Topic: "A Day At The Beach" (3)
The Men of Gondor gathered on a Friday in September, 2001, in order to discuss the events of that Tuesday, and to measure the seeming impact on the trails which lay ahead. Frodo positioned himself at the end of the table, so that he could pay specific attention to what was spoken. He was disappointed by how poorly thought-out, if not irrelevant, most of the words seemed to be as they related to the continuum of time and history. When his turn came, Frodo pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket, and ironed it on the table with his palm. Frodo spoke softly.
"A little more than two years before Frodo's birth, a man from Indiana, whose profession it was to issue battlefield dispatches from the global conflagration, verbally captured the horror and the detritus that remained in the days after the Allied Invasion of Europe commenced. The words that follow here were from those dispatches read by actor Tom Hanks ("Saving Private Ryan") at the recent dedication of the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. Frodo would ask the Men of Gondor (and you, dear reader) to close eyes and to imagine walking with Frodo as we trail the author along a strip of sand in Normandy on July 16th, 1944. Let us see what he saw."
"I took a walk along the historic coast of Normandy in the country of France.
It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore.
Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever.
Men were floating in the water, but they didn't know they were in the water, for they were dead. . .
I walked for a mile and a half along the water's edge of our many-miled invasion beach.
You wanted to walk slowly, for the detail on that beach was infinite.
The wreckage was vast and startling.
The awful waste and destruction of war, even aside from the loss of human life, has always been one of its outstanding features to those who are in it.
Anything and everything is expendable.
And we did expend on our beachhead in Normandy during those first few hours. . .
Men and equipment were flowing from England in such a gigantic stream that it made the waste on the beachhead seem like nothing at all, really nothing at all. . .
But there is another and more human litter.
This is the strewn personal gear, gear that will never be needed again, of those who fought and died to give us our entrance into Europe. . .
Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles, and hand grenades.
Here are the latest letters from home, with the address on each one neatly razored out-one of the security precautions enforced before the boys embarked.
I picked up a Bible with a soldier's name in it, and put it in my jacket.
I carried it a half mile or so and then put it back down on the beach.
I don't know why I picked it up,
or why I put it back down."
Ernie Pyle was felled by a sniper but a few weeks later on an island in the Pacific. He is buried in the "Punchbowl Cemetery" near Honolulu.
Frodo does not know why these words gave him solace on that day, nor does he know why they do so now.