remember was that there were a lot of johns. i think what was so powerful at the moment of the teletype machine spitting out these messages of tragedy, is that the stutter of the machine guns killing these boys was echoed by the teletype machine spitting out the messages that went to the loves ones in bedford. it devastated this community.
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it was a very, very, very, very grief stricken tragic time. you have to remember people in america knew on june th that we invaded normandy. it was a huge, huge story, the biggest of the war for everybody in the allied nations. people in new bedford knew their sons were involved in some way but they had to wait weeks and weeks to find out what happened to them. mail was returned. letters didn't come back. there were rumors. one woman told me it was like waiting for an earthquake week, after week, after week, no news. what happened to our boys? finally that morning, elizabeth t. turns on the teletype machine and the truth comes out. >> was that delay typical. june 6th, the invasion. and you mention mid july when the bedford boys' news come to town. was that typical in terms of the notification of kin?
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>> very typical. it took several weeks for the next of kin to be informed by the war office about what happened to their loved ones. a very long time if you knew that your loved one had been involved in very intense combat. the first photographs that appeared in the u.s. of what it was like to be an american at the sharp end on d day were taken by the photographer who landed with the big red on only huh beach. families where i am sitting right now opened "time" magazine on the 19th of june 1944 and saw extraordinary images of carnage and death and intense violence. they knew their sons by then can be involved in that combat on that beach. so they had to still wait another month before they found out what had happened even though they had seen images of what might have happened with their loved ones. >> ten more minutes with our
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guest alex kershaw. we have time for a few more questions, bill? >> caller: thanks to c-span3 for a great program, and our author, mr. kershaw. this is a great program today. mr. kershaw, my question to you is supposedly president or general eisenhower at the time wrote a letter in the car about bringing the troops off the shores because of the invasion had failed. i am wondering if you could comment about that. thank you so much. >> i think if you want a moment that epitomizes great, great leadership from any american in world war ii and from i believe one of your greatest presidents, eisenhower, it's this. it's that on d day he had a note in his back pocket -- he found it several weeks later. the note had been written by eisenhower before he gave the order to go.
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and it says our men, our troops, sailors, soldiers, our men have done their very best. they showed the greatest courage, or words to that effect. unfortunately, the invasion has failed. and i alone, i alone take responsibility. so that sense that he was going to take it all on his shoulders. not only giving the decision to go, but if it failed he would accept responsibility, solely him s a sign of a great -- of a great man, of a great, great man. >> you are joining us this morning from the d day memorial in bedford. i understand recently you led a tour of normandy. who joined you on that tour? >> it was a group of americans. i do tours with the national world war ii museum. i was there two or three weeks ago. we visited all the place is that i have been talking about, went to the section easily red sector
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where spalding came ashore, the sector where the bedford boys came ashore. i want to take americans to omaha beach particularly where the bedford boys were slaughtered. i say there is no place any american can go on the planet where you will feel more proud to be an american an home that beach or normandy. the best moment in your history was when you kicked us brits out. the second best was d day, june 5th, 1944 where you gave american lives, over 900 on one beach where you gave many american lives, 20,000 killed in the battle of norman d.a. where you the new world came to liberate the old. where americans sacrificed their lives so others could grow up in freedom, so i could grow up in
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freedom. i do this with people i take to the beaches in normandy. i say by june th, 1944, americans were in no danger of being invaded. american freedom was assured. the americans who served in the europe theater who laid down their lives who stepped out of landing craft, who jumped out of c-47s on june 6th, 1944, they laid down their lives for europeans, not in terms of importance, in terms of freedom forrers ma. they laid down their lives for europeans. it was a act of altruism, the greatest act of american altruism in history. >> now a caller from west virginia. >> caller: hello. i would like to say, today being memorial day, i am sew so proud of all the people that served. i'm a veteran myself, vita ma'am veteran. my father was in the sixth army
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rangers. and they actually made a move o'about him about 15 years ago called the great raid. -- a movie about him about 15 years ago called the great raid. my mom lost two of her brothers, one j germany and one in the -- death watch. if not for all those people and those that served in world war ii we wouldn't be here today. today being memorial day. i am happy that my family served. it makes me feel good kad. >> a exkershaw, one of the many men you write about is lieutenant colonel james rudder. >> again, one of the many, many americans -- american combat commanders, too. guys that had really serious jobs to do on d day. colonel rudder was in charge of the second range of italian who
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assaulted pointe hawk. it was called the most difficult job on d day. they had to scale. rudder had never been in combat. the only guys he had ever led under any kind of stress was a college football team. but did a wonderful job on d day over 225 guys in the second ranger battalion assaulted there. they suffered over 6 % casualties. i have been to the spot where he was injured twice. he kept on fighting defending his men and fought for 48 hours before his men were relieved by fellow americans. they had -- the second range of battalions, many of those guys had not slept on the night of the 5th of june and were relieved on the 8th of june. 72 hours of combat, of
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adrenaline peaking and flowing, losing your loved ones, your brothers, guys that you treated like your brothers because they were in combat with you. very high casualties. an extraordinary job and went on to become i think texas a and ms greatest ever president. he was a wonderful leader in combat. when he was decorated awarded the dsc after june th, 1944, a couple weeks later he cried in front of his men and he held up his dsc and said this is for you, you did this. and one of the guys shouted back ott him. you keep it for us. he was a wonderful combat leader but never had a shot fired at him in anger before d day. it is extraordinary how men found their order.
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>> that dsc that you are talking about. >> distinguished service cross. 153 americans received the dfc for actions on omaha beach alone. only four medal of honor recipients for d day. three belong to the big red one, john spalding's division on omaha. i think quite a few more guys deserve the medal of-or or d day. that's history, that's past now. >> let's take one more call, mark from michigan. hello there. >> caller: hello there. my name is mark to youers. my father was at omaha beach at d day. he was in the second wave. they already seen what was happening on the beach. and he this didn't go out the front of the ship out of the boat on thend laing craft, they went out the side. they were on the ranger division. and they were talking about the
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beach being bloody. he said he saw the movie tom hanks made. he said it was just like being there. everything else -- he was at the cliff he was also at bastogne when the germans surrounded them and his commander just said nuts. >> alex kershaw. final thoughts? >> i think that the 75th anniversary of d day is a very important event. i think it is a unifying event. every american should reflect on what this nation achieved in unity with other nations, allies nations. what was given. what was given was human life, the most precious thing, so others could be free, so americans could stand by its founding values of equality,
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democracy, justice and human rights. we should remember that, americans were unified and fought together and achieved a great, great victory because they were together and not divided. >> the book is the first wave, the d day warriors who led the way to victory in world war ii. our guest alex kershaw joining us from the d day memorial in bedford, virginia thank you for joining us. >> thanks so much. >> our focus on world war ii in particular on d day here on american history tv and washington journal will turn as we turn next to author mary louise roberts and talk about her book looking at the battle of norman dethrough the eyes of the french citizens who were caught in that fight. first, though, from 1945, a u.s. office of war information film. this is a french civilian describing the liberation of paris which occurred just 80

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