- Historic Sites
D-day: What It Cost
This is a story of the months prior to June 6,1944, and a few of the days following, told through some of the letters my twenty-three-year-old father, Frank Elliott, wrote my mother, Pauline, while he was with Company A of the 741st Tank Battalion, and some she sent him at the time of the Normandy landings.
May/June 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 3
I recently learned that my father’s tank was one which did not make it to the beach and although two men were badly injured, they all helped each other swim to shore. Medics assisted the injured men while the others continued to fight on the beach. My father was hit that afternoon by a bomb from a German plane. I was told by a surviving comrade that his body was mutilated. I hope the end came quickly.
He is buried in the American Military Cemetery of St.-Laurent-sur-Mer, on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, under one of thousands of white crosses marking the graves of hopeful young men. My mother chose to leave his remains there in France.
All the letters he received from my mother were lost, presumably being with him at the time of his death. None of his personal effects were returned. The letters published here came back unopened, undelivered, and marked “deceased.”
My mother never remarried, although she had several opportunities to do so. Heartache and sadness, hard work and worry, punctuated by a few moments of humor in the company of friends and family, characterized the rest of her life. She made the best of her life, but she never could forget her first and lasting love. How was she to know in 1944 that their”… again a little while …” would be a lifetime? She developed gastric cancer, which I am convinced was a result of too many years of pain at the core of her being, and passed to share eternity with him in 1990, at the age of seventy.
I didn’t marry the only man I ever loved, fearing that he, too, would somehow die and leave me and I would go through the same pain my mother did. I later experienced two unsuccessful marriages. Having never known the affirmation of my father’s or any man’s love for a sustained period of time as a child, I have always found it difficult to believe that any man could love me.
We were, all three, casualties of war.