Remembering D-Day through Art

In the United States and in Europe, people observe June 6 as D-Day, when in 1944 Allied troops invaded Normandy France, liberate France from Nazi occupation and ultimately end World War II. Special observances are planned to observe the 75th anniversary of that historic event. 

Remembering D-Day by the Numbers (source-The American Legion Magazine) 

  • 156,000 troops from Allied nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Norway, and others 
  • 5 beaches along 50 miles of Normandy coast 
  • 6000 ships
  • 50,000 vehicles
  • 11,000 planes
  • 12,004 killed, wounded, missing or captured 

Remembering D-Day by One Man

I learned about D-Day from my late friend Bill Hart, who died in 2014. Bill served in the U.S. Army during World War II , and his unit was part of the force that invaded Normandy.

Bill wrote an illustrated memoir about his military experiences. Through his written and visual account, he left us a first hand account of an experience that changed his life and changed the world. I want to share some of his memories with you here.

D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY

Fighting the war in Europe

In 1943, as a 20 year old, Bill  joined the Army, deployed to England, and prepared for the invasion. What he thought would be a grand adventure turned into a nightmare which he vividly captured in his book.

Several days into the fighting on the beaches at Normandy, he was assigned to pick up and transport the bodies of fallen soldiers. Thereafter, as he worked his way across France and Belgium into Germany, he found himself dodging enemy soldiers, liberating concentration camps, dealing with angry and defeated POWs, and famished, humiliated civilians struggling to survive.  Bill described what he saw and felt this way.

2 SOLDIERS AND A JEEP

“At night I would think about the poor GI’s family when they got the news of his death. I tried not to think too much about this “dead guy” job. It seemed to go on forever.

For the next month and a half I was really alone, not attached to any outfit. I found my own food, water, gas for the Jeep and slept alone beside the Jeep in an open field. I shaved with cold water in my helmet and used my Jeep mirror to see.

The Germans were always near. I was scared I would be killed or captured. “Who knows where I am? Who would tell my mother if I died?”

In the beginning it had been exciting being alone with the invasion action all around me. But now I have panic attacks and nightmares of the dead bodies waking me as I sleep in the open field alone.

Most GI’s have other soldiers around them to feel safety in numbers. I had no one. I can’t get their dead faces out of my mind. I wait for the bright morning sun to erase the terrible images.”

Fighting a war at home

After the war, Bill established a career as a commercial artist. Art provided not only a living for him and his family but also an outlet for dealing with the distressful memories of the war.

He created an extensive portfolio of drawings and paintings depicting  images of what he saw and experienced.  By expressing his feelings on canvas, he released some of their distress.

SOLDIER LYING ON THE GROUND

“Later I forced myself to stop thinking about the “dead guys” experience and eventually forgot it.

62 years later, in 2006, when I applied for compensation for war injury during the Battle of the Bulge, the woman who interviewed me kept telling me I was leaving something out, something from my past.

I finally remembered after much writing about my remembered events in the 1944 and 1945 war period and was diagnosed with PTSD.

I believe, the greatest event of the 20th century took place during the June 1944 D-Day Normandy Invasion. I am very proud of being a small part of that great historical event that will always be remembered.”

Quotes and drawings from Bill’s memoir, D-DAY VET REMEMBERS NORMANDY (copyright) used by permission of his wife

Bill was proud to be a World War II veteran and I count it a privilege to know him. He was a kind, gentle man who loved God, his family and friends. He is missed by all of us who love him.

MAN IN A NORMANDY D-DAY HAT
Bill Hart, World War II veteran

 

 

Bill also drew other subjects.  Every year he and his wife sent out a Christmas card which he illustrated.

shepherds raising arms to the sky
one of Bill’s Christmas card drawings

Bill’s artwork and copies of his book are available to purchase from his wife. If you are interested, contact me here and I will put you in touch with her.

 

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER-PTSD

Once known as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue”, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, has become the most common post-military service disorder. Although it also occurs in civilians who experience severe trauma, it has  been defined, studied, and treated among current and former service members.

PTSD develops after exposure to or experiencing significant traumatic events such as interpersonal violence, death or  threat of death, serious accidents, disasters and combat.

There are 4 types of symptoms-

  • Intrusions, such as flashbacks, nightmares
  • Avoidance- isolating oneself from people and/or certain situations
  • Negative mood changes, such as irritability, anger and depression
  • Hypervigilance- being easily startled, always on edge

PTSD can also lead to depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse and suicide.

It is also frequently associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI)  and chronic pain.

The National Center for PTSD (Veterans Administration)  is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD, working to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma. They offer extensive information and resources at this link

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

Shop To Help Veterans! Every Purchase Funds At Least One Meal For A Veteran!

(This post contains affiliate links which, by paying a commission if used for a purchase, help fund this blog. )

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

 

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

Advertisements

Poems and poppies-why we remember John McCrae-physician, poet, reluctant soldier

 

Our most solemn holiday

In the United States,  the last Monday in May is Memorial Day, but it’s now become a  “holiday” weekend. History.com calls it “America’s most solemn holiday.”

That’s a fitting title, since it commemorates 2 solemn events- the wars our country has fought and the men and women who died in military service for those wars.

And now, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend is  observed as  National Poppy Day

 

 

 

Why poppies?

I love the story of the poppies because it has a medical connection.

In the battlefields of Belgium during World War I, poppies grew wild amid the ravages of war. The overturned soils of battle covered  the poppy seeds to,  allowing them to grow and forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed of war.

Out of this conflict came a poem, from which also came the association with poppies .

 

The now famous poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by a Canadian physician, Lt. Col. John McCrae.

 

Originally from Canada, Dr.McCrae was an English and math teacher, as well as a poet, before he attended medical school. He moved to England and was practicing there when World War I broke out, and he was called to serve as a brigade-surgeon.

I suspect that as a physician, he was deeply  pained by  treating the wounded, and the loss of those he could not save.

“In April 1915, McCrae was stationed in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in an area known as Flanders, during the bloody Second Battle of Ypres.

In the midst of the tragic warfare, McCrae’s friend, twenty-two-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by artillery fire and buried in a makeshift grave.

The following day, McCrae, after seeing the field of makeshift graves blooming with wild poppies, wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Field,” which would be the second to last poem he would ever write.”

(from John McCrae at poets.org)

 

 

In Flanders Fields

Dr. John McCrae, 18721918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky, 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe! 
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high! 
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This poem is in the public domain.

Soon after writing “In Flanders Fields,” McCrae was transferred to a hospital in France, . Saddened and disillusioned by the war, McCrae found respite in writing letters and poetry, and wrote his final poem, “The Anxious Dead.”

In the summer of 1917, McCrae’s health took a turn, and he began suffering from severe asthma attacks and bronchitis. McCrae died of pneumonia and meningitis on January 28, 1918.

(This post uses affiliate links to products you may find helpful; at no extra cost to you, a small commission will be paid to this blog for support. )

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha