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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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fourth of July Fireworks

Hours before first light on July Fourth it began, a massive artillery barrage that lit up the sky with brilliant flashes of gold and silver. Ships in the nearby English Channel joined in. Their shells passed overhead with a rustling sound like snakes slithering through dry leaves. The sound of death about to strike.
We watched from our staging area not far off , unable to sleep with the crash of exploding shells shaking the ground and the sky close by such a brilliant hue.
Last night we watched a fireworks display from our sixth floor balcony. It was excellent, noisy and colorful, yet puny by comparison with that earlier display. That one had been the beginning of a major offensive that failed to get off the starting line. In afternoon we were placed on alert, ready to move forward if the American front line collapsed.
It was morning before our hike began under threatening gray clouds. It was a circuitous march because flooded ground and a large morass separated us from the battle. We crossed a bridge where Eisenhower and Bradley were reported. We didn't see them. In late afternoon we stopped for a few minutes. Just in front of me was a milepost pointing the way to the town of Meautis. A short time later we halted and were told to dig in for the night.
The next morning was bright, the sky clear. A few minutes march brought us to the highway running south from Carentan. Our objective was the crossroads settlement of le Verimesmil. We entered a field to the right of the highway and I counted nineteen men from another division lying in their slit trenches, stabbed to death with their own bayonets. What had happened here? There was no way of knowing.
After hiking south a hundred yards or so the ripping sound of fast-firing German machine guns and the distinctive crack of rifle fire broke out. The men ahead had made contact, the fighting had begun. We ran forward to the sound of the guns.
By noon our company commander was dead. By evening we had lost four of our six officers and a hundred men, more than half of those in the company. For the first time we had made the acquaintance of a German SS division.
It had been one helluva Fourth of July fireworks display. The next ten days proved to be one helluva battle. Replacement poured in and died before they knew where they were, or why. Historians write about it but they don't know what it was like. It's listed as the Battle of Sainteny, the Battle of Sainteny Hill, the Battle of the Isthmus, the Battle of the Hedgerows. Take your pick, it doesn't matter.


Blogger STAG said...

Its called the Battle of the Hedgerows up here in Canada. Part of the Normandy campaign.

Then the Canucks got to clear out the Breskens pocket, and then clear the Scheldt estuary in a battle which used up nearly all our armour, artillery, and rather more than half of those who landed on Juno beach.

Nobody knows of that battle now. But my uncle lost every single one of the buddies he signed up with that hot August day in Calgary, including his younger brother.

So I remember.

Funny though, he never talked about the hedgerows, just kind of glossed over it when I asked him about it.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Dick Stodghill said...

That could be because there was a huge difference in the terrain in Normandy. The Canadian and British sector had a lot of open countryside while the American sector was all tiny fields with the high dirt hedgerows. They were the dominating factor for the Americans.

10:34 AM  

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