Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

For Some, a Special Day


June 25. Just another summer day to most people. For those of us still living, and the ranks have dwindled considerably, it is a date that revives memories of another June 25 in the bloody summer of 1944. We were young that day when we fought on the streets and in the buildings of the port city of Cherbourg, yet old beyond our years.
For the three weeks since D-Day, Cherbourg had been the goal. Beyond it was nothing but the Atlantic and that's why it was important - a place where ships could dock.
In the plans for the invasion of Normandy, Cherbourg was to be captured within a few days. The generals who drew up those plans underestimated the tenacity of German infantrymen and they seemed to forget the thick dirt hedgerows that surrounded countless small fields lying between Utah Beach and the port that would be used to bring in supplies and fresh replacements to hurl into the cauldron. Eisenhower, the supreme commander, should have remembered those hedgerows because he had visited Normandy years earlier. All of them should have remembered that German infantrymen always fought if for no other reason than they were soldiers and that is what soldiers do.
Every field was contested. Every farmyard and village street was the scene of brutal close combat. So was a stone quarry near the little town of Montebourg and a large woods that was so close to the objective you could almost smell the ocean.
The casualties exceeded anything the generals back in England had anticipated. By the time that first stage of the Normandy Campaign ended my company had lost more men than had landed on D-Day, but many of those were replacements who barely had time to plant their feet on French soil before they were cut down.
Now we were in Cherbourg, weary beyond what any words can convey. Progress was slow so whenever we halted for even a few minutes some men fell asleep on sidewalks despite the clatter of rifle and machine gun fire and the metallic blasts as tanks fired their cannons. In the distance tremendous explosions were heard as the Germans blew up the port facilities. Instead of being usable in a few days it was three months before the port was open again.
Yes, it was a memorable day. Hardly worth a line in a history book today, but unforgettable to those who were there. That's the way it always is once the guns fall silent. Generals pin another little ribbon on their chests, politicians make flowery speeches, but few people remember. Today the Battle of Cherbourg is a video game. No one actually dies, of course.
(photo taken in 1985 by Jackie Stodghill)

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