The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘Hold Until Relieved’

Posted on | June 6, 2014 | 47 Comments

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and Americans rightly take pride in the heroic courage of our troops who saw that historic day’s bloodiest fighting on Omaha Beach. However, one of my favorite stories of D-Day — vividly told in Cornelius Ryan’s classic The Longest Day — is of the British glider troops who captured what became known as “Pegasus Bridge” across the Caen Canal near the village of Ouistreham.

Capturing and holding the bridge was essential to establishing the left flank of the Allied invasion, and this crucial mission was assigned to a mere 181 men, a company of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Major John Howard. The glider assault by the “Ox and Bucks” was the opening attack of the invasion and took place right after midnight. It took them just 10 minutes to capture the bridge from the surprised Germans, and Major Howard’s command lost only one soldier in the fight — Lieutenant Den Brotheridge, who thus became the first Allied soldier killed on D-Day.

The order given to Major Howard was to “hold until relieved,” to defend his position until his men were reinforced by troops moving south and east from Sword Beach. The 1962 film version of The Longest Day gave a “mystic portrayal” of the Ox and Bucks’ mission, which Major Howard laughed off as “sentimental rubbish.”

True heroes seldom acknowledge the glory of their accomplishments, considering it merely the performance of duty.

 

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Comments

  • Bob

    One tiny correction, its OxfordSHIRE and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. The egg heads at Oxford probably don’t need any more pumping. I highly recommend the book ‘Pegasus Bridge’.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Thank you to all who served on D-Day and all still with us. We owe you a lot.

  • Pingback: D-Day + 70 years RIP | Batshit Crazy News

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    I saw a couple touching displays on the beaches at Normandy. One had thousands of small soldiers outlined on the sand, representing the casualties. The other – which I suppose was at the British end – was covered with small UK flags.

    But I heard that at the actual ceremonies, the beach was the site of an “interpretive modern dance” recital supposedly reflecting the anguish of the wounded and the difficulty of the battle. That’s outrageous and offensive. I only hope they didn’t make any survivors sit through it.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    I also recall, since someone posted Ike’s speech after D-Day, probably Ace, that Eisenhower had composed an alternative speech in case the landings failed. In it, he took full responsibility himself and saluted the valor and courage of his and Allied officers and men.

    A leader who accepts fully every consequence of his decisions. How very distant that seems today.

  • https://twitter.com/Mthomps016 M. Thompson

    The issue with “The Longest Day” is you can see the post-war ships, like one LST. Otherwise, good movie.

  • Patrick Carroll

    I happened on this note just as The Won came on WSBTV, speaking from Normandy. This, after listening to Erick Erickson play Ronald Reagan’s speech from the 40th Anniversary of D-Day.

    There may well be a lot of ruin in a nation, but we’ve come a long way in only 30 years.

  • Patrick Carroll

    As I understand it, The Won lawyered up before sending in the special forces guys in to take out bin Laden. Just in case.

    Reminds me of an expression I learned in Ireland “Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís” – his like will not be seen again.

  • Patrick Carroll

    BTW, the article in the Guardian mentions the guy retired to Burford. I’ve been there. It’s the cutest little British down, with an exact miniature model of the town, in the middle of the town. I regret I never checked how far the model recurses.

  • Patrick Carroll

    And one last BTW. I’m a US citizen, born and raised overseas, and was living in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, and working for DEC, when I heard RWR’s speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. I was at the US Embassy in Dublin within the week to volunteer for military service. A year later, graduated from USAF OTS, I was a newly-minted 2Lt.

    Some Presidents do inspire.

  • Patrick Carroll

    I thought it would take a millenium for the Europeans to turn into complete wankers.

    All it actually took was 50 years behind the American aegis.

    All the smart Europeans voted with their feet a long time ago by moving to America.

  • TheOtherAndrewB

    The best thing about the film version of “The Longest Day” is that Richard Todd, the actor who portrayed the British commander at Pegasus Bridge, actually fought on at that site on D-Day, and so was a genuine hero. Not too likely to see that again any time soon.

  • Patrick Carroll

    Oh, BTW (yes, I know), the US Embassy in Dublin is one of the world’s ugliest buildings. Honestly, google it.

    It has the extra disadvantage of being burned down less often than the British Embassy in Dublin.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    We are bigger wankers than they are. I did not see that coming.

  • Patrick Carroll

    Sorry. I’m working on showing up in the Secret Service’s sarcasm list.

    For the children.

  • Patrick Carroll

    We can project power.

    They can project interpretive dancers.

    Case closed, I’m afraid.

  • Quartermaster

    The ability to sustain that projected power is problematic, frankly. I think we’re already hollowed out.

  • Patrick Carroll

    Well, sure.

    The US Federal Government is now not much more than a wealth transfer pump, from old black men to older white women.

  • Quartermaster

    Heores being what they are, often don’t see the forest for the trees. My uncle, who had been a Corpsman with the 1st MarDiv on Guadalcanal was that way. He took a round in the leg, and still got the Marine he was after back to safety and medical help before collapsing himself. A family member managed to get that out of him, and the fact he had been put in for a decoration (can’t remember which), but getting him to talk about his war experiences was like pulling teeth without anesthesia. Friends that were in combat in Korea and Vietnam were the same way.

    Without those small heroic actions, the bigger picture would have been one of failure with a few bright spots. Even failure, however, does not dim heroism. The French Foreign Legion celebrates Camarone to this day.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Yep. I didn’t know my Grandfather was an early-on-scene officer at Buchenwald until he was already gone, and we saw the pictures he preserved. I was told by an Uncle that he never talked about it, and he burned the majority of photos he took (which was actually part of his work there, since he had medical training).

    A good friend of mine told me that when his dad was in poor health, being in his eighties, he finally called him in (as the oldest child) and told him that he needed to know about his day on Omaha beach.

    No one in the family had any idea he had served in one of the units who ended up at Omaha. Not one soul. They only knew he was in the Army, and was involved in the D-Day push into Europe. After telling his son, he never spoke of it again.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    We did a great job of that this week *spit*

    Obama’s display to our enemies was embarrassing even to the French.

  • Soviet of Washington

    Richard Fernandez recently blogged a vignette from the relief of Pegasus Bridge…http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2014/06/04/an-age-or-more-ago/

    There’s additional detail at the Spectator as well: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/06/d-day-70-tribute-to-bill-millin-lord-piper/

    “Bill Millin landed on Sword Beach as part of 1st Special Service Brigade in the second wave. He exited the landing craft, and found himself in three feet of water. Shells and mortar fire broke around him, and several machine guns traversed the water’s edge. The man next to him was shot in the face and slipped beneath the surface of the sea. Millin continued to wade towards the shore, taking care to lift his weapon above his head. His weapon was his set of bagpipes.

    Millin’s commander, Lord Lovat, who was commonly regarded as a ‘mad bastard’, ordered him to strike up a tune to rouse the troops. Millin inquired if he was to march up and down the battlefront, as was the tradition for pipers. The stately Lord Lovat is alleged to have replied, ‘That would be lovely’. Millin paraded along the waterfront three times, playing tunes while his comrades fought to secure the beach. German prisoners would later claim that they had not shot him because they’d assumed he was mad.”

  • Funeral guy

    What fine men this country turned out with my father’s generation. God bless those still with us and those who have passed on.

  • Funeral guy

    When I first saw those faygallahs crawling on the beach I thought it was a Dawn of the Dead parody. What an embarrassment. Please tell me it was the doing of the Euro-Trash ninnies and that the USA had nothing to do with it. Although leave it to this White House to turn D-Day into a cheesy remake of A Chorus Line.

  • Funeral guy

    Unlike Obama who tells us he killed Osama bin Laden every five minutes.

  • Fred Beloit

    It must be very hard to spell in the Irish.

  • richard mcenroe

    And nobody ever took an OxfordSHIRE oath not to fight for King and Country against Hitler.

  • Patrick Carroll

    It’s a more irregular language than Portugese, IMHO.

    Dear Lord, the variations on the verb “to be” would drive a man to drink.

    Speaking of which…

  • Kevin R.C. O’Brien

    They did complete the museum at Pegasus Bridge (mentioned in Howard’s obit). Some of the German concrete pillboxes still exist, as do the landing points of the gliders. The bridge in place now is a replacement, and the original, bullet holes and all, was moved to the courtyard of the museum.

    It’s hard to beat standing on the actual sites to understand how the mission succeeded. Overall the British airborne forces were more successful in their planned missions than their Yank counterparts. The American airborne, dropped willy-nilly, probably caused more trouble for the Germans by sowing unplanned chaos!