Monday, May 28, 2012

My Memorial Day Remembrance

The following are facts. What isn't revealed is the suffering of so many, the human face that goes with each casualty and those who are left behind to mourn.  I never knew the story until I did research about my family and the letters and poems left behind by a mother who lost her only son.

"The 80th Division set sail aboard the SS Queen Mary on July 4, 1944, landing a few days later on July 7 at Greenock, Firth of Clyde, Scotland. The arrival of the 80th Division in England brought the European Theater of Operations total of U.S. Divisions to 22: 14 infantry, 6 armored, and 2 airborne.

The Division proceeded south to Northwich, England via trains for additional training. Training included learning how to waterproof equipment for the upcoming channel crossing. The Division crossed the English Channel in LSTs and Liberty Ships landing in Normandy on Utah Beach shortly after noon on August 2, 1944, D-Day + 57 and assembled near St. Jores, France. A few days later on August 8, 1944, the 80th was initiated into battle when it took over the LeMans bridgehead.

By the end of the war, May 7, 1945, the 80th Division had seen 277 days of combat. It had captured 212,295 enemy soldiers. The 80th Division returned to the United States in January 1946, after spending time in Europe helping to restore and keep peace after the war. The 80th Division had been one of the stalwarts of Patton's Third Army, but it cost them dearly. During their 277 days of combat, the 80th Infantry Division had 17,087 casualties:
Killed in Action 3,038
Wounded 12,484
Missing 488
Captured 1,077
Total Casualties 17,087
According to reports, the 80th Division's "bloodiest day" was 8 October 1944, where approximately 115 Men lost their lives. The "bloodiest month" was September, 1944.

The words on the marker for her dead son who lay buried elsewhere read:
To my Son
First Lieutenant Harry Lewis Sadler
Killed in Action Sept 13, 1944
Buried Lorraine France

The other facts are: 
Harry L. Sadler
Captain, U.S. Army
318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Divison
Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: 13-Sep-44
Buried at: Plot F Row 15 Grave 37
Lorraine American Cemetery
St. Avold, France
Awards: Purple Heart
No one else in my family died in a war.  My mother told me that my great grandfather made it back to his home after the surrender at Appomattox with his horse, Old Rock.  He was wounded at Gettysburg, July 2, 1963. He was shot twice the same day. The first wound so disabled him that he could not walk. He attempted to crawl off the field when a fuse plug out of a bomb shell entered his side and lodged under his backbone. He was considered mortally wounded; fell into enemies and was a prisoner for 9 months at Port Lookout, MD. This was a terrible wound and greatly shortened his days. He was at Appomattox Court House and was paroled on April 9, 1865.  My grandmother was only 2 months old when he died.

My uncle was at Normandy Beach and did not talk about what he saw.  I used to wear his uniform which was many sizes too big for me. Another uncle was captain of a troop ship and carried many troops to their destination in World War II.  I have no idea of the sacrifices they made and cannot conjure up what it was like for them.

 To the dead, so many of them lying where few visit or even know the struggle on that ground, I wonder about the brutality of it all,  perhaps as the poet Langston Hughes did:

Ice-cold passion
And a bitter breath
Adorned the bed
Of Youth and Death –
Youth, the young soldier
Who went to the wars
And embraced white Death,
The vilest of whores.

Now we spread roses
Over your tomb –
We who sent you
To your doom.
Now we make soft speeches
And sob soft cries
And throw soft flowers
And utter soft lies.

We would mould you in metal
And carve you in stone,
Not daring to make statue
Of your dead flesh and bone,
Not daring to mention
The bitter breath
Nor the ice-cold passion
Of your love-night with Death

We make soft speeches.
We sob soft cries
We throw soft flowers,
And utter soft lies.
And you who were young
When you went to the wars
Have lost your youth now
With the vilest of whores.


  1. I always loved that poem. Much like Stephen Crane's "War is Kind", it's so brutally honest about war's toll.

    Those causalities of one battle are staggering, and I know there were many battles like that.

  2. nice on the hughes poem...and honor to those in your family that did serve...i appreciate them and al the soldiers...esp those that did not make it back..

  3. I agree, a beautiful remembrance. I visited Washington D.C. a couple years ago, and I had the honor to visit the Arlington National cemetery. It was a very humbling experience. I'm grateful for those that have and are serving for our country.

  4. Such a tribute to your family member who gav e the ultimate sacrifice. God bless your uncle and that he survived Normandy Beach. This is Pres Reagan's speech at Normany.

    Your post was a wonderful tribute

  5. The brutality and long history stretching back -- my great-grandfather fought in the Somme in WWi, my father was a schoolboy evacuated out of Edinburgh in the 1940s -- my mother's family from South Africa fought at Delville Wood in France in WWI, then in the Anglo-Boer war and Matabele Wars in Africa and then in North Africa and Egypt in WWII, my brother was killed in the Second Chimurenga or 'bushwar in Zimbabwe. I have cousins fighting in Afghanistan and Yemen.

    And Langston Hughes says it all.

    Thanks for the reminder, Syd.

  6. Thanks Syd for the post
    17,000 killed sends shivers up my spine. I wish there was more energy put toward serving with peace as an option.

  7. I'm grateful for all those who have sacrificed or been sacrificed to the love and freedom of those they do not know, how can you thank someone for the loss of their life and gain of yours?

    :) Live well!

  8. All I can say is one of the most respected soldier/statesmen of his day Eisenhower tried to warn us about war for money. We never heeded that and for our ignorance forever we will be burying the children of many nations and believe that their death was for some greater good. Fools that we are.


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