ON CHERBOURG PENINSULA: All the American soldiers here are impressed by the
loveliness of the Normandy countryside. Except for swampy places it is almost a
dreamland of beauty. Everything is' so green and rich and natural looking.
There are no fences as such. All the little fields are bordered either by high
trees or by earthen ridges built up about waist-high and now after many centuries
completely covered with grass, shrubbery, ferns and flowers.
Normandy differs from the English landscape mainly in that rural England is
fastidiously trimmed and cropped like a Venetian garden, while in Normandy the
grass needs cutting and the hedgerows are wild and everything is less of neatness
and more of the way nature makes it.
The main roads in Normandy are macadam and the side roads gravel. The roads are
winding, narrow, and difficult for heavy military traffic. In many places we've
made roads one-way for miles at a sketch.
THE AVERAGE AMERICAN finds the climate of Normandy abominable, even in June. We
have about one nice day for three bad days. On nice days the sky is clear blue
and the sun is out and everything seems wonderful except that there is still a
hidden chill in the air, and even in your tent or under a shade tree you are
On the bad days the whole universe is dark and you need lights in your tent at
noontime and it drizzles or sprinkles and often a cold wind blows and your bones
and your heart, too, are miserable.
Most everybody has on his long underwear. I wear four sweaters in addition to my
regular uniform. Overcoats were taken away from our troops before we left
England, and there are a lot of our boys not too warmly clad.
There is a constant dampness in the air. At night you jut your clothes under your
bedroll or they're wet in the morning. All this dampness makes for ruddy cheeks
and green grass. But ruddy cheeks are for girls and green grass for cows, and
personally I find the ordinary American is happiest when he's good and stinking
IT IS THE CUSTOM throughout our Army, as you doubtless know, for soldiers to
paint names on their vehicles. They have names on airplanes, tanks, jeeps,
trucks, guns and practically everything that moves.
Sometimes they have girls' names and often they are trick names such as "Sad
Sack," or "Invasion Blues," or "Hitler's Menace."
Well, the boys have already started painting French names on their vehicles. I
saw a jeep named "Bientot," which means "soon," and a motorcycle named "Char de
Mort," which means "chariot of death."
Pretty soon we will be seeing jeeps named "Yvonne" and "Ma Petite Cherie."
THE NAMES OF A LOT of the French towns in our area are tongue-twisters for our
troops, so the towns quickly become known by some unanimous application of
Americanese. For instance, Bricquebec is often called "Bricabrac." And Isigny was
first known as "Insignia," but has now evolved into "Easy Knee," which is -
closer to the French pronunciation.
I heard a funny story of one of our young fighter pilots who had to bail out one
day recently, high over the English Channel.
It seems the pilots carry a small bottle of brandy in their first-aid kits, for
use if they are in the water a long time or have been hurt in landing.
Well, this young pilot, once he was safely out of his plane and floating down,
figured he might as well drink his before he hit the water. So he fished it out
of his pocket and drained her down while still many thousands of feet in the air.
At high altitudes liquor hits you harder than at sea level. Furthermore, this kid
wasn't accustomed to drinking. The combination of the two had him tighter than a
goat by the time he floated down into the Channel.
A DESTROYER had spotted him coming down, and it fished him out almost as soon as
he hit the water. Even the cold plunge didn't sober him up. He was giddy and
staggering around and they couldn't keep him in one spot long enough to dry him
The captain of the destroyer sensed what had happened, and being afraid the kid
would take cold wandering around the deck, he came up and said with affected
"What the hell are you doing here ? Get below where you belong."
Whereupon the wet young lieutenant drew- himself up in indignation and, with all
the thick-tongued haughtiness of a plastered guest who's been insulted by his
"I assure you I don't propose to remain where I'm not wanted."
And forthwith he jumped overboard. The destroyer had to rescue him again.