They said the LST could ride higher in the water when landing in trim. She hit the sloping beach, and the bow door fell and disgorged jeeps and tanks and finally men with hands to work. It was gray all round, the water, the sky, ship after ship beside, around, and behind as far as he could see, if he dared to look back.
He looked forward only. German mortar and artillery shells exploded, but he looked forward only—wreckage, strewn wreckage of metal, of flipped, ripped jeeps, of wire, of bodies, whole and fallen, of twitching pieces, arms here and legs there, of detached trunks spilling guts, of oozing, foaming blood.
His automatic-motion hands dragged and patched the broken living and passed them to other hands that stretchered them up the ramp.
The day thundered, but he distanced the noise. He heard nothing but the whir in his brain, punctuated by hoarse yelling or screaming. His hands, now practiced, moved with machine-like precision.
He paused once. Why Omaha? A city in a golden prairie sea. Why Utah? A land-locked state and a salt lake? But this Omaha, this Utah, opened to a dead sea.
My parents and I traveled to the beaches in September 1994. Low clouds hung dully. My father glanced at the tourists wandering about. “It’s so empty,” he said. “The sea, the sea—it’s so empty.”
My father nodded. “Then we thank you,” the stranger said. “I am part of a group who makes pilgrimages to such places. I look out to that water and thank all those lost boys—all those innocent souls who lost their lives ahead—and say a prayer.”