The Beaches of Normandy
"Jim" Reid, 89, of the 90th Division on D-Day, was inducted into the French Legion of Honor by French Consulate General Graham Paul at a ceremony held on the grounds of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. Reid was surrounded by 21 D-Day veterans, as earth from Normandy was committed into the grounds of the First Division Museum in memory of those who died on D-Day, 70 years ago. In awarding the Legion of Honor, Mr. Paul saluted "the ideals, the might and the courage," which the veterans brought to the beaches of Normandy. "The D-Day landing changed the course of history. Hope was alive again," Mr. Paul said.
Jim Reid was born in Chicago and grew up on the south side of Chicago. His father Thomas, was born in Scotland and served in WW1 with the 33rd Division. Reid's mother Clara Rasmussen Reid, was born in Chicago. Thomas Reid served in WW1 with the 33rd Division and worked as a machinist, a manager for Kroger's and later as owner of Reid's Toy Store. The store's motto was, "store ain't for people -- just for kids." Reid's mother worked at Marshall Field's, mostly in the candy department.
"Hmm... "his father owned a toy store and his mother worked in the candy department at Field's. You gotta believe that a personable young Jim Reid never lacked for friends.
Reid obtained a draft deferment in order to finish high school, graduating from Calumet High in 1943. Upon entry into the U.S. Army, he trained at Fort Bragg, N.C. for military instrument and survey (228). He then shipped to England where he was based near Wolverhampton and also in Wales. Reid's training in instrument and survey led to his assignment as a forward observer with the 344th Field Artillery, 90th Division supporting the 358th Infantry Regiment in the invasion of Normandy in June of 1944. After the war, Reid continued his education at Kansas State, majoring in electrical engineering and graduating in 1949.
When asked about the chaos of D-Day when many men took the battle where and how they found it, some planned and some unplanned, Reid remembered, "The Commanding Officers of the 344th were ahead of us and proceeded as planned. My lieutenant and I came after them and our experience was different from what was planned."
My experience was different than planned because as we disembarked from the landing craft (on display at the First Division Museum, see below), my jeep became submerged in a sinkhole. My lieutenant, Leonard Green (now deceased) and I had to wade ashore, minus all of our equipment, including personal belongings. It was our job to catch up with our commanding officer, so we could begin to locate positions where our artillery guns could be placed to help support elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne. Our guns fired for the first time on June 10, 1944.
Reid recollected details.
We left England on June 4 on a Victory ship -- there were approximately 500 men on board the ship. What I most remember about the crossing is that we were being briefed on procedures of the off loading of the ship to the landing crafts and then getting ashore from the landing crafts.
Reid landed on what Allied Forces' maps refer to as Green Beach, one of three landing points on Utah Beach."The water was relatively smooth," he said. "The water temperature somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees. The tide was running out and the water was seven to eight feet deep." Reid swam to shore in an inflatable life jacket. When he hit the beach, he was "without a gun or vehicle and wondering, am I ever going to dry out and find another jeep."
Enemy fire was light when Reid hit the beach, "because the infantry elements had landed earlier and had already moved inland. There was limited enemy small arms fire coming from beyond the beach" he said.
"Understand', Reid continued,
Utah Beach was comprised of marshes and only limited road access. It was littered with wounded and dead soldiers, captured Germans and enemy wires and mines. There were no cliffs at Utah Beach -- it was flat and marshy.
When asked about the effects of Allied bombing, Reid said,
there were bomb craters from Allied Naval bombs, but we did not take cover in them. Our goal was to get a jeep and get off the beach as quickly as possible and meet up with our commanding officers.
Though he landed without even a rifle, and had no jeep, Reid never-the-less, headed for his assigned meeting point, Ste Mere-Eglae, France, and found gun positions all along the route. He accomplished his D-Day mission. Later, as the 90th Division moved forward through France and Germany, Reid was wounded, but again continued forward to support the mission of his unit.
The Fields of Agincourt
Four hundred and fifteen years ago, another battle was fought in France, the Battle of Agincourt which became the subject of one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, Henry V.
Henry V has been running for some time now at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier in Chicago.
This particular production of Henry V is distinguished by the clarity of the Shakespearean language, solid acting, spectacular costumes and a production that seems to inhabit the Globe Theater on Navy Pier in Chicago.
Clarity is often elusive in theater. "What did they say? What did they mean? Do they have to have such loud music muddy the poetry?" You never have a sense of these annoyances in this Henry V.
In the play, when Henry (Harry Judge) says, "and now, off to the enterprise," the clarity in the language of this production, informs the audience in a way that the word "enterprise" practically leaps off the stage to mingle with the audience. The word becomes a character in the play. Shakespeare wrote this line as something that was to be understood by the audience of the time as very specific, harkening back to the language and mythology of medieval England. To grasp the meaning of the word enterprise is to understand some of the back story and meaning of the play
Enterprise is from the word "enter," to penetrate into the substance deeply, and from the word "prize." Prize in Greek, originally referred to war booty that was auctioned off. But in English mythology, enterprise often referred to a dark deed. Hence one word clues us to an understanding of Henry V: as a history of a darkly inspired war that we see on stage, being led by an inexperienced King who transforms himself, the cause and his men through stirring language and an identification with his men. The English forces were overwhelmed in number by the French at the Battle of Agincourt. But the bond Henry forged with his men and his inspired call to battle, carried the day.
Director Christopher Liscombe of the Royal Shakespeare Theater In London, who directed the production on Navy Pier commented on the relation of Henry V to D-Day:
Looking at Henry V's words before Agincourt, Eisenhower's address before D- Day, and in our own time Tim Collins celebrated eve of battle speech before the Iraq War, it's clear very little changes. Reminders of shared humanity, and the value of comradeship against a common enemy will always retain their potency. It's proved deeply moving to observe the King's language transform a draggled bunch of soldiers into a formable fighting machine in a matter of minutes. It has a quality of magic spell, the palpable decency of the cause, and the beauty of the poetry do sway us, four hundred years after the speech was given. Through Shakespeare's alchemy, Navy Pier and Shakespeare's Globe suddenly inhabit the same plot.
From the Beaches of Normandy to the Fields of Agincourt, they are bands of brothers.
The First Division Museum Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illinois On temporary display, a rare Higgins landing craft of the type used in D-Day landings
Henry V Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier Though June. 15