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  1. #1
    Eruption
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    10.03.13 @ 10:13 AM
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    Default A Day at the Beach

    Itís summer, so letís think about the sunny fun we have ahead of us.

    Imagine you decide itís time to go to the beach. A good friend of yours is not too excited about the venture, so you do a little coaxing. It wonít be just you two; there will be a bunch of the boys with you. Unfortunately, the forecasts from the best meteorologists arenít predicting very favorable weather for the next few weeks, but you are determined. You decide, after waiting for what seems way too long, your day has come. So you get up nice and early, and before you know it, you hit the beach with perfect weather for your day. Then, shortly after you arrive, the excitement begins.

    No, it isnít girls in bikinis or a keg of cold beer. You suddenly are hit by shrapnel from God knows what, and your friend runs off in horror in an attempt to complete the mission. As you pick up your arm that nearly completely fell off, your friend explodes after presumably running over a mine. You see, this is not just some other day at the beach, this is the greatest day at the beach: June 6, 1944, D-Day, and you have just become the first wave of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy that would decide the fate of Western Civilization. You are on Utah Beach.

    You are Henry Ratajczak of the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion. Your friend is Alfred Kurzawski, and heís dead, like many others. You didnít drive to the beach in an old Chevy, you landed on an LST (Landing Ship Tank), where most of you puked your guts out from the anxiety and the seasickness. No, you did not decide to go to the beach today, General Dwight David Eisenhower did, but you were ready. Sure, it was tough, but you did it, and so did many others.

    This is just one of the thousands of personal stories from that day, both on the beaches and behind enemy lines. Some will never be told. Others are just waiting to be.

    Most people have no idea the significance of June 6. Many of these same people believe Memorial Day about one week earlier is most importantly the unofficial beginning of summer. Itís a sad reflection of American society today.

    Those who do understand the importance of this day in history see how incredibly different our lives could have been had the brave men not sacrificed the way they did. More importantly, they see how life could have been had they failed. This fact alone exceeds all others in distinction:

    They did not fail.

    Considering the numerous factors against them, from the weather to the sheer magnitude of the invasion, nearly everything needed to go perfect to succeed. Unfortunately, "perfect" in this situation meant thousands dead and more injured.

    But the story does not stop there.

    For the men who survived, life did not just go back to that perfect life you see from TV in the fifties. Reattaching an arm canít be much fun, I assume. It was said by his wife that Henry did not sleep for almost six years after coming home. I know I am fairly cranky when I need to get up before noon sometimes (I work nights and stay up late). I cannot even imagine having to bear the burden of what these men experienced. Alfredís family was told he was dead, then alive, then dead again afterwards. I would not wish that on anyone.

    Henry Ratajczak is not just another soldier in this war; he was my grandfather. He never told me this story. In fact, from what I can gather he only told the story once, to Alfredís family when they asked for answers. Fortunately, my grandmother was there to hear it.

    My grandfather died in 1991, after a long bout with cancer. When I started college in 2000, I immediately started researching his experiences and contacted many people who knew him from reunions. Due to illness, I was not able to keep in contact nor attend any reunions as of yet. However, the people I met through this journey have always been at the front of my mind.

    I also have a cigarette ad in my cube at work from 1944. My grandfather is in it, storming the beaches of Florida in preparation for the real thing.

    There is also one more reason this stays in my mind every day. After researching heavily for months, my daughter was born in the early morning hours on June 6, 2001, at the same time of the morning this was all happening just 57 years earlier. I cannot look at her without thinking about the special day she came into this world, and the many who left it years before.

    Happy birthday Alina, and thank you to all who made her freedom possible. Thank you Grandpa.
    Go Bills and Sabres!

    We're NOT Lawyers! www.werenotlawyers.com

  2. #2
    Eruption te5150's Avatar
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    09.24.13 @ 12:08 AM
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    Awesome!

  3. #3
    Hot For Teacher jd5150's Avatar
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    10.04.07 @ 10:07 PM
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    Wow amazing story, thank you for sharing. Yes we are in a sad state.

    My Grandfather (who passed away many years ago now) was a medic in a MASH Unit for WWI and WWII.

    Where he was stationed, he was actually overseas on the team that dealt with casualties from D-Day. Who knows maybe our grandfathers met for a moment, or maybe he even tended to your grandfather after he was wounded. His name was Harold K. Doranz.

    We definitely need to remember the past and honor those who fought and died or were wounded for freedom.

    Thank you again for this amazing story my brother.
    --Peavey EVH Wolfgang Standard-Black; 5150 Half Stack
    "In the 7th grade, James Sanford got me in to Santana and Van Halen. Who knows what the hell I would have been listening to otherwise. Thanks man, wherever you are!"-JD5150

  4. #4
    carpe damn diem billy007's Avatar
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    12.13.17 @ 09:28 AM
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    Was expecting something totally different! What a great account.

  5. #5
    Eruption
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    10.03.13 @ 10:13 AM
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    Thanks guys. I wasn't sure anyone would take the time to actually read it. It seemed a whole lot shorter when I first wrote it. I'll probably edit it for a final copy soon, and I'll scan that cigarette ad-it's really cool.
    Go Bills and Sabres!

    We're NOT Lawyers! www.werenotlawyers.com

  6. #6
    Atomic Punk Viking's Avatar
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    11.02.17 @ 09:45 PM
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    I'm a little teary eyed right now. That was excellent.

    You know it chaps my ass that the reason most people look forward to Memorial day and Independence day is so they can have a 3 day weekend to get rip roaring drunk. Having the freedom to do things like that is one of the reasons these people fought and died, but I think we could find better ways to thank the Veterans that fought and died for our freedoms than to get piss drunk and puke all over.
    "Viking - last to sleep, first to rise, last to leave, that's how the Nords of old rocked the house." ~ timmac in the 'Texas Linkers' thread talking about yours truly. :-)

  7. #7
    Eruption
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    09.23.13 @ 06:29 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by Viking
    I'm a little teary eyed right now. That was excellent.

    You know it chaps my ass that the reason most people look forward to Memorial day and Independence day is so they can have a 3 day weekend to get rip roaring drunk. Having the freedom to do things like that is one of the reasons these people fought and died, but I think we could find better ways to thank the Veterans that fought and died for our freedoms than to get piss drunk and puke all over.
    Agreed.

  8. #8
    Eruption
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    09.23.13 @ 06:29 PM
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    Awesome account man. I loved it.

    I was watching the History chanel on Tuesday night and I watched the account of D-Day. Even though the Americans were slaughtered at Omaha beach, and the Canadians slaughtered at Juno beach, they pushed on. Incredible. We owe our freedom to those young men who faught and died on their day at the beach.

    Hers's one I found http://members.shaw.ca/junobeach/index.htm, below, an excerpt from that website.

    'On D-Day, June 6, 1944, ďOperation OverlordĒ, the long-awaited invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, began with Allied armies from the U.S., Britain and Canada landing on the coast of Normandy. On D-Day, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach. The Canadian assault troops stormed ashore in the face of fierce opposition from German strongholds and mined beach obstacles. The soldiers raced across the wide-open beaches swept with machine gun fire, and stormed the gun positions. In fierce hand-to-hand fighting, they fought their way into the towns of BerniŤres, Courseulles and St. Aubin and then advanced inland, securing a critical bridgehead for the allied invasion. The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

    Fourteen thousand young Canadians stormed Juno Beach on D-Day. Their courage, determination and self-sacrifice were the immediate reasons for the success in those critical hours. The fighting they endured was fierce and frightening. The price they paid was high - the battles for the beachhead cost 340 Canadian lives and another 574 wounded. John Keegan, eminent British historian who wrote Six Armies in Normandy, stated the following concerning the Canadian 3rd Division on D-Day: ďAt the end of the day, its forward elements stood deeper into France than those of any other division. The opposition the Canadians faced was stronger than that of any other beach save Omaha. That was an accomplishment in which the whole nation could take considerable pride.Ē

    Believe me, I am proud of those men. Here's more:

    'The 12th SS moved forward towards the front starting at dawn on D-Day but air attacks slowed their advance. The division's vanguard, the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, commanded by Colonel Kurt Meyer moved into the area west of Caen. Meyer established his headquarters in the Ardennes Abbey on June 7 (D-Day + 1) and discovered the Canadian 9th Brigade advancing toward Carpiquet airport. The 25th Panzer Grenadiers attacked the exposed Canadian flank with two battalions supported by tanks. The Germans struck with great force and in vicious close quarter battles forced the Canadians out of Authie and Buron after heavy losses in tanks and men.

    In defence, the Canadians infantry proved as stubbornly ferocious as the Germans, especially once they were able to bring their artillery to bear. In Normandy artillery was the most lethal weapon on both sides, causing three out of every four wounds. Supported by the big guns of a British cruiser, and the 12 remaining Sherbrooke Fusiliers tanks, the 9th Brigade fought their way back in forcing the Germans in turn to withdraw from Buron. The vanguard of the 9th Brigade was decimated. The North Nova Scotia casualties were 84 killed, 30 wounded and 128 captured. The Sherbrookes casualties were 26 killed and 34 wounded along with 28 tanks destroyed or damaged. The Germans had also paid, the Sherbrookes claiming to have destroyed up to 35 German tanks, thus reducing the effectiveness of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

    At dawn on June 8th the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 12th SS attacked the Canadian 7th Brigade that had advanced up to the Caen-Bayeux road. The Germans attacked the town of Putot-en-Bessin with two battalions and surrounded the Winnipeg Rifles. The Canadian Scottish supported by the 1st Hussars moved back into the village under a creeping artillery barrage. After two hours of fierce fighting the Canadians recaptured Putot-en-Bessin and linked up with the remnants of the Winnipegs still holding on.

    A third German battalion attacked Bretteville. The Regina Rifles stubbornly defended the town and the battle raged all night in the village streets. At dawn the next morning the 12th SS retreated after suffering heavy losses. To stop the German counter attack the Canadians paid a high price. The Winnipeg Rifles lost 256 men including 105 killed. The Canadian Scottish lost 125 men, including 45 killed while the Regina Rifles losses were smaller.

    Many of the Winnipeg Rifles had been taken prisoner and were among the 45 Canadians executed by the 12th SS at the Abbey of Ardenne on June 8th. The previous day, 23 Canadian prisoners from the North Novas and Sherbrookes were shot by the men of the 12th SS. After the war Kurt Meyer would be held responsible for these war crimes and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment.'


    According to the history chanel, he only served 10 years! Why? Anyone know?
    All I know is the 12th SS pissed off the Canadians when the Canadians found their countrymen murdered. That strengthened their resolve and they stubbornly rebuffed each counter attack by the Germans.
    (Don't piss off a Canadian.)
    It's one thing to kill a man in the heat of battle, but those bastards of the 12thSS murdered them in cold blood.
    My heartfilled thanks goes out to all those Americans, Brittish and Canadian soldiers who faught bravely and died for our freedom.
    Thanks

    Thanks for the great thread JCJanko.

  9. #9
    Eruption
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    10.03.13 @ 10:13 AM
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    Guys, it was tough to write, I can tell you that. I knew it would be.

    The Canadians and British are usually pushed aside (along with Utah Beach fighters) because of the near loss at Omaha was most notable. Reading the stories, especially of the other nations, is great. It was such a total victory because of all the beaches' victories, and if one failed it could have ruined the mission. People also forget that once on the beach, they all had to secure it, which again was no easy task. What great reading.

    I have a bunch of crazy, untold war stories from that day that I can't find in most popular historians' books. One involved a Navy ship that moved way up into suicidal closeness while the men of Omaha were pinned down by mortar fire, and blew open a whole that many said was the turning point of the battle.

    I love the personal stories, and just thinking my grandfather could have been worked on by another linker's grandfather is humbling, to say the least. It reminds me how insignificant I really am.
    Go Bills and Sabres!

    We're NOT Lawyers! www.werenotlawyers.com

  10. #10
    Eruption
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    09.23.13 @ 06:29 PM
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    No, you're not insignificant at all. You're here and I'm here today because of what men like your grandfather did back in '44 when they literally went into hell to procure our freedom that we so enjoy today. It's up to us to never forget (& your thread helps us remember) and it's up to us to not let the efforts of those men go to waste. We are here for a reason. We are here because of those brave men. We must never forget. If our only reason for being here is to remind others of the sacrifices those men made, then so be it. Those stories need to be told, not because we're trying to pump up our respective nations, but because our nations stood up to the face of evil, looked it in the eye and won. Keep telling your grandfather's stories, I'd be honored to read them.
    Peace

  11. #11
    Eruption
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    10.03.13 @ 10:13 AM
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    Well, if my purpose in life is to remind people of this stuff, then maybe I'm not so insignificant.

    I also sent this to some people at work. It was funny, because one person I did not send it to (not on purpose, I just randomly sent it to some people) was talking to me and another who had read it. She couldn't remember what holiday had just passed and said, "I don't know, it's another 3 day weekend to me" or something like that. The person who read it said, "I take it you did not read Jason's email." It was a little embarrassing because I really like the person who made the comment, but damn...point proven.
    Go Bills and Sabres!

    We're NOT Lawyers! www.werenotlawyers.com

 

 

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