The village was silent in the damp June morning. Its name was La Roche-Guyon and it had sat undisturbed for nearly twelve centuries in a great lazy loop of the Seine roughly midway between Paris and Normandy. For years it had been just a place that people passed through on their way to somewhere else. Its only distinction was its castle, the seat of the Dukes de La Rochefoucauld. It was this castle jutting out from the backdrop of hills behind the village that had brought an end to the peace of La Roche-Guyon.
On this gray morning the castle loomed up over everything, its massive stones glistening with dampness. It was almost 6:00 A.M., but nothing stirred in the two great cobbled courtyards. Outside the gates the main road stretched broad and empty, and in the village the windows of the red-roofed houses were still shuttered. La Roche-Guyon was very quiet -- so quiet that it appeared to be deserted. But the silence was deceptive. Behind the shuttered windows people waited for a bell to ring.
At 6:00 A.M. the bell in the fifteenth-century Church of St. Samson next to the castle would sound the Angelus. In more peaceful days it had had a simple meaning -- in La Roche-Guyon the villagers would cross themselves and pause for a moment of prayer. But now the Angelus meant much more than a moment of meditation. This morning when the bell rang it would mark the end of the night's curfew and the beginning of the 1,451st day of German occupation.
Everywhere in La Roche-Guyon there were sentries. Huddled in their camouflage capes, they stood inside both gates of the castle, at road blocks at each end of the village, in pillboxes built flush into the chalk outcroppings of the foothills and in the crumbling ruins of an old tower on the highest hill above the castle. From up there machine gunners could see everything that moved in this, the most occupied village in all of occupied France.
Behind its pastoral front La Roche-Guyon was really a prison; for every one of the 543 villagers, in and around the area there were more than three German soldiers. One of these soldiers was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander in chief of Army Group B, the most powerful force in the German west. His headquarters was in the castle of La Roche-Guyon.
From here in this crucial fifth year of World War II, a tense, determined Rommel prepared to fight the most desperate battle of his career. Under his command more than a half a million men manned defenses along a tremendous length of coastline -- stretching almost eight hundred miles, from the dikes of Holland to the Atlantic-washed shores of the Brittany peninsula. His main strength, the Fifteenth Army, was concentrated about the Pas-de-Calais, at the narrowest point of the Channel between France and England.
Night after night, Allied bombers hit this area. Bombweary veterans of the Fifteenth Army bitterly joked that the place for a rest cure was in the zone of the Seventh Army in Normandy. Hardly a bomb had fallen there.
For months, behind a fantastic jungle of beach obstacles and mine fields, Rommel's troops had waited in their concrete coastal fortifications. But the blue-gray English Channel had remained empty of ships. Nothing had happened. From La Roche-Guyon, on this gloomy and peaceful Sunday morning, there was still no sign of the Allied invasion. It was June 4, 1944.
In the ground-floor room he used as an office, Rommel was alone. He sat behind a massive Renaissance desk, working by the light of a single desk lamp. The room was large and high-ceilinged. Along one wall stretched a faded Gobelin tapestry. On another the haughty face of Duke François de La Rochefoucauld -- a seventeenth-century writer of maxims and an ancestor of the present Duke -- looked down out of a heavy gold frame. There were a few chairs casually placed on the highly polished parquet floor and thick draperies at the windows, but little else.
In particular, there was nothing of Rommel in this room but himself. There were no photographs of his wife, Lucie-Maria, or his fifteen-year-old son, Manfred. There were no mementos of his great victories in the North African deserts in the early days of the war -- not even the garish field marshal's baton which Hitler had so exuberantly bestowed upon him in 1942. (Only once had Rommel carried the eighteen-inch, three-pound gold baton with its red velvet coveting studded with gold eagles and black swastikas: that was the day he got it.) There wasn't even a map showing the dispositions of his troops. The legendary "Desert Fox" remained as elusive and shadowy as ever; he could have walked out of that room without leaving a trace.
Although the fifty-one-year-old Rommel looked older than his years, he remained as tireless as ever. Nobody at Army Group B could remember a single night when he had slept longer than five hours. This morning, as usual, he had been up since before four. Now he too waited impatiently for six o'clock. At that time he would breakfast with his staff -- and then depart for Germany.
This would be Rommel's first leave at home in months. He would go by car; Hitler had made it almost impossible for senior officers to fly by insisting that they use "three-engined aircraft...and always with a fighter escort." Rommel disliked flying anyway; he would make the eight-hour journey home, to Herrlingen, Ulm, in his big black convertible Horch.
He was looking forward to the trip, but the decision to go had not been an easy one to make. On Rommel's shoulders lay the enormous responsibility of repulsing the Allied assault the moment it began. Hitler's Third Reich was reeling from one disaster after another; day and night thousands of Allied bombers pounded Germany, Russia's massive forces had driven into Poland, Allied troops were at the gates of Rome -- everywhere the great armies of the Wehrmacht were being driven back and destroyed. Germany was still far from beaten, but the Allied invasion would be the decisive battle. Nothing less than the future of Germany was at stake, and no one knew it better than Rommel.
Yet this morning Rommel was going home. For months he had hoped to spend a few days in Germany the first part of June. There were many reasons why he now believed he could leave, and although he would never have admitted it, he desperately needed rest. Just a few days earlier he had telephoned his superior, the aged Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West, requesting permission to make the trip; the request had been immediately granted. Next he had made a courtesy call to Von Rundstedt's headquarters at St.-Germain-en-Laye outside of Paris, to take his leave formally. Both Von Rundstedt and his chief of staff, Major General Günther Blumentritt, had been shocked by Rommel's haggard appearance. Blumentritt would always remember that Rommel looked "fired and tense...a man who needed to be home for a few days with his family."
Rommel was tense and edgy. From the very day he arrived in France toward the end of 1943, the problems of where and how to meet the Allied attack had imposed on him an almost intolerable burden. Like everybody else along' the invasion front, he had been living through a nightmare of suspense. Hanging over him always was the need to outthink the Allies as to their probable intentions -- how they would launch the attack, where they would attempt to land and, above all, when.
Only one person really knew the strain that Rommel was under. To his wife, Lucie-Maria, he confided everything. In less than four months he had written her more than forty letters and in almost every other letter he had made a new prediction about the Allied assualt.
On March 30 he wrote: "Now that March is nearing its end and without the Anglo-Americans having started their attack...I'm beginning to believe they have lost confidence in their cause."
On April 6: "Here the tension is growing from day to day...It will probably be only weeks that separate us from the decisive events..."
On April 26: "In England morale is bad...there is one strike after another and the cries of 'Down with Churchill and the Jews' and for peace are getting louder...these are bad omens for such a risky offensive."
On April 27: "It appears now that the British and Americans are not going to be so accommodating as to come in the immediate future."
On May 6: "Still no signs of the British and Americans...Every day, every week...we get stronger....I am looking forward to the battle with confidence...perhaps it will come on May 15, perhaps at the end of the month."
On May 15: "I can't take many more big [inspection] trips...because one never knows when the invasion will begin. I believe only a few more weeks remain until things begin here in the west."
On May 19: "I hope I can get ahead with my plans faster than before...[but] I am wondering if I can spare a few days in June to get away from here. Right now there isn't a chance."
But there was chance after all. One of the reasons for Rommel's decision to leave at this time was his own estimate of the Allies' intentions. Before him now on the desk was Army Group B's weekly report. This meticulously compiled evaluation was due to be sent by noon of the following day to Field Marshal von Rundstedt's headquarters, or, as it was generally known in military jargon, OB West (Oberbefehlshaber West). From there, after further embroidery, it would become part of the over-all theater report and then it would be forwarded to Hitler's headquarters, OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht).
Rommel's estimate read in part that the Allies had reached a "high degree of readiness" and that there was an "increased volume of messages going to the French resistance." But, it went on, "according to past experience this is not indicative that an invasion is imminent..."
This time Rommel had guessed wrong.
In the office of the chief of staff, down the corridor from the field marshall's study, Captain Hellmuth Lang, Rommel's thirty-six-year-old aide, picked up the morning report. It was always his first chore for the commander in chief. Rommel liked to get the report early so that he could discuss it with his staff at breakfast. But there was nothing much in it this morning; the invasion front remained quiet except for the continuing nightly bombing of the Pas-de-Calais. There seemed no doubt about it: Besides all the other indications, this marathon bombing pointed to the Pas-de-Calais as the place the Allies had chosen for their attack. If they were going to invade at all it would be there. Nearly everybody seemed to think so.
Lang looked at his watch; it was a few minutes of 6:00 A.M. They would leave at seven sharp and they should make good time. There was no escort, just two cars, Rommel's and one belonging to Colonel Hans George Von Tempelhof, Army Group B's operations officer, who was going along with them. As usual, the various military commanders in the areas through which they would pass had not been informed of the field marshal's plans. Rommel liked it that way; he hated to be delayed by the fuss and protocol of heel-clicking commanders and motorcycle escorts awaiting him at the entrance to each city. So with a bit of luck they should reach Ulm about three.
There was the usual problem: what to take along for the field marshal's lunch. Rommel did not smoke, rarely drank and cared so little for food that he sometimes forgot to eat. Often, when going over the arrangements for a long journey with Lang, Rommel would run a pencil through the proposed luncheon and write in big black letters "Simple field kitchen meal." Sometimes he would confuse Lang even more by saying, "Of course, if you want to throw in a chop or two that won't bother me." The attentive Lang never quite knew what to order from the kitchen. This morning, besides a vacuum jug of consommé, he had ordered an assortment of sandwiches. His guess was that Rommel, as usual, would forget about lunch anyway.
Lang left the office and walked down the oak-paneled corridor. From the rooms on either side of him came the hum of conversation and the clacking of typewriters; Army Group B headquarters was an extremely busy place now. Lang had often wondered how the Duke and the Duchess, who occupied the floors above, could possibly sleep through all the noise.
At the end of the corridor Lang stopped before a massive door. He knocked gently, turned the handle and walked in. Rommel did not look up. He was so engrossed in the papers before him that he seemed quite unaware that his aide had entered the room, but Lang knew better than to interrupt. He stood waiting.
Rommel glanced up from his desk. "Good morning, Lang," he said.
"Good morning, Field Marshal. The report." Lang handed it over. Then he left the room and waited outside the door to escort Rommel down to breakfast. The field marshal seemed extremely busy this morning. Lang, who knew how impulsive and changeable Rommel could be, wondered if they were really leaving after all.
Rommel had no intention of canceling the trip. Although no definite appointment had yet been made, he hoped to see Hitler. All field marshals had access to the Führer, and Rommel had telephoned his old friend, Major General Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler's adjutant, requesting an appointment. Schmundt thought the meeting could be arranged sometime between the sixth and the ninth. It was typical of Rommel that nobody outside of his own staff knew that he intended to see Hitler. In the official diaries at Rundstedt's headquarters, it was simply noted that Rommel was spending a few days' leave at home.
Rommel was quite confident that he could leave his head, quarters at this time. Now that May had passed -- and it had been a month of perfect weather for the Allied attack -- he had reached the conclusion that the invasion would not come for several more weeks. He was so confident of this that he had even set a deadline for the completion of all anti-invasion obstacle programs. On his desk was an order to the Seventh and Fifteenth armies. "Every possible effort," it read, "must be made to complete obstacles so as to make a low-tide landing possible only at extreme cost to the enemy...work must be pushed forward...completion is to be reported to my headquarters by June 20."
He now reasoned -- as did Hitler and the German High Command -- that the invasion would take place either simultaneously with the Red Army's summer offensive, or shorty after. The Russian attack, they knew, could not begin until the late thaw in Poland, and therefore they did not think the offensive could be mounted until the latter part of June.
In the west the weather had been bad for several days, and it promised to be even worse. The 5:00 A.M. report, prepared by Colonel Professor Walter Stübe, the Luftwaffe's chief meteorologist in Paris, predicted increasing cloudiness, high winds and rain. Even now a twenty- to thirty-mile-an-hour wind was blowing in the Channel. To Rommel, it seemed hardly likely that the Allies would dare launch their attack during the next few days.
Even at La Roche-Guyon, during the night, the weather had changed. Almost opposite Rommel's desk two tall French windows opened out onto a terraced rose garden. It was not much of a rose garden this morning -- rose petals, broken branches and twigs were strewn all over. Shortly before dawn a brief summer storm had come out of the English Channel, swept along part of the French coast and then passed on.
Rommel opened the door of his office and stepped out. "Good morning, Lang," he said, as though he had not seen his aide until that moment. "Are we ready to go?" Together they went down to breakfast.
Outside in the village of La Roche-Guyon the bell in the Church of St. Samson sounded the Angelus. Each note fought for its existence against the wind. It was 6:00 A.M.
Between Rommel and Lang an easy, informal relationship existed. They had been constantly together for months. Lang had joined Rommel in February and hardly a day had passed since without a long inspection trip somewhere. Usually they were on the road by 4:30 A.M., driving at top speed to some distant part of Rommel's command. One day it would be Holland, another day Belgium, the next day Normandy or Brittany. The determined field marshal had taken advantage of every moment. "I have only one real enemy now," he had told Lang, "and that is time." To conquer time Rommel spared neither himself nor his men; it had been that way from the moment he had been sent to France in November 1943.
That fall Von Rundstedt, responsible for the defense of all Western Europe, had asked Hitler for reinforcements. Instead, he got the hardheaded, daring and ambitious Rommel. To the humiliation of the aristocratic sixty-eight-year-old Commander in Chief West, Rommel arrived with a Gummiberfehl, an "elastic directive," ordering him to inspect the coastal fortifications -- Hitler's much-publicized "Atlantic Wall" -- and then to report directly back to the Führer's headquarters, OKW. The embarrassed and disappointed Von Rundstedt was so upset by the arrival of the younger Rommel -- he referred to him as the "Marschall Bubi" (roughly, the "Marshal Laddie") -- that he asked Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of OKW, if Rommel was being considered as his successor. He was told "not to draw any false conclusions," that with all "Rommel's capabilities he is not up to that job."
Shortly after his arrival, Rommel had made a whirlwind inspection of the Atlantic Wall -- and what he saw appalled him. In only a few places were the massive concrete and steel fortifications along the coast completed: at the principal ports and river mouths and overlooking the straits, roughly from above Le Havre to Holland. Elsewhere the defenses were in various stages of completion. In some places work had not even begun. True, the Atlantic Wall was a formidable barrier even in its present state. Where it was finished, it fairly bristled with heavy guns. But there were not enough of them to suit Rommel. There was not enough of anything to stop the sort of onslaught that Rommel -- always remembering his crushing defeat at the hands of Montgomery in North Africa the year before -- knew must surely come. To his critical eye the Atlantic Wall was a farce. Using one of the most descriptive words in any language, he had denounced it as a "figment of Hitler's Wolkenkuckucksheim [cloud cuckoo land]."
Just two years before, the wall had hardly existed at all.
Up to 1942, victory had seemed so certain to the Führer and his strutting Nazis that there was no need for coastal fortifications. The swastsika flew everywhere. Austria and Czechoslovakia had been picked off before the war even started. Poland had been carved up between Germany and Russia as long ago as 1939. The war was not even a year old when the countries of Western Europe began falling like so many rotten apples. Denmark fell in a day. Norway, infiltrated from within, took a little longer: six weeks. Then that May and June, in just twenty-seven days and without overture of any sort, Hitler's blitzkrieging troops had plunged into Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France and, as an incredulous world watched, had driven the British into the sea at Dunkirk. After the collapse of France all that remained was England -- standing alone. What need had Hitler for a "wall"?
But Hitler didn't invade England. His generals wanted him to, but Hitler waited, thinking the British would sue for peace. As time passed the situation rapidly changed. With U.S. aid, Britain began staging a slow but sure recovery. Hitler, by now deeply involved in Russia -- he attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941 -- saw that the coast of France was no longer an offensive springboard. It was now a soft spot in his defenses. By the fall of 1941 he began talking to his generals about making Europe an "impregnable fortress." And in December, after the U.S. had entered the war, the Führer ranted to the world that "a belt of strongpoints and gigantic fortifications runs from Kirkenes [on the Norwegian-Finnish frontier]...to the Pyrenees [on the Franco-Spanish border]...and it is my unshakable decision to make this front impregnable against every enemy."
It was a wild, impossible boast. Discounting the indentations, this coastline running from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Bay of Biscay in the south stretched almost three thousand miles.
Even directly across from Britain at the narrowest part of the Channel, the fortifications didn't exist. But Hitler had become obsessed with the fortress concept. Colonel General Franz Halder, then Chief of the German General Staff, well remembers the first time Hitler outlined his fantastic scheme. Halder, who would never forgive Hitler for refusing to invade England, was cool to the whole idea. He ventured the opinion that fortifications "if they were needed" should be constructed "behind the coastline out of range of naval guns," otherwise troops might be pinned down. Hitler dashed across the room to a table on which there was a large map and for a full five minutes threw an unforgettable tantrum. Pounding the map with his clenched fist he screamed, "Bombs and shells will fall here...here...here...and here...in front of the wall, behind it and on it...but the troops will be safe in the wall! Then they'll come out and fight?"
Halder said nothing, but he knew, as did the other generals in the High Command, that despite all the Reich's intoxicating victories the Führer already feared a second front -- an invasion.
Still, little work was done on the fortifications. In 1942, as the tide of war began to swing against Hitler, British commandos began raiding the "impregnable" fortress of Europe. Then came the bloodiest commando raid of the war, when more than five thousand heroic Canadians landed at Dieppe. It was a bloody curtain-raiser to the invasion. Allied planners learned just how strongly the Germans had fortified the ports. The Canadians had 3,369 casualties, of which nine hundred were dead. The raid was disastrous, but it shocked Hitler. The Atlantic Wall, he thundered at his generals, must be completed at top speed. Construction was to be rushed "fanatically."
It was. Thousands of slave laborers worked night and day to build the fortifications. Millions of tons of concrete were poured; so much was used that all over Hitler's Europe it became impossible to get concrete for anything else. Staggering quantities of steel were ordered, but this commodity was in such short supply that the engineers were forced to do without it. As a result few of the bunkers or blockhouses had swiveling cupolas, which required steel for the turrets, and the arc of fire from the guns was thereby restricted. So great was the demand for materials and equipment that parts of the old French Maginot Line and Germany's frontier fortifications (the Siegfried Line) were cannibalized for the Atlantic Wall. By the end of 1943, although the wall was far from finished, over half a million men were working on it and the fortifications had become a menacing reality.
Hitler knew that invasion was inevitable, and now he was faced with another great problem: finding the divisions to man his growing defenses. In Russia division after division was being chewed up as the Wehrmacht tried to hold a two-thousand mile front against relentless Soviet attacks. In Italy, knocked out of the war after the invasion of Sicily, thousands of troops were still pinned down. So, by 1944, Hitler was forced to bolster his garrisons in the west with a strange conglomeration of replacements -- old men and young boys, the remnants of divisions shattered on the Russian front, impressed "volunteers" from occupied countries (there were units of Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Romanians and Yugoslavs, to mention just a few) and even two Russian divisions composed of men who preferred fighting for the Nazis to remaining in prison camps. Questionable as these troops might prove to be in combat, they filled out the gaps. He still had a hard core of battle-hardened troops and panzers. By D Day, Hitler's strength in the west would total a formidable sixty divisions.
Not all these divisions would be up to full strength, but Hitler was still relying on his Atlantic Wall; that would make the difference. Yet men like Rommel who had been fighting -- and losing -- on other fronts were shocked when they saw the fortifications. Rommel had not been in France since 1941. And he, like many other German generals, believing in Hitler's propaganda, had thought that the defenses were almost completed.
His scathing denunciation of the "wall" came as no surprise to Von Rundstedt at OB West. He heartily concurred; indeed, it was probably the only time that he completely agreed with Rommel on anything. The wise old Von Rundstedt had never believed in fixed defenses. He had masterminded the successful outflanking of the Maginot Line in 1940 that had led to the collapse of France. To him Hitler's Atlantic Wall was nothing more than an "enormous bluff...more for the German people than for the enemy...and the enemy, through his agents, knows more about it than we do." It would "temporarily obstruct" the Allied attack, but it would not stop it. Nothing, Von Rundstedt was convinced, could prevent the initial landings from being successful. His plan to defeat the invasion was to hold the great mass of his troops back from the coast and to attack after the Allied troops had landed. That would be the moment to strike, he believed -- when the enemy was still weak, without adequate supply lines and struggling to organize in isolated bridgeheads.
With this theory Rommel disagreed completely. He was positive that there was only one way to smash the attack: meet it head on. There would be no time to bring up reinforcements from the rear; he was certain that they would be destroyed by incessant air attacks or the massive weight of naval or artillery bombardment. Everything, in his view, from troops to panzer divisions, had to be held ready at the coast or just behind it. His aide well remembered a day when Rommel had summed up his strategy. They had stood on a deserted beach, and Rommel, a short, stocky figure in a heavy greatcoat with an old muffler around his throat, had stalked up and down waving his "informal" marshal's baton, a two-foot-long silver-topped black stick with a red, black and white tassel. He had pointed to the sands with his baton and said, "The war will be won or lost on the beaches. We'll have only one chance to stop the enemy and that's while he's in the water...struggling to get ashore. Reserves will never get up to the point of attack and it's foolish even to consider them. The Hauptkampflinie [main line of resistance] will be here...everything we have must be on the coast. Believe me, Lang, the first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive...for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day."
Hitler had approved Rommel's plan in general, and from then on Von Rundstedt had become merely a figurehead. Rommel executed Von Rundstedt's orders only if they agreed with his own ideas. To get his way he would frequently use a single but powerful argument. "The Ffihrer," Rommel would remark, "gave quite explicit orders to me." He never said this directly to the dignified Von Rundstedt, but rather to OB West's chief of staff, Major General Blumentritt.
With Hitler's backing and Von Rundstedt's reluctant acceptance ("That Bohemian corporal, Hitler," snapped the Commander in Chief West, "usually decides against himself.") the determined Rommel had set out to overhaul completely the existing anti-invasion plans.
In a few short months Rommel's ruthless drive had changed the whole picture. On every beach where he considered a landing possible he had ordered his soldiers, working with local conscripted labor battalions, to erect barriers of crude anti-invasion obstacles. These obstacles -- jagged triangles of steel, saw-toothed gatelike structures of iron, metal-tipped wooden stakes and concrete cones -- were planted just below high- and low-tide water marks. Strapped to them were deadly mines. Where there were not enough mines, shells had been used, their noses pointing ominously out to sea. A touch would cause them to explode instantly.
Rommel's strange inventions (he had designed most of them himself) were both simple and deadly. Their object was to impale and destroy troop-filled landing craft or to obstruct them long enough for shore batteries to zero in. Either way, he reasoned, the enemy soldiers would be decimated long before they reached the beaches. More than half a million of these lethal underwater obstacles now stretched along the coastline.
Still, Rommel, the perfectionist, was not satisfied. In the sands, in bluffs, in gullies and pathways leading off the beaches, he ordered mines laid -- all varieties, from the large pancake type, capable of blowing off a tank's tracks, to the small S mine which when stepped on bounded into the air and exploded level with a man's midriff. Over five million of these mines now infested the coast. Before the attack came, Rommel hoped to have another six million planted. Eventually he hoped to girdle the invasion coast with sixty million mines.
Overlooking the coastline, back of this jungle of mines and obstacles, Rommel's troops waited in pillboxes, concrete bunkers and communication trenches, all surrounded by layers of barbed wire. From these positions every piece of artillery that the field marshal had been able to lay hands on looked down on sands and sea, already sighted in to give overlapping fields of fire. Some guns were actually in positions on the seashore itself. These were hidden in concrete emplacements beneath innocent-looking seashide homes, their barrels aimed not toward the sea but directly down the beaches, so as to fire at point-blank range along the waves of assaulting troops.
Rommel took advantage of every new technique or development. Where he was short of guns, he positioned batteries of rocket launchers or multiple mortar throwers. At one place he even had miniature robot tanks called "Goliaths." These devices, capable of carrying more than half a ton of explosives, could be guided by remote control from the fortifications down onto the beaches and detonated among troops or landing craft.
About all that was missing from Rommel's medieval arsenal of weapons were crucibles of molten lead to pour down on the attackers -- and in a way he had the modern equivalent: automatic flame throwers. At some places along the front, webs of piping ran out from concealed kerosene tanks to the grassy approaches leading off the beaches. At the press of a button, advancing troops would be instantly swallowed by flame.
Nor had Rommel forgotten the threat of parachutists or glider-borne infantry. Behind the fortifications low-lying areas had been flooded, and into every open field within seven or eight miles of the coast heavy stakes had been driven and booby-trapped. Trip wires were strung between these posts. When touched, they would immediately set off mines or shells.
Rommel had organized a bloody welcome for the Allied troops. Never in the history of modern warfare had a more powerful or deadly array of defenses been prepared for an invading force. Yet Rommel was not content. He wanted more pillboxes, more beach obstacles, more mines, more guns and troops. Most of all he wanted the massive panzer divisions which were lying in reserve far from the coast. He had won memorable battles with panzers in the North African deserts. Now, at this crucial moment, neither he nor Rundstedt could move these armored formations without Hitler's consent. The Führer insisted on holding them under his personal authority. Rommel needed at least five panzer divisions at the coast, ready to counterattack within the first few hours of the Allied assault. There was only one way to get them -- he would see Hitler. Rommel had often told Lang, "The last man who sees Hitler wins the game." On this leaden morning in La Roche-Guyon, as he prepared to leave for Germany and the long drive home, Rommel was more determined than ever to win the game.
At Fifteenth Army headquarters near the Belgian border, 125 miles away, one man was glad to see the morning of June 4 arrive. Lieutenant Colonel Hellmuth Meyer sat in his office, haggard and bleary-eyed. He had not really had a good night's sleep since June 1. But the night that had just passed had been the worst yet; he would never forget it.
Meyer had a frustrating, nerve-racking job. Besides being the Fifteenth Army's intelligence officer, he also headed up the only counterintelligence team on the invasion front. The heart of his setup was a thirty-man radio interception crew who worked in shifts around the clock in a concrete bunker crammed full of the most delicate radio equipment. Their job was to listen, nothing more. But each man was an expert who spoke three languages fluently, and there was hardly a word, hardly a single stutter of Morse code whispering through the ether from Allied sources that they did not hear.
Meyer's men were so experienced and their equipment was so sensitive that they were even able to pick up calls from radio transmitters in military-police jeeps in England more than a hundred miles away. This had been a great help to Meyer. American and British MPs, chatting with one another by radio as they directed troops convoys, had helped him no end in compiling a list of the various divisions stationed in England. But for some time now Meyer's operators had been unable to pick up any more of these calls. This was also significant to Meyer; it meant that a strict radio silence had been imposed. It was just one more clue to add to the many he already had that the invasion was close at hand.
With all the other intelligence reports available to him, items like this helped Meyer develop a picture of Allied planning. And he was good at his job. Several times a day he sifted through sheaves of monitored reports, always searching for the suspicious, the unusual -- and even the unbelievable.
During the night his men had picked up the unbelievable. The message, a high-speed press cable, had been monitored just after dark. It read: "URGENT PRESS ASSOCIATED NYK FLASH EISENHOWER'S HQ ANNOUNCES ALLIED LANDINGS IN FRANCE."
Meyer was dumbfounded. His first impulse was to alert the headquarters staff. But he had paused and calmed down, because Meyer knew the message had to be wrong.
There were two reasons why. First, there was the complete absence of any activity along the invasion front -- he would have known immediately if there had been an attack. Second, in January, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, then chief of German intelligence, had given Meyer the details of a fantastic two-part signal which he said the Allies would use to alert the underground prior to the invasion.
Canaris had warned that the Allies would broadcast hundreds of messages to the underground in the months preceding the attack. Only a few of these would actually relate to D Day; the remainder would be fake, deliberately designed to mislead and confuse. Canaris had been explicit: Meyer was to monitor all these messages in order not to miss the all-important one.
At first Meyer had been skeptical. It had seemed madness to him to depend entirely on only one message. Besides, he knew from past experience that Berlin's sources of information were inaccurate ninety percent of the time. He had a whole file of false reports to prove his point; the Allies seemed to have fed every German agent from Stockholm to Ankara with the "exact" place and date of the invasion -- and no two of the reports agreed.
But this time Meyer knew Berlin was right. On the night of June 1, Meyer's men, after months of monitoring, had intercepted the first part of the Allied message -- exactly as described by Canaris. It was not unlike the hundreds of other coded sentences that Meyer's men had picked up during the previous months. Daily, after the regular BBC news broadcasts, coded instructions in French, Dutch, Danish and Norwegian were read out to the underground. Most of the messages were meaningless to Meyer, and it was exasperating not to be able to decode such cryptic fragments as "The Trojan War will not be held," "Molasses tomorrow will spurt forth cognac," "John has a long mustache" or "Sabine has just had mumps and jaundice." But the message that followed the 9:00 P.M. BBC news on the night of June 1 was one that Meyer understood only too well.
"Kindly listen now to a few personal messages," said the voice in French. Instantly Sergeant Walter Reichling switched on a wire recorder. There was a pause, and then: "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne [The long sobs of the violins of autumn]."
Reichling suddenly clapped his hands over his earphones. Then he tore them off and rushed out of the bunker for Meyer's quarters. The sergeant burst into Meyer's office and excitedly said, "Sir, the first part of the message -- it's here."
Together they returned to the radio bunker, where Meyer listened to the recording. There it was -- the message that Canaris had warned them to expect. It was the first line of "Chanson d'Automne [Song of Autumn]" by the nineteenth-century French poet Paul Verlaine. According to Canaris's information, this line from Verlaine was to be transmitted on the "first or fifteenth of a month...and will represent the first half of a message announcing the Anglo-American invasion."
The last half of the message would be the second line of the Verlaine poem, "Blessent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone [Wound my heart with a monotonous languor]." When this was broadcast it would mean, according to Canaris, that "the invasion will begin within forty-eight hours...the count starting at 0000 hours of the day following the transmission."
Immediately on hearing the recording of the first line from Verlaine, Meyer informed the Fifteenth Army's chief of staff, Major General Rudolf Hofmann. "The first message has come," he told Hofmann. "Now something is going to happen,"
"Are you absolutely sure?" Hofmann asked.
"We recorded it," Meyer replied.
Hofmann immediately gave the alarm to alert the whole of the Fifteenth Army.
Meyer meanwhile sent the message by teletype to OKW. Next he telephoned Rundstedt's headquarters (OB West) and Rommel's headquarters (Army Group B).
At OKW the message was delivered to Colonel General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations. The message remained on Jodl's desk. He did not order an alert. He assumed Rundstedt had done so; but Rundstedt thought Rommel's headquarters had issued the order.
Along the invasion coast only one army was placed on readiness: the Fifteenth. The Seventh Army, holding the coast of Normandy, heard nothing about the message and was not alerted.
On the nights of the second and third of June the first part of the message was again broadcast. This worried Meyer; according to his information it should have been broadcast only once. He could only assume that the Allies were repeating the alert in order to make sure it was received by the underground.
Within the hour after the message was repeated on the night of June 3, the AP flash regarding the Allied landings in France had been picked up. If the Canaris warning was right, the AP report must be wrong. After his first moment of panic, Meyer had bet on Canaris. Now he was weary, but elated. The coming of the dawn and the continued peacefulness along the front had more than proved him fight.
Now there was nothing to do but wait for the last half of the vital alert, which might come at any moment. Its awesome significance overwhelmed Meyer. The defeat of the Allied invasion, the lives of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, the very existence of his country would depend on the speed with which he and his men monitored the broadcast and alerted the front. Meyer and his men would be ready as never before. He could only hope that his superiors also realized the importance of the message.
As Meyer settled down to wait, 125 miles away the commander of Army Group B was preparing to leave for Germany.
Field Marshal Rommel carefully spread a little honey on a slice of buttered bread. At the breakfast table sat his brilliant chief of staff, Major General Dr. Hans Speidel, and several members of his staff. There was no formality. The table talk was easy and uninhibited; it was almost like a family gathering with the father sitting at the head of the table. In a way it was a kind of close-knit family. Each of the officers had been handpicked by Rommel and they were devoted to him. All of them this morning had briefed Rommel on various questions which they hoped he would raise with Hitler. Rommel had said little. He had simply listened. Now he was impatient to leave. He looked at his watch. "Gentlemen," he said abruptly, "I must go."
Outside the main entrance Rommel's chauffeur, Daniel, stood by the field marshal's car with the door open. Rommel invited Colonel von Tempelhof, besides Lang the only other staff officer going with them, to ride with him in the Horch. Tempelhof's car could follow behind. Rommel shook hands with each member of his official family, spoke briefly to his chief of staff and then took his usual seat next to the chauffeur. Lang and Colonel von Tempelhof sat in the back. "We can go now, Daniel," said Rommel.
Slowly the car circled the courtyard and drove out through the main gate, passing the sixteen square-cut linden trees along the driveway. In the village it turned left onto the main Paris road.
It was 7:00 A.M. Leaving La Rouche-Guyon on this particular dismal Sunday morning, June 4, suited Rommel fine. The timing of the trip could not have been better. Beside him on the seat was a cardboard box containing a pair of handmade gray suede shoes, size five and a half, for his wife. There was a particular and very human reason why he wanted to be with her on Tuesday, June 6. It was her birthday.
In England it was 8:00 A.M. (There was one hour's difference between British Double Summer Time and German Central Time.) In a house trailer in a wood near Ports-mouth, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, was sound asleep after having been up nearly all night. For several hours now coded messages had been going out by telephone, by messenger and by radio from his headquarters nearby. Eisenhower, at about the time Rommel got up, had made a fateful decision: Because of unfavorable weather conditions he had postponed the Allied invasion by twenty-four hours. If conditions were right, D-Day would be Tuesday, June 6.
Lieutenant Commander George D. Hoffman, thirty-three-year-old skipper of the destroyer U.S.S. Corry, looked through his binoculars at the long column of ships plowing steadily across the English Channel behind him. It seemed incredible to him that they had got this far without an attack of some sort. They were on course and exactly on time. The crawling convoy, following a circuitous route and moving less than four miles an hour, had sailed more than eighty miles since leaving Plymouth the night before. But at any moment now Hoffman expected to meet trouble-U-boat or aircraft attack or both. At the very least he expected to encounter mine fields, for as every minute passed they were sailing farther into enemy waters. France lay ahead, now only forty miles away.
The young commander -- he had "fleeted up" on the Corry from a lieutenant to skipper in less than three years -- was immensely proud to be leading this magnificent convoy. But as he looked at it through his glasses he knew that it was a sitting duck for the enemy.
Ahead were the mine sweepers, six small ships spread out in a diagonal formation, like one side of an inverted V, each one trailing in the water, off to its right, a long, saw-toothed wire sweep to cut through the moorings and detonate floating mines. Behind the mine sweepers came the lean, sleek shapes of the "shepherds," the escorting destroyers. And behind them, stretching back as far as the eye could see, came the convoy, a great procession of lumbering, unwieldy landing ships carrying thousands of troops, tanks, guns, vehicles, and ammunition. Each of the heavily laden ships flew an antiaircraft barrage balloon at the end of a stout cable. And because these protective balloons, all flying at the same altitude, swung out in the face of the brisk wind, the entire convoy appeared to be listing drunkenly to one side.
To Hoffmann it was quite a sight. Estimating the distance separating one ship from the next and knowing the total number of vessels, he figured that the tail end of this fantastic parade must still be back in England, in Plymouth Harbor.
And this was only one convoy. Hoffman knew that dozens of others had been due to sail when he did, or would leave England during the day. That night all of them would converge on the Bay of the Seine. By morning an immense fleet of five thousand ships would stand off the invasion beaches of Normandy.
Hoffman could hardly wait to see it. The convoy that he led had left England early because it had the farthest to go. It was part of a massive American force, the 4th Division, destined for a place that Hoffman, like millions of other Americans, had never heard of before -- a stretch of wind-blown sand on the eastern side of the Cherbourg peninsula that had been given the code name "Utah." Twelve miles to the southeast, in front of the seaside villages of Vierville and Colleville, lay the other American beach, "Omaha," a crescent-shaped strip of silvery strand where the men of the 1st and 29th divisions would land.
The Corry's captain had expected to see other convoys near him this morning, but he seemed to have the Channel all to himself. He wasn't disturbed. Somewhere in the vicinity, he knew, other convoys attached to either "Force U" or "Force O" were sailing for Normandy. Hoffman did not know that because of the uncertain weather conditions a worried Eisenhower had permitted fewer than a score of slow-moving convoys to set sail during the night.
Suddenly the bridge telephone buzzed. One of the deck officers reached for it, but Hoffman, who was closer, picked up the phone. "Bridge," he said. "This is the captain." He listened for a moment. "Are you quite sure?" he asked. "Has the message been repeated?" Hoffman listened a moment longer, then he replaced the receiver on its cradle. It was unbelievable: The whole convoy had been ordered back to England -- no reason given. What could have happened? Had the invasion been postponed?
Hoffman looked through his glasses at the mine sweepers ahead; they hadn't changed course. Neither had the destroyers behind them. Had they received the message? Before doing anything else he decided to see the turnabout message for himself -- he had to be sure. Quickly he climbed down to the radio shack one deck below.
Radioman Third Class Bennie Glisson had made no mistake. Showing his skipper the radio logbook, he said, "I checked it twice just to be certain." Hoffman hurried back to the bridge.
His job and that of the other destroyers now was to wheel this monstrous convoy around, and quickly. Because he was in the lead his immediate concern was the flotilla of mine sweepers several miles ahead. He could not contact them by radio because a strict radio silence had been imposed. "All engines ahead full speed," Hoffman ordered. "Close up on the mine sweepers. Signalman on the light."
As the Corry raced forward Hoffman looked back and saw the destroyers behind him wheel and swing around the flanks of the convoy. Now, with signal lights blinking, they began the huge job of turning the convoy around. A worried Hoffman realized that they were dangerously close to France -- just thirty-eight miles. Had they been spotted yet? It would be a miracle if they got away with the turnabout undetected.
Down in the radio shack Bennie Glisson continued to pick up the coded postponement message every fifteen minutes. To him it was the worst news he had received in a long time, for it seemed to confirm a nagging suspicion: that the Germans knew all about the invasion. Had D Day been called off because the Germans had found out? Like thousands of other men, Bennie did not see how the invasion preparations -- the convoys, the ships, men and supplies that filled every port, inlet and harbor from Land's End to Portsmouth -- could possibly have gone unnoticed by Luftwaffe reconnaissance planes. And if the message simply meant that the invasion had been postponed for some other reason, then it followed that the Germans had still more time to spot the Allied armada.
The twenty-three-year-old radio operator turned the dial of another set and tuned in Radio Paris, the German propaganda station. He wanted to hear sexy-voiced "Axis Sally." Her taunting broadcasts were amusing because they were so inaccurate, but you never could tell. There was another reason: The "Berlin Bitch," as she was often irreverently called, seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of the latest hit tunes.
Bennie didn't get a chance to listen because just then a long string of coded weather reports began coming in. But as he finished typing up these messages "Axis Sally" put on her first record of the day. Bennie instantly recognized the opening bars of the popular wartime tune "I Double Dare You." But new lyrics had been written for the song. As he listened, they confirmed his worst fears. That morning a little before eight Bennie and many thousands of Allied troops who had steeled themselves for the invasion of Normandy on June 5, and who now had another agonizing twenty-four hours to wait, heard "I Double Dare You" with these pertinent, if chilling, lines:
"I double dare you to come over here.
I double dare you to venture too near.
Take off your high hat and quit that bragging.
Cut out that claptrap and keep your hair on.
Can't you take a dare on?
I double dare you to venture a raid.
I double dare you to try and invade.
And if your loud propaganda means half of what it says,
I double dare you to come over here.
I double dare you."
In the huge Operations Center at Allied naval headquarters in Southwick House outside Portsmouth, they waited for the ships to come back.
The long, high room with its white-and-gold wallpaper was the scene of intense activity. One entire wall was covered by a gigantic chart of the English Channel. Every few minutes two Wrens, working from a traveling stepladder, moved colored markers over the face of the chart as they plotted the new positions of each returning convoy. Clustered in groups of two and three, staff officers from the various Allied services watched in silence as each new report came in. Outwardly they appeared calm, but there was no disguising the strain that everybody felt. Not only must the convoys wheel about, almost under the very noses of the enemy, and return to England along specific, mineswept tracks; they were now faced with the threat of another enemy -- a storm at sea. For the slow-moving landing craft, heavily loaded with troops and supplies, a storm could be disastrous. Already the wind in the Channel was blowing up to thirty miles an hour, with waves up to five feet, and the weather was due to get worse.
As the minutes passed, the face of the chart reflected the orderly pattern of the recall. There were streams of markers backtracking up the Irish Sea, clustered in the vicinity of the Isle of Wight and huddled together in various ports and anchorages along the southwest coast of England. It would take some of the convoys nearly all day to put back to port.
The location of each convoy and that of nearly every other ship of the Allied fleet could be seen at a glance on the board. But two vessels were not shown -- a pair of midget submarines. They seemed to have disappeared completely off the chart.
In an office nearby, a pretty twenty-four-year-old Wren lieutenant wondered how soon her husband would make it back to his home port. Naomi Coles Honour was a bit anxious but not unduly worried yet, even though her friends in "Ops" seemed to know nothing about the whereabouts of her husband, Lieutenant George Honour, and his fifty-seven-foot-long midget submarine, the X23.
One mile off the coast of France a periscope broke the surface of the water. Thirty feet below, crouching in the cramped control room of the X23, Lieutenant George Honour pushed his cap back. "Well, gentlemen," he recalls saying, "let's take a look-see."
Cushioning one eye against the rubber-cupped eyepiece, he slowly pivoted the periscope around, and as the distorting shimmer of water disappeared from the lens the blurred image before him straightened out and became the sleepy resort town of Ouistreham near the mouth of the Orne. They were so close in and his view was so magnified that Honour could see smoke rising from chimneys and, in the far distance, a plane that had just taken off from Carpiquet Airport near Caen. He could also see the enemy. Fascinated, he watched German troops calmly working among the anti-invasion obstacles on the sandy beaches that stretched away on either side.
It was a great moment for the twenty-six-year-old Royal Navy Reserve lieutenant. Standing back from the periscope, he said to Lieutenant Lionel G. Lyne, the navigational expert in charge of the operation, "Take a look, Thin -- we're almost bang on the target."
In a way the invasion had already begun. The first craft and the first men of the Allied forces were in position off the beaches of Normandy. Directly ahead of the X23 lay the British-Canadian assault sector. Lieutenant Honour and his crew were not unaware of the significance of this particular date. On another June 4, four years earlier, at a place less than two hundred miles away, the last of 338,000 British troops had been evacuated from a blazing port called Dunkirk. On the X23 it was a tense, proud moment for the five specially chosen Englishmen. They were the British vanguard; the men of the X23 were leading the way back to France for the thousands of their countrymen who would soon follow.
These five men crouching in the tiny all-purpose cabin of the X23 wore rubber frogmen's suits, and they carried ingeniously falsified papers that would have passed the scrutiny of the most suspicious German sentry. Each had a false French identity card complete with photograph, plus work permits and ration cards bearing official-looking German rubber-stamped impressions, and other letters and documents. In case anything went wrong and the X23 was sunk or had to be abandoned, her crew members were to swim ashore and, armed with new identities, try to escape capture and make contact with the French underground.
The X23's mission was a particularly hazardous one. Twenty minutes before H Hour, the midget sub and her sister ship, the X20 -- some twenty miles farther down the coast, opposite the little village of Le Hamel -- would boldly come to the surface to act as navigational markers, clearly defining the extreme limits of the British-Canadian assault zone: three beaches that had been given the code names Sword, Juno and Gold.
The plan they were to follow was involved and elaborate. An automatic radio beacon capable of sending out a continuous signal was to be switched on the moment they surfaced. At the same time sonar apparatus would automatically broadcast sound waves through the water which could be picked up by underwater listening devices. The fleet carrying British and Canadian troops would home in on either one or both of the signals.
Each midget also carried an eighteen-foot telescopic mast to which was attached a small but powerful searchlight that could send out a flashing beam capable of being seen more than five miles away. If the light showed green, it would mean that the subs were on target; if not, the light would be red.
As additional navigation aids, the plan called for each midget to launch a moored rubber dinghy with a man in it and allow it to drift a certain distance toward shore. The dinghies had been outfitted with searchlights which would be operated by their crewmen. By taking bearings on the lights of the midgets and their drifting dinghies, approaching ships would be able to pinpoint the exact positions of the three assault beaches.
Nothing had been forgotten, not even the danger that the little sub might be run over by some lumbering landing craft. As protection the X23 would be clearly marked by a large yellow flag. The point had not escaped Honour that the flag would also make them a fine target for the Germans. Notwithstanding, he planned to fly a second flag, a large white Navy "battle duster." Honour and his crew were prepared to risk enemy shellfire, but they were taking no chances on being rammed and sunk.
All this paraphernalia and more had been packed into the already cramped innards of the X23. Two extra crewmen, both navigation experts, had also been added to the sub's normal complement of three men. There was scarcely room now to stand up or sit down in the X23's single allpurpose cabin, which was only five feet eight inches high, five feet wide and barely eight feet long. Already it was hot and stuffy, and the atmosphere would get much worse before they dared surface, which would not be until after dark.
Even in daylight in these shallow coastal waters, Honour knew that there was always the possibility of being spotted by low-flying reconnaissance planes or patrol boats -- and the longer they stayed at periscope depth the greater was the risk.
At the periscope, Lieutenant Lyne took a series of bearings. He quickly identified several landmarks: the Ouistreham lighthouse, the town church and the spires of two others in the villages of Langrune and St.-Aubin-sur-Mer a few miles away. Honour had been right. They were almost "bang on the target," barely three quarters of a mile from their plotted position.
Honour was relieved to be this close. It had been a long, harrowing trip. They had covered the ninety miles from Portsmouth in a little under two days, and much of that time they had traveled through mine fields. Now they would get into position and then drop to the bottom. "Operation Gambit" was off to a good start. Secretly he wished that some other code word had been chosen. Although he was not superstitious, on looking up the meaning of the word the young skipper had been shocked to discover that "gambit" meant "throwing away the opening pawns."
Honour took one last look through the periscope at the Germans working on the beaches. All hell would break loose on those beaches by this time tomorrow, he thought. "Down periscope," he ordered. Submerged, and out of radio communication with their base, Honour and the crew of the X23 did not know that the invasion had been postponed.
BY 11:00 A.M. the gale in the Channel was blowing hard. In the restricted coastal areas of Britain, sealed off from the remainder of the country, the invasion forces sweated it out. Their world now was the assembly areas, the airfields and the ships. It was almost as though they were physically severed from the mainland -- caught up strangely between the familiar world of England and the unknown world of Normandy. Separating them from the world they knew was a tight curtain of security.
On the other side of that curtain life went on as usual. People went about their accustomed routines unaware that hundreds of thousands of men waited out an order that would mark the beginning of the end of World War II.
In the town of Leatherhead, Surrey, a slight, fifty-four-year-old physics teacher was walking his dog. Leonard Sidney Dawe was a quiet, unassuming sort of man and outside of a small circle of friends he was unknown. Yet the retiring Dawe enjoyed a public following far exceeding that of a film star. Every day upwards of a million people struggled over the crossword puzzle that he and his friend Melville Jones, another schoolteacher, prepared for each morning's London Daily Telegraph.
For more than twenty years Dawe had been the Telegraph's senior crossword compiler and in that time his tough, intricate puzzles had both exasperated and satisfied countless millions. Some addicts claimed that the Times's puzzle was tougher, but Dawe's fans were quick to point out that the Telegraph's crossword had never repeated the same clue twice. That was a matter of considerable pride to the reserved Dawe.
Dawe would have been astonished to know that ever since May 2 he had been the subject of a most discreet inquiry by a certain department in Scotland Yard charged with counterespionage, M.I.5. For over a month his puzzles had thrown one scare after another into many sections of the Allied High Command.
On this particular Sunday morning M.I.5 had decided to talk to Dawe. When he returned home he found two men waiting for him. Dawe, like everybody else, had heard of M.I.5, but what could they possibly want with him?
"Mr. Dawe," said one of the men as the questioning began, "during the last month a number of highly confidential code words concerning a certain Allied operation have appeared in the Telegraph crossword puzzles. Can you tell us what prompted you to use them -- or where you got them?"
Before the surprised Dawe could answer, the M.I.5 man pulled a list out of his pocket and said, "We are particularly interested in finding out how you came to choose this word." He pointed to the list. The prize competition crossword in the Telegraph for May 27 included the clue (11 across), "But some big-wig like this has stolen some of it at times." This mystifying clue through some strange alchemy made sense to Dawe's devoted followers. The answer, published just two days before on June 2, was the code name for the entire Allied invasion plan -- "Overlord."
rDawe did not know what Allied operation they were talking about, so he was not unduly startled or even indignant at these questions. He could not explain, he told them, just how or why he had chosen that particular word. It was quite a common word in history books, he pointed out. "But how," he protested, "can I tell what is being used as a code word and what isn't?"
The two M.I.5 men were extemely courteous: They agreed that it was difficult. But wasn't it strange that all these code words should appear in the same month?
One by one they went over the list with the now slightly harassed bespectacled schoolmaster. In the puzzle for May 2, the clue "One of the U.S." (seventeen across) had produced the solution "Utah." The answer to three down, "Red Indian on the Missouri," on May 22, turned out to be "Omaha."
In the May 30 crossword (eleven across), "This bush is a center of nursery revolutions" required the word "Mulberry" -- the code name for the two artificial harbors that were to be placed in position off the beaches. And the solution to fifteen down on June 1, "Britannia and he hold to the same thing," had been "Neptune" -- the code word for the naval operations in the invasion.
Dawe had no explanation for the use of these words. For all he knew, he said, the crosswords mentioned on the list could have been completed six months before. Was there any explanation? Dawe could suggest only one: fantastic coincidence.
There had been other hair-raising scares. Three months before in Chicago's central post office a bulky, improperly wrapped envelope had burst open on the sorting table, revealing a number of suspicious-looking documents. At least a dozen sorters saw the contents: something about an operation called Overlord.
Intelligence officers were soon swarming all over the scene. The sorters were questioned and told to forget everything they might have seen. Next the completely innocent addressee was interrogated: a girl. She could not explain why these papers were en route to her, but she did recognize the handwriting on the envelope. Through her the papers were t
The Classic Epic of D Day
The Classic Epic of D Day
The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan's unsurpassed account of D-Day, a book that endures as a masterpiece of military history. In this compelling tale of courage and heroism, glory and tragedy, Ryan painstakingly recreates the fateful hours that preceded and followed the massive invasion of Normandy to retell the story of an epic battle that would turn the tide against world fascism and free Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany.
This book, first published in 1959, is a must for anyone who loves history, as well as for anyone who wants to better understand how free nations prevailed at a time when darkness enshrouded the earth.
Read an Excerpt
Articles About This Book
Posted on Off the Shelf
Posted by Off the Shelf Staff
There are so many excellent booksabout the origins, battles and aftermath of World War II that we could not includethem all. This isanessential reading list of the war in Europe and Africa from D-Day to Liberation. Of course, Stephen Ambrose,...