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Field Notes
Photograph by Brian J Skerry
Thomas B. Allen

What was your best experience on assignment for this story?

I enjoyed talking to the veterans and having the opportunity to see them stand where they had fought in 1944. I went to Utah Beach at dawn on June 6 to get a feel for what it might have been like that morning in 1944. The tide was low, the same as it was all those years ago. Later, I witnessed a ceremony at Omaha Beach. In a cluster of veterans I met the man who had been the beachmaster for a section of the beach. He was there with the Sixth Naval Beach Battalion. We really hit it off, and he started to give me material and information that was valuable. On another occasion I met survivors of the U.S.S. Corry, an American ship sunk on D-Day. It is this kind of unplanned happening that adds to the serendipity that occurs when you go out, work on a story, and meet people who were part of the history.

What kinds of challenges did you face in the field?

I had a very tough time finding information about an incident at Slapton Sands in England. There the Germans managed to attack and sink LSTs carrying troops for a D-Day rehearsal. There was such a great loss of life that it was a tightly held secret at the time, and that secrecy lingered. I went to the beach where the attack occurred to try to get a feeling about what happened just offshore.

You had an unusual ferry ride from England to Normandy—what happened?

I made the mistake of eating an English breakfast afloat. That’s fried tomatoes, fried eggs, fried sausage. It’s one thing to have it on land and another to have it on a ferry.