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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 6, 2009 8:30am-9:00am EDT

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division which was part of the seventh corps which included the 101st and 82nd. he didn't talk too much about it. he did say that the fighting later on, a few days later inland in the hedge rows, were pretty brutal. he passed on in 1993. and we think about the 50th an remembersry in rry -- annivers 1994. but when i shipped off to vietnam, he said to me that he wished it was him going. but then when my son went to iraq and afghanistan i had the same feelings. i just want to extend my gratitude to all those veterans.
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thanks. host: thanks for your call, david. john? guest: i would like to extend my gratitude to you as well and to your family. one thing, as you spoke that struck me, i have seen so many letters home from world war ii soldiers mentioning their young sons and saying i'm fighting now so that my sons won't have to ever have to do this again. then when i read that, i'm always struck by a real sense of sadness because as an historian i know how things are going to turn out and how it turned out is by the 1960's the united states was involved in the vietnam war. so, many sons of world war ii veterans like yourself went off to war and that is the way so many fathers felt. they wished they could have done it so their kids wouldn't have to deal with it. i'm sure you can relate to that much better than anyone can imagine with your own son going to iraq. as a military historian, what
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strikes me is the tragic continuum of how wars seem to happen for every generation throughout human history, not just our own modern u.s. history, which i study in particular. but throughout human history there just doesn't seem to be any end to the cycle yet. host: we are watching video right now coming to us live of president obama and first lady michelle obama having landed in normandy where later on this morning he will be giving a speech at the normandy american money and memorial. we will continue to watch them as they are walking off of the u.s. helicopter there and walking toward where the president will ultimately give his speech as we 10 our conversation with -- as we continue our conversation with john mcmanus. the next call is howard from manhattan. go ahead. caller: good morning, professor mcmanus. first i would like to thank you
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for keeping the memory of d-day alive and fresh. secondly, i would like to get back to what you said about omaha. from what i read about it, i think that the biggest factors working against us there were the fact that there was a fresh german division that we had in the expected to be there. we didn't discover it was there until the landings were under way. also the fact that there was no cover on the beach. there was no shelter. my final question to you, actually two, number one, what do you think is still the most underreported story about d-day? and talk a little bit about what your opinion is of montgomery and his tactics. guest: you are exactly right, the german 352nd infantry division was there at omaha beach and that was a big quality, solid german infantry
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dich division. it was good quality, well armed, well-trained. the french resistance had figured out the existence of this unit in that area. this is the classic example of intelligence not getting necessarily to the people who needed it. the soldiers who went ashore at omaha beach didn't know that the 352nd was there even though the allies technically knew but the word had not firmentltered to t who needed it most. what they could have done is an open question anyway. you are exactly right, too, the openness of the terrain, the lack of shell craters because the bombing happened inland. you were just kind of a proverbial fish in a barrel. no matter where you were on the beach it was likely to be under fire, whether mortar, artillery or machine gun. as far as the most underreported story of d-day, i think it is the role of the 82nd airborne. the 101st because of the evanderer brothers gets a lot of
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publicity and well deserved. but the 82nd had a longer and more distinguished combat record. at normandy they dropped a little further of the west and fought to secure the causeways that kind of secured the entire western flank of the utah beachhead. the 82nd airborne have some remarkable stories and they ended up dropping in the middle of flooded terrain that led to the deaths of at least 36 troopers. so i would like to see a greater appreciation of that. i think that has been a bit underreported. montgomery. of course, montgomery is a lightning rod figure. the way things have tended to break down over the years is those in britain tend to like him. those in the united states tend to dislike him and it is very well known the rivalry he had with some american commanders, patten on in particular.
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but montgomery, in my opinion, he was a heavily combat experienced commander so he knew what he was doing. but he had some fatal character flaws of vanity, sort of -- he hungered for p.r. and publicity. he probably was promoted a little too far up the line. i think he was a solid general who, if properly supported with a set piece battle and time to plan and think, because he was very deliberate and careful, i think he could be very effective. he was not as good on the fly and he was not very good at communicati communication, inter-service communication, international communication. and those are things that you really have to do when you get up to army command and army group command. so i think he tended to antagonize folks when he didn't need to. host: as we continue our conversation with john mcmanus
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we will be showing you video of president obama and his arrival at the normandy american cemetery and memorial. he will later on be giving a speech honoring the u.s. troops who died during the normandy invasion on d-day, 65 years ago today. we will go back to the phones. poplar bluff, missouri. bob. what is on your mind this morning? caller: my grandparents left germany in 1939, 1940. alfred and mildred. and they got out just in time. but i kind of wondered about my great uncles that were there and i don't know what happened to them. host: your uncles, bob, fought for the united states or were they on the german side?
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caller: i'm pretty sure they were jewish so, you know? but one thing that really gets me down is that, you know, the ve vets' unemployment rate is 11.4, higher than the rest of the unemployment rate in the united states. and here are soldiers that are fighting for our lives and their unemployment rate is higher than the rest of the country. host: bob, thanks for your call. let's go on to atleboro, massachusetts. sandra what is your connection? caller: my stepfather was in the battle of the bulge, my father was in korea. my stepfather got his eardrums blown up. he had five different campaigns and he was a medic and he did nothing but cry at christmas when they had the song "white
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christmas" for the vets and he could never talk about what he had to do. he had terrible, terrible things happen. but he couldn't explain it to anyo anyone. host: john, mcmanus, take us from d-day and the battle at normandy through the battle of the bulge. guest: to give you the highlights of it, when you talk about omaha beach, getting ashore was really the hardest part. after that you see a pretty steady advance inland for about the next week. utah was almost the opposite. not a getting ashore was easy because utah beach was under intense artillery fire on d-day and days thereafter. but the hard est part was advancing and this was a bitter campaign during the summer of 1944. the british and canadians were stalemated so the allies spent the better part of 1944 pinned
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into normandy fighting this battle of attrition with the germans. and time wasn't necessarily on their side to a great extent. they really needed to break out and to match the soviet advances that you had in eastern europe at the same time. so, the allies also launched an invasion of south france which is not well known but was planned from operation over-lord that there would be a complementary invasion of southern france along the rive riviera beaches. churchill was against it but it was august 15, 1944. by then the swaituation had improved in normandy, the eastern front so the invasion of south france helps outflank the german position in france. at that point the allies are in the campaign they want, especially the americans. it is a mobile campaign, heavily
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mechanized and dependent upon vehicles, which the u.s. army was the most mechanized in the world at that time. designed to fight, slash and maneuver. sour seeing that by august of 1944. then paris is liberated which is a great political moment for the allies. and the whole advance was just rolling across france. the germans are in retreat. there is a lot of excitement that the world could be over by christmas. but this is too good to be true because of supply issues. the soviets had run that supply issues the farther they advanced in poland, parts of the balkans and the western allies had the same issue once began to advance across france. they had the material but they couldn't get it several hundred miles to the east where it needed to go. so, by the fall of 1944 the germans were able to recover, lick their wounds, set up fret strong defenses and stalemate
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the war on through the rest of a poor weather fall. a lot of rain, snow, and it was a horrendous winter in 1944 and 1945. that is where you are on the eve of the battle of the bulge in mid december of 1944. host: next up is armed from smyrna, tennessee. caller: good morning. john, i belong to an organization called veterans for pea peace. and in our last meeting there was a man there who spoke. i don't remember his name. but he has a website that is called and it is a website set up for veterans that are suffering from ptsd where they can go and share their stories. and they put everyone's story on the website and they try to help each other out by sharing the
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stories of war. i just wanted to make you aware of this website. also i have another website called patriotsquestion9/ and another is god is i think these would go a long way to helping men and women who are suffering from ptsd. and i just wanted to share this with you. host: arnold, thanks for your call. before we get a response from john mcmanus, we want to let the folks know watching that the french president sarkozy has now landed at the national cemetery, the normandy american cemetery, where he will be involved in the ceremony later on this afternoon with president barack obama. go ahead, john.
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guest: i think that -- i appreciate the information, arnold. beyond that, i think although i don't pretend to be a mental health professional, i'm only an historian, but there seems to be a certain amount of healing that comes from telling the story. particularly telling it to people that can understand that there is a kind of catharsis that can come from that for a lot of people. i think that is one thing we know better now versus 60 years ago when a lot of world war ii veterans tended to bottle it up and society had moved on, people were getting on with their li s lives. world war ii veterans and others. and it was just something to leave behind. but it is hard to do so. i think that the overall point to make is that telling the story can be a very, very god thing. host: we are talking about d-day, the 65th anniversary today, with john mcunanimous news -- mcmanus.
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associate professor at university of missouri. you can find out more of his books if you go on we are seeing the arrival of dignitaries including the french president sarkozy and his wife. later on they will be involved in the ceremony at the normandy american cemetery and memorial in france. sterling heights, michigan, michael. thanks for waiting. caller: my dad was a world war ii veteran and i'm a vietnam veteran. and i honor the men who fought in d-day because, although they were not totally cognizant of what the outcomes of world war ii were to be very fought valiantly. so that has to be honored. but the last caller i would have to stress he was -- that is a misnomer. it is not veterans for peace t. veterans for surrender.
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and the black woman who said we should honor what russia contributed to the world war ii effort is one thing. russia was supplied greatly with american arms an supplies and without those arms and supplies they would have been in much worse shape. not only that, they sent their soldiers to die en masse because being a communist country they had no conception and no honor of human life. so they sacrificed their own soldiers by the thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps even millio millions. i'm not an expert on world war ii, but the thing of it is that when world war ii was ended the communists took over half of europe and the united states, after defeating germany, should have attacked russia and defeated the soviet union once and for all. because even as we speak putin ha has a surrogate in charge of russia but he still takes orders from putin who is ex-k.b.g. and
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the day will come when they will sing a song p. host: your response, sir. guest: i can't really comment on all the political issues. i'm just an historian. but i will say this. he makes a good point in the following respect. the united states in particular and western countries did supply the soviet union with a lot of lend-lease material. unglamorous stuff. trucks, regimes, transport aircraft. spare parts. fo food, lower-level weaponry. the soviet union had to concentrate most of its industrial base on creating operational weapons like their 26sh t-34 tank. so the united states helped them giving them a lot of the sinews
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of war. and that is an example. throughout the soviet union in the cold war period there was a tendency to minimize the american lend-lease contribution and begin to get rid of a lot of the equipment the americans sent them just as here there was a tendency to minimize the soviets and certainly begin to recognize how repressive the stalin regime was in the soviet union. host: earlier we had an interview with author and historian steven ambrose. he's talking about the importance of new orleans in d-day and the normandy invasion. let's hear what he has to say and get a response from john mcmanus. >> it was here in new orleans that the landing craft were built. every american who went ashore in the second world war, whether in north africa, italy, sicily or moral did i or guadal canal or all the way that you saipan
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and up to okinawa did so in a boat built in new orleans by higgins industries. dwight eisen hour toic eisenhow time i met him, he wanted to talk to me about writing his biography which i agreed to do. but he said i see you live in new orleans. did you ever know andy higgins. i said no, i didn't. he died in 1953 and i moved there in 1955. eisenhower said that is too bad. he is the man who won the war for us. well, that is quite a statement from what a source. i looked astonished. seeing that look, he said, that is absolutely correct. if higgins had not developed and produced those landing craft i would have had to go into ports that the germans had concentrated all of their defenses at cher powerithe othe
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we would not have won. guest: so true. host: tell us more about the landing craft and how important they were in the invasion. guest: earlier we were talking about the unglamorous stuff you need to win a war. the landing craft ar prime example. the higgins boats. higgins had had a lot of experience building shallow draft boats in the mississippi river delta so he knew about that. he tried to get the navy interested for many years in buying those landing craft but of course the navy was really much more interested in the bigger ships and there was a sense before world war ii, very wrong, that amphibious invasions were a thing of the past. so when the war hits we are not prepared in terms of having landing craft and we need a lot because you can't bring the ships in a mile offshore around tell them to swim in. you need a transition landing craft. that where the higgins boats
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were a thing of genius. and that story dr. ambrose told about meeting eisenhower for the first time an eisenhower telling them that higgins won the war, i love to tell the story to my students. they really enjoy that because it does put it in perspective for them and it also highlights for them two people they have kind of come to know very well. eisenhower obviously but ambrose through his writings because he got a lot of folks interested in world war ii and the average soldier. so, i enjoy that story a lot and think it is so true. i think higgins and henry kaiser who built a lot of liberty ships very important to project american power overseas on the liberty ships which were nothing more than cargo ships. that is a great story. host: the guys driving the higgins boats were part of the coast guard, correct? frjt a lot of them were. not all of them but quite a few of them were, exactly. so the average cox waswain may a
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navy sailor or a coast guardsman. particularly omaha beach you had a coast guard presence. that is lesser aspect of the normandy invasion. also some of the troop ships. host: we are about 15 minutes away from the president's scheduled peach at the normandy american ceremony -- cemetery, rather, and memorial. back to the phones, shreveport, louisiana. jay. caller: good morning. host: good morning, jay. caller: how are you doing? host: what is your connection to d-day? caller: well, my daddy was in the 116th infantry regiment of the 29th division. i will give you little different perspective. he was a replacement troop. he went in on may 9th.
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his first action was at verville and he was captured and spent the rest of the war as a p.o.w. but he came back and had some kids and he never talked about it much. but it was pretty hard on him. and he was a good provider and good daddy and i just honor him and i apologize for being a mush but god bless all of those guys and their families and thanks for c-span. you are great. host: thanks for your call and don't worry about the emotions. this is the day for it. guest: the 116th infantry holds a special place in my heart. it came ashore near veerville. absorbed terrible casualties on
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d-day. for instance, if you have seen saving private rye croon and the invasion -- savi"saving private ryan" you will see guys with blue-graeme blems. they are from the 1616th infanty and it was a national guard unit primarily from virginia and maryland known as the blue-gray division. they had gotten the lead role to go in. it had deep roots leading back to the civil war and their casualties were such that by the time they got to s tfaint lo th rifle companies had almost completely turned over in personnel. so, his father is very typical in that respect of a lot of these guys that came in after d-day and so, if not as heavy a fighting, maybe heavier around san lo and the rentalment did a lot of fighting after that after
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normandy. so, if you were still in the 116 116th infantry in a rifle company at s tft lo you were rey lucky. you were a fugitive from the law of averages. host: our next call is john in philadelphia. john is world war ii vet. where did you serve and what unit were you with? caller: i would like to thank your guest for mentioning the 82nd. 82nd airborne when i jumped into normandy. i eventually made the holland jump. my fought in the bulge and crossed the rhine near cologne. helped liberate a nazi concentration camp and ended up on the elbe river. the cascariest part bawas when
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got over the continent and that plane started to sway back and forth and up and down and all the noise and we could hear the flack hitting the skin of the plane. all we wanted to do is get the hell out of that plane. when that green light came on and they said go out the door we were running to get out that door. and when i hit the silk, it was dark, of course, and early morning hours and i saw all them tracers. i thought every german in the german army was shooting at me. fortunately, i got through it all and i landed in the middle of a hedge row and cut myself out of that. and my first piece of combat was an mg-42 going off and ran into two other guys and took that out with grenades and eventually wound up at la fiere.
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host: have you ever been back to normandy for any of the d-day ceremonies? caller: no -- starting to cry a little bit here. host: that is is all right. caller: no, i wanted to take my family but i never got -- never got around to it. i'm watching this and i remember a lot of stuff happening, man. them germans were tough, i'll tell you. they had a lot of -- you had to kill some of them twice. they were just nasty. they were fanatic. the regular group i had no trouble. we stopped taking s.s. prisoners after a while, just so thhot th. host: a lot has changed in 65 years but in watching some of the video right now does anything look familiar to you?
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caller: sure it does. christ, yes. there is certain video that my likes to watch that stuff and there is certain video and there is a sign that says something and i was there. i remember that for sure. and it is the 82nd airborne. you can see the troopers with the patches. then when you get near the bridge i remember that. that was like yesterday. and we still a lot of souvenirs september home. i september my mother a pair of wooden shoes home from holland when we were there on the bridge too far. there is a lot of stuff. a tagger and nazi arm band. there is a lot of stuff around. host: one more thing before we let you go. are any of your buddies that you jumped with still alive? do you keep in touch? caller: no, we are dying at 1,100 a day and everybody is
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gone. when i left the army i think i left the army, you know. but -- ah -- i remember. thanks for mentioning the 82nd we didn't have as good a p.r. campaign as the 101. host: thanks for your call, john. let's take another call from churchill, tennessee. gene. caller: hello. i don't want to minimize in any way the effort and sacrifices that people made in the normandy invasion. but i believe that one day somebody will write the truth about the war in europe, world war ii in europe and they will come across evidence that churchill, roosevelt asaid we have


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