- Historic Sites
A newspaper editor before World War II, Charles R. Cawthon (1912-1996) was a front-line officer whose 116th Infantry Regiment landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought its way across Europe to the Elbe. He joined the Virginia National Guard in 1940 and when America entered the war, his division was among the first shipped out to England, where they spent two years preparing to spearhead the largest amphibious military operation in history.
Cawthon’s book, Other Clay: A Remembrance of the World War II Infantry (University Press of Colorado), was a survivor’s account of infantry combat, told by a frontline officer whose 116th Infantry Regiment landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought its way across Europe to the Elbe. Other Clay included many of Cawthon's reminiscences written first for American Heritage.
On the beaches of Normandy, on June 6, 1944, the U.S. Army suffered its heaviest casualties since Gettysburg. The losses were greatest among the infantry companies that led the assault, and Cawthon described firsthand the furious and deathly chaos of the daylong battle to get off the beach and up the heights. Reduced by casualties to half its preinvasion strength, Cawthon’s regiment still managed to fight off German counterattacks and engage in an all-out pursuit across France before the Germans counterattacked again at the Ardennes forest.
Cawthon provided a deeply felt and carefully recollected study of men confronting the face of death—their fear, their courage, their hunger and exhaustion, their loyalty to one another, and their miraculous and unreasoning ability to go one more step, one more day, one more mile.
Cawthon remained on active duty after hostilities were over and later commanded a battalion in the Korean War. After retiring from the U.S. Army Reserve, he operated a tree farm in Virginia.
Articles by this Contributor
An infantryman remembers how it was
Along this narrow stretch of sand, all the painstaking plans for the Normandy invasion fell apart. One of the men who was lucky enough to make it past the beachhead recalls a day of fear, chaos, grief—and triumph.
American Heritage is proud to host the
National Portal to
- American Revolution Center
- National Museum of Civil War Medicine
- National Museum of the U.S. Navy
- Manassas National Battlefield
- Maryland State House
In association with the
American Association for State and Local History
Why do we need a national nonprofit membership society for American history?
“Save America’s Treasures” has been totally eliminated—the largest Federal program supporting preservation of such treasures as the original Star Spangled Banner and George Washington’s tent.
65% of Americans don’t know what happened at the Constitutional Convention, according to a recent survey by Newsweek.
The “Teaching American History” grants—the largest Federal program supporting history education—have been completely eliminated.
Visits to the Top 20 Civil War battlefields have dropped in half from 1970 to 2009 according to official National Park Service statistics.
40% of Americans can’t identify whom we fought in World War II, according to a recent survey by Newsweek.
A quarter of Americans believe Congress shares power over U.S. foreign policy with the United Nations, according to a recent Annenberg survey.
“There is little that is more important for an American citizen to know than the history and traditions of his country,” John F. Kennedy wrote in American Heritage.
The “We the People Program,” which touched some 30 million students and 90,000 teachers over 25 years, has been completely eliminated.
Two-thirds of Americans could not correctly name Yorktown as the last major military action of the American Revolution, according to a recent national Gallup survey.
The National Heritage Areas and Scenic Byways program, the only major Federal program encouraging visits to historic places, has been completely eliminated in Congressional committee.