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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
We are now masters of the present tense, Having imposed upon ourselves a law Prohibiting the future. The once immense Treasure of words is halved as we withdraw Into this moment only, now, today, Or into the past; and each of us, separate, Is haunted by the things he dare not say For fear of tempting a perverted fate. This is no speech for lovers. The silence aches With unuttered dreams of child and home and peace And life at last together. The heart breaks With so much that the lips may not release. Not even in each other’s arms, not ever Can we permit ourselves to say “forever.”
January 2, 1944
I wrote you on New Year’s day but I immediately messed up the letter so I’m rewriting it. I want to tell you how those enveloped letters affect me. Like the 12th bottle of Duquesne beer, like a double run in Pinochle, like a parachute jump, it goes to my head, my heart, my feet, fingers, ears. Oh darling Oh mercy is all I can say. I love, idolize you. I have received two subscriptions to the Readers Digest, one from Mom, one from my sweet wife. You two should get together or send me a Sub to the New Yorker. Also—you asked for this, so start duckin’ Could I have some shaving lotion please!—its the key to my power over women. …
I want to tell you how those enveloped letters affect me. Like the 12th bottle of Duquesne beer, like a double run in Pinochle, like a parachute jump.
January 3, 1944
Your Christmas cards are in excellent taste and the captivating child pictured thereon can not be my daughter. She is so much bigger it seems. Take a close look and you will notice that her leg is not only touching the ground it is actually bent at the knee. That means she is at least two inches taller than the last time I saw her. … Did you ever hear of powdered eggs? That is always on the menu morning after morning day after day. I would sacrifice a great deal just to eat a fried egg cooked sunnyside up by you, darling. …
January 11, 1944
Last night in one of my pre-dream reveries I was dreaming of an idea that was designed to revolutionize the strip steel industry. However, with the dawn of an English day the idea began to look like a drunkard’s dream (and me a teetotaler) and I have at last cast it away to the winds having first memorized the faults of the idea. I hesitate to mention the idea for fear of being scoffed at but since Firestone and Edison were both successful inventors and attributed their successes to the counsel of their wives I am going to briefly outline the idea to you. It had to do with the rolling and thinning of steel as it is done on a four high Steckle Mill of the type used at our plant. I wondered if it weren’t possible to weld a section of the sheet of steel to itself so that the strip instead of having to be run through several times could be run to the desired degree of thinness by one continual passing. …
I love you Frank
January 16, 1944
Dearest A cold frosty Sunday morning. The kind of Sunday when I’ll freeze my fingers wiping the frost from the windshield as you and Dee sit huddled closely near the heater which gives only a promise of heat. Those Sunday morning sojourns in fulfillment of our religious duties will be worth the trouble because I can already smell the bacon frying as I lounge comfortably back reading the paper. So get up, go to church, meet your obligations but bear in mind the satisfying breakfast and comfortable chair that awaits you after Mass. To you, on whose shoulders rests the necessity of creating breakfast, it will be just another day with the added handicap of a husband underfoot. … Let’s go to Youngstown this afternoon and see a show darling or do you expect friends in for a game; if so where did you hide the beer?
I love you darling Frank
January 24, 1944
Hi Mrs. Elliott,
If there is anything, any single item to which the dogface in the ETO could point as being the cause of a tremendous lowering of morale it is this; the Sunday funny papers. Blondie, Popeye, and others of their kind are sorely lacking in the papers of the U.K. … We just list Maggie and Jiggs among the folks we left behind and long to return again to their company. How does my daughter react to the colorful antics of the funny folk? I don’t suppose she fully appreciates them as yet but it won’t be long until you are reading them to her. …