History Class, Music, World War 2

The D-Day Dodgers

The 75th anniversary of D-Day – the WWII landings of Allied forces in Normandy – is coming up this Thursday, June 6. I’ve appreciated seeing the different ways people are recognizing the tremendous sacrifices and victories of the day.

Did you know that another major event in World War II history happened just two days before D-Day, on June 4th?

I’ve shared this story before, but in memory of sacrifices on a less-well-known front, I wanted to share again the story of the “D-Day Dodgers.”

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Photo courtesy of Yoal Desurmont via unsplash.com.

“Timing is everything” – cliché, but true.

Timing can mean the difference between success and failure, between ‘famous’ and ‘forgotten.’

Seventy-five years ago, on June 4, 1944, a military campaign that had dragged on for over a year and a half reached a historic milestone. The Allied forces in Italy liberated their first Axis capital: Rome.

Months of slogging up mountains while under fire, of crossing river after bridgeless river, of mud, cold, and disappointment, had finally borne fruit.

This momentous event held the headlines…for one day.

Timing, after all, is everything. On June 6th the Allies began their long-awaited landings on the beaches of Normandy.

Of course, the D-Day invasions were extremely important. Years had gone into their planning and preparation. The tremendous sacrifices involved, the thousands lost, deserved recognition. It was thrilling to have a foothold in France for the first time after being ousted in ’39. However, the Italian campaign, controversial from the start, was now definitely relegated to a secondary position.

Soldiers who’d spent years and lost friends fighting through North Africa, Sicily, and up the foot of Italy, saw commanders, troops, and materiel sent away to support the efforts in France. Loved ones sent them letters telling them what a relief it was that they were “safe” in Italy.

Perhaps Lady Astor, member of the British Parliament, wins the prize for the worst insult to the Italian effort. She named the troops the “D-Day Dodgers”- shirkers of the fighting in France.*

The response of the troops was so memorable that I’ve been caught singing it around the house. (There are several version- this one’s the most “family friendly” 😉 )

A few of the places of interest mentioned in the song:

“Salerno”- The first major WWII assault on the European mainland: 4,870 Americans killed, wounded or missing. (This does not include casualties from the British 10th Corps.)

“Cassino”- The ‘Gustav Line’ of German defenses passed through the mountains by the town of Cassino. It took four Allied assaults over many months to break the line, the last being a huge effort of camouflage, false trails, and infantry assaults.

“Anzio”- Amphibious landings established this beachhead north of the stalled line at Monte Cassino. The attack stagnated, and the Allies were trapped for months. The American hospital area was hit so often that it was nicknamed “Hell’s Half-Acre” and stories circulate of soldiers pretending they weren’t wounded to avoid being sent there for care. The Allied forces at Anzio suffered 29,200 combat casualties, (killed, wounded, prisoners or missing,) and 37,000 non-combat casualties.

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Many thanks for visiting.

 

* Some sources indicate that Lady Astor’s statement was due to a misunderstanding: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10841035/Monte-Cassino-veterans-anger-at-D-Day-dodger-label.html

Statistics for this article are from http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/salerno/sal-fm.htm and http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/anzio/72-19.htm

 

7 thoughts on “The D-Day Dodgers”

  1. Great song (I listened to a couple of versions). Somehow, I’d never heard the insult spouted by “Lady” Astor until now. I have a few choice words for HER, however I won’t be so bold as to say them here. Thanks for sharing this with us. 🙂
    –Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, she seems to have been an interesting character. I believe she was the one who supposedly told Churchill that if she were his wife she’d poison his coffee, to which he responded that if she were his wife he’d drink it 😀 Thanks or stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you know the book The Red Horse? by Eugenio Corti? It is a long novel — 1000+ pages! — of World War II from the point of view of young Italian freedom fighters, and was voted the best novel of the decade in Italy at the end of the 20th century.

    I started reading it back then and loved it so much. Reading it was like being in a family of the best, most real humans, whom you don’t want to be separated from even when they go into battle. I only stopped reading it, at a point somewhere in Russia, in winter, because even the paperback was too heavy to hold in bed. As soon as I got a Kindle it was the first book I bought in the digital version, but it has sat unopened even there.

    Reading your post, I remember that another thing I loved about it was the perspective of the Italians in that war, which I had not got much of elsewhere. And as one reviewer wrote, it is “…a story of faith and hope in a world reduced to barbarism and cruelty.” Maybe I will start reading it again; it is the kind of writing that “takes you there,” and you don’t dream of hurrying along, to find out what happens. The most satisfying kind of reading.

    Thank you for this “today in history” story that has jogged me in a good direction!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooooooooo, I love love LOVE your new logo!

    That said, this Lady Astor…hmm. Wonder if she’s related to the hoidy-toidy Astors of Wisconsin who had that hotel, have a street named after them…there can’t be *that* many Astors, right? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! You made me curious, so I had to look around a little- Astor was her married name, which she took when she married her British husband BUT the Astor family- assuming it’s the same family, had a big American branch too, with John Jacob Astor, supposedly the richest man of his day, going down on the Titanic… So. Maybe? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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