By Flint Whitlock The night of June 5, 1944, was pretty much like every other night in Sainte-Mère-Église since the Germans had occupied Normandy and the Cotentin Peninsula in the summer of 1940: dark, quiet, chilly, and mostly boring. While there had been innumerable overflights by Allied aircraft (probably taking reconnaissance photos) and the occasional aerial bombing, Normandy was still considered good duty for anyone who had had his fill of war on the Eastern Front and was recovering from wounds psychological and physical. Here in Normandy there was plenty to eat and drink (especially Calvados, the strong brandy made from apples), scenery that hadn’t been mostly destroyed by heavy fighting, and French people who seemed to, if not exactly warmly welcome, at least be resigned to and tolerate the presence of foreign soldiers on their soil. When not on actual watch, looking for the first signs of an invasion that might or might not come to this location, the soldiers in Normandy had busied themselves by following Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s orders to so strongly fortify the coast that the Allied invaders would not stand a chance, that they would, as Rommel had put it, be driven back into the sea. This night, with the peninsula cloaked in darkness, and the farmers and villagers fast asleep beneath the cloud-obscured moon and the German soldiers—who were on watch in their observation bunkers straining with the help of strong French coffee to keep their eyelids op


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