Friday Fictioneers: Remembrance

Posted: October 2, 2013 in Family, Friday Fictioneers
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Fictioneers.  One hundred words to tell a story, a snippet of life told tightly. Does it succeed? You let me know.

Copyright E. A. Wicklund

Copyright E. A. Wicklund

Remembrance

Standing there, he can only imagine (because Dad had rarely spoken of it), dropping into the Higgins boats, men crying, boys stiff with fear; your best friend dying next to you in the ocean red with blood, men drowning as their water-filled helmets trapped them under waves. After staggering the long yards through waist-deep ocean, the vast expanse of Omaha Beach still waiting, filled with mines and hedgehogs and openness, the deadly rain of ammunition falling all around. Behind, the inexorably rising tide; ahead, the unknowable.

The gulls’ hoarse cries echo the forgotten screams of the defiant and the dying.

******************

A snippet of what my father-in-law and so many others experienced on this and other beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Higgins boats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LCVP_%28United_States%29
Hedgehogs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_hedgehog

My father-in-law’s ship:

20131001-170409.jpg

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Comments
  1. Vivid imagery, Janet. I felt fear, dread, horror… all that one ought to feel under such circumstances.

    A couple notes on minor things in the writing…

    “Fall” seemed not quite the right tense, maybe “falls” or “falling?” Also, the last line… I’m not sure about the “the.” I wonder if it might be stronger without it, or as “The hoarse cries of the gulls joined the screams of death and defiance.”

    Alright, so I moved a few more words around there… “dying” changed to “death” to keep in parallel with defiance (both nouns), and death listed first because death is what the soldiers are defying, so it seems it should be given the first position. I think, also, that “defiance and death/dying” emphasized death, which might be what you’re going for, but “death and defiance” emphasizes the fierce courage of the men who fought and gives them a certain honor and your story a glimmer of hopefulness. I guess on that one, it could go either way, depending upon what you want to emphasize.

    Sorry for being so nit-picking. All in all, this is a powerful, emotionally evocative piece.

    • Not sure when “falling” got changed to “fall”. It was originally “falling” and thanks for picking that up. As for “death” vs. “dying”, I changed from the former to the latter when I realized that when dead, no one makes sounds, so “dying” seemed more appropriate. I wanted “The cries” to parallel “the screams.” I had “defiance” first because once you’re dead, you’re no longer defiant. Anyway, that was my thought process. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond in such detail (and picking up “falling!”)

      janet

    • Lisa, I changed the last line to reflect what you suggested and what I was trying to say in the way I was trying to say it. See what you think. Thanks again!

      janet

      • Please don’t throw a rotten tomato at me for harping on, but I think you can go stronger than “sounded like.” 🙂 The rest of your piece is so immediate and active that “sounded like” seems weak… Let those cries and screams mingle or blend or… I don’t know… Make them DO something! 🙂

        Ugh. I feel I ought to apologize for seeming to be hard to please this morning… Despite my critical eye, I honestly love your piece! As Doug suggests below, you have honored these brave men beautifully. Just yesterday I read an article about some Honor Flight veterans who ignored barricades at the WWII Memorial in D.C., so your piece was especially touching this morning.

      • I read the piece, too, and good for them! There’s no reason to close a monument that people only walk through, as far as I’m concerned, but that’s an issue for another day. As for the criticism, I appreciate it. I’m going to have some breakfast, then revisit that last line to see how to make it stronger.

        janet

      • If it’s any consolation, I find I have the most to say about the pieces I like best. 😉

        On that last line, I think it comes down to this: You’ve put me squarely in the midst of the chaos in the first paragraph, so that I see and hear and sense – and even smell – the entire scene. Then, in that last line, it’s like someone comes beside me and says, “Hey, those gulls sound like people screaming.” I’d rather hear the gulls and the screaming and make that connection myself. You can link the sounds together without telling me they sound alike. If I hear them together in my head, I’ll reach the conclusion you want me to reach – that they sound alike – and I’ll have reached it in a more profound way than if you tell me yourself.

      • I see what you’re saying, Lisa. I think we’re coming at this from slightly different perspectives. I’m distancing the last line from the rest because I am going back to the narrator on the beach hearing the gulls cries that sound to him/her like the defiant and the dying. It sounds to me like you’re aiming more at the gulls cries being in the past with the rest of the story. Is that a fair distinction or am I still missing your point?

        I revised the last line again. Maybe while I was revising, you commented? 🙂

      • Revision # ?, Lisa. 🙂 What say ye?

        janet

  2. Sandra says:

    I think Lisa makes a good point about ‘death and defiance’ rather than ‘defiance and dying’.

    This is a powerful piece that strikes a chord with me. Sometimes when I see programmes featuring Saturday nights in the city, I wonder how some of those falling about the streets under the influence of drink/drugs would react if they were called upon to respond as these young men were.

    Well done, Janet.

    • Thanks, Sandra. I explained my thinking in response to Lisa while you were posting, so perhaps if you have time, you would read it (it’s short) and see what you think. I’ll look at it again later, too, when there’s a bit more distance between writing and revising yet again.

      janet

  3. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Janet,

    It is through stories such as yours that the memories of the greatest generation will live on. You captured the terror and bravery of that longest of days with just one hundred well chosen words.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  4. Adam Ickes says:

    You’ve captured the scene wonderfully. A very vivid description of what must have been nothing less than a horrific day.

    Just one thing. You’ve got your letters jumbled in “falling”.

  5. I must be dense not to quite get what – Revision # ?, Lisa. What say ye? – means. Whatever revision we’re on, I had to start a new comment because I wasn’t allowed to reply to your last one!

  6. I really loved this.. the history and the vivid details caught me deeply… This is how history fiction should be.

  7. claireful says:

    A beautiful piece of writing Janet. Really evocative, and a really powerful last line.

    • Thanks a lot, Claire. As you may have read, that last line was forged through fire and several changes. I’m glad it works well now.

      janet
      who has to get back to unpacking, etc. and wait to read more later 😦

  8. When I was a child this story was romanticized for us.It wasn’t until later that I learned of the true horror. You have captured that in a mere 100 words. Good job!

    • Dawn, we were blessed to be able to go to Omaha Beach and Normandy a few years ago. Bill’s dad never talked much about it, but his best friend did die there, as did most of his company. We toured the area with a wonderful guide (10 hours!) and then spent two more days there. Very sobering and something no one should ever forget, although I fear too many will never even really have any idea what went on, why and the horrors, albeit necessary, of it.

      janet

  9. I look forward to your 100 word fiction every week, thanks for posting and sharing a little of your revising process!

    • I’m so glad you enjoy the stories, although with vacation and our San Francisco trip, I haven’t been keeping up every week. I had been for many, many months and plan to again. Thanks for the comment and encouragement.

      janet

  10. Ye Pirate says:

    A very humbling scene. They were a heroic generation, true men, supported by real women who thank goodness did not have to step onto the beach there during the invasion,but rolled up sleeves and nursed men back to health, and worked long shifts supplying the men with the tools they needed to win against the evil menace. A different generation than ours, but with their values, courtesies, sense of duty, humanity and bravery. I don’t know how I could have dealt with the decision to order the invasion, knowing the forecasted casualties – already over a hundred killed in their test run in the south east of England in drowning incidents. Superb tribute Janet.

  11. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    The cries of seagulls always seem haunting to me. This was well written, darling. I enjoyed it very much.

  12. helenmidgley says:

    I loved the line “Behind, the inexorably rising tide; ahead, the unknowable.” brilliant job 🙂

  13. paulmclem says:

    First thing that came into my mind was also the D-Day landings, then I got sidetracked by St. Kilda. Must have been hell for all concerned. Just didn’t know if a bullet had your name on it.

    • To be there and see what the incoming men had to face made me realize what a miracle it was that the Allies made it! Rommel wanted to strengthen the German lines but Hitler was convinced or allowed himself to be convinced that the war wouldn’t be won on the beaches. Thank goodness!

      janet

  14. Dear Janet,

    This is beautifully haunting, right down to the seagulls’s cries. My dad was also a WWII, Purple Heart awarded vet. Other than boot camp prank stories, he never really spoke much about his experience.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    • I think because it was so horrific, many just wanted to forget. However, we can’t. My dad would have gone to Korea but because he was an accountant, they sent to him first to St. Louis and then to Chicago.

      janet

  15. Linda Vernon says:

    This was a mini masterpiece on the horrors of war. It’s unbelievable that this isn’t just a piece of fiction, that people really experienced this and died like this. And when I think about the cries of seagulls I I think they really are crying.

  16. gingerpoetry says:

    great story – and as a German born 16 years after Dday I have to say, good this guys came and risked their lifes to free Europe.from the Nazis. Noone should ever forget this.

    • You’re so right about never forgetting. WWI gets forgotten even more than WWII. War is never good but it is definitely sometimes necessary. Thanks for reading and for the comment!

      janet

  17. The horror and violence of that (and other) day is so clear here. The “water-filled helmets” is so vivid and terrifying. I feel like the birds really pull me into the moment, then and now. In the final line, I would use echo, not echoed. Bring the reader back to the present, with the man who begins the piece. Really powerful, and haunting.

    I found the back and forth editing, very interesting… thanks again for helping me, with mine. 🙂

  18. kz says:

    beautifully written. the images and sounds seem so vivid. made more powerful by the fact that this is a true story.

  19. This is a powerful dose of memory.Thanks for this brief share about the courageous men and women who fought for our freedom.

  20. JackieP says:

    With so few words to work with you brought up history in vivid detail. Wonderful.

  21. Quite emotional and affecting. Makes you realize the incredible things others have gone through and the sacrifices they have made so that we can have our freedom. Very well done, Janet!

  22. erinleary says:

    Powerfully written. I have often wondered how it would have felt to be in one of those boats, landing on the beach, the odds so against making it through. Your piece brought it to life. Well done.

    • Erin, I can only show a tiny fraction of what went on there and on the other beaches that day. As we stood there, having heard and read all we did, I couldn’t believe the Allies succeeded there. My f-i-l’s friend actually did die beside him, before ever reaching the beach, as did too many others. In the American museum at Omaha Beach, there was this quote from a French citizen, “The Americans are the only ones in the streets of the towns, there are no more Germans. It is an indescribable joy.” Here’s my original post on our trip: https://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/lest-we-forget/

  23. rgayer55 says:

    What an excellent tribute to those who lived and died storming the beaches of WWII. The last line summed it up beautifully. It grabbed my heartstrings.

  24. unspywriter says:

    Yes, such vivid imagery. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were there because you captured it so deftly. Well done.

    Here’s mine: http://unexpectedpaths.com/friday-fictioneers/white-noise/

  25. Honie Briggs says:

    Janet, this is exceptional.

  26. MissTiffany says:

    Great imagery here. I like your serious take on this prompt. It’s a nice tribute to those who were actually there during that momentous yet horrifying (like all war) moment in history.

  27. Bastet says:

    A strong piece well written, thanks for sharing your father-in-laws experience with us…your raw imagery brings home the horrors of war. A wonderful tribute. Peace Georgia

  28. […] She also wrote a powerful piece for the Friday Fictioneers […]

  29. Well done, Janet. That last line with the gulls was piercing, really powerful. Thanks for the history as well. You captured what must have been such a haunting experience. Very rich.

  30. annisik51 says:

    Clearly the photo prompt was for you a trigger. It was a trigger for me, in a different way. But, also, having lived in France for 11 years, until quite recently, my husband and I visited all the Normandy beaches of WWII, including Omaha. I can’t remember exactly, but at one, I broke down at the sight of what seemed endless miles of white crosses and my husband had to take me away. I also visited the cemetery near Arras on the Belgian border where my great uncle who died at the end of WWI was commemorated. His body was never found, like so many. I laid a yellow rose at the base of a wall where his name was engraved in a stone. I knew I was standing in the footsteps of my grandfather, his brother, who visited in the 60s, shortly before his death. He used to cultivate roses in his garden, one of which was the yellow rose called ‘Peace’. He travelled out to France with a group of old soldier comrades during which trip they went to Ypres, in Belgium, and were given the keys to the city. My grandfather was a war hero, decorated with the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery in the field. On one occasion he went out into No Man’s Land under fire to bring back a wounded officer into the trenches. During WWII he served as a special constable (policeman). He was a coal miner and retired after serving in the National Coal Board for 50 years. His whole life was coloured by his experiences during WWI. We must never allow to be forgotten what has been sacrificed, so that we can write our stories and paint our pictures today. Ann

    • Ann, you have quite a history with that area and time, don’t you? Thanks for the emotional look into the history of your family and WWII. My f-i-l, besides being there on D-Day, was also in the Pacific and those experiences marked him for life and impacted his family as well. I so agree that we must never let this be forgotten, just as we much never let the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and WWI be forgotten as well.

      janet

  31. sandraconner says:

    So very well done, Janet. I remember my uncle telling about how the men were falling so fast that he and others in his unit literally had to walk on the bodies of their dead comrades to cross the beach. You’ve tied in the gulls in exactly the right tone, and you’ve captured the horror perfectly. People need to be reminded again and again.

    • Sandra, I’m glad your uncle was alive to tell the story. So many never made it. But they knew they were fighting against an evil that could consume the world and they were willing to do it. So thankful for them as well as for their families who gave up so much.

      janet

  32. draliman says:

    Great imagery, very powerful.
    I love the final line – the gulls are doing their usual things just like a normal day, no matter the horror the humans are causing all around.

  33. Paints the picture of such a tough time.
    Scott

  34. pattisj says:

    You did a great job of putting us there with the soldiers. What an awful day that must have been. In the parentheses in the first line, what if you drop had and use “rarely spoke of it?”

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