Prepare to fight, perhaps to die. You, and your fellow soldiers. Take Omaha Beach. Those are your orders.
An organisation commemorating the D-Day landings is simulating the experiences of one Louis Castel, a French general infantryman preparing to risk his life against the formidable German defences.
‘Omaha Beach’ was the bloodiest — one of the many code names for Operation Overlord, the name given the Battle of Normandy, fought by the Americans, the British, the Canadians and other forces under arms.
Louis Castel’s story draws on the real life of French GI Bernard Dargols, who went to New York to work, then joined the US Army the moment his homeland fell into the wrong hands in October 1940.
On June 6, 1944, he’ll go ashore in the sector code-named ‘Dog Green’, alongside the battle-toughened 1st Division of 16th Regiment, known as the Big Red One — “These guys know the war!” Louis exclaims, on Facebook.
The simulation brings you Normandy in 1944.
“War is hell,” said American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, “…a crime against civilization! Its glory is all moonshine.”
The Louis Castel creation is no moonshine, but an earnest effort to lift out of the lost closet of history the horrors of an even greater war, to present to our generations today in a form they recognise, in doses they are accustomed to, that this was what 24-year-olds in uniform would have gone through then, what went through many of their minds.
The Louis Castel construct provides a context by which we may compare then with now.
The Facebook concept is the work of the Mémorial de Caen.
This is a museum in Normandy, France, commemorating the Second World War and the Battle for Caen.
In the unparalleled offensive to drive Hitler from occupied Western Europe, allied bomber planes destroyed 70 percent of the city and killed 2,000 French civilians in a raid from 8 to 9 July. There were many such raids and deaths.
But before Anglo-Canadian ground troops could clamber over the rubble and wrest Caen from the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and 16th Luftwaffe Field Division, they had to get ashore — that was the D-Day Landing of 6 June.
That was the job of young soldiers like Louis Castel: break into Europe once more and establish the bridgehead to defeat the Nazi war machine.
How did Louis get here?
He’ll tell you. How he and his men are ferried, fear in their stomachs, tossed over the English Channel to be disgorged on dry land into the worst fire from the German gunners and artillery.
The men died by the thousands.
The respected German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, anticipating the build-up, had said: “…the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive… the fate of Germany depends on the outcome… for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.”
Louis Castel also has a Twitter account, and you can follow his heroic exploits, and those of the many like him, on the Internet.
Bernard Dargols has well over 21,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook. He has just turned 94.