Culture » History

Fields of Battle



The PBS science series NOVA remembers D-Day with a two-hour special D-Day's Sunken Secrets, which airs this evening. Though it focuses on the naval portion of the June 6, 1944 invasion of Nazi-occupied France, it also recalls a bit of the terrestrial battle with the help of Zionsville, Indiana, native (and D-Day veteran) Carver McGriff. NOVA shares his memories of the weeks he and his comrades spent fighting through Normandy's bocage country -- a place better known as “the hedgerows.” McGriff was a 2nd Lieutenant who landed on Utah Beach, but it’s his experiences in this lethal landscape that he discusses in the PBS special.

In peacetime the hedgerows are actually quite charming -- a crazy quilt of earthworks topped by tangled, overgrown vegetation that's used to ring hundreds of Norman fields. But in the summer of 1944 this picturesque patchwork became a formidable military obstacle. The interlocking hedges were so thick they could stop Sherman tanks, creating ideal defensive positions for German soldiers.

McGriff and tens of thousands of others came to dread the sight of those towering, matted plantings. And for good reason. The Allies overran the Normandy beaches in a day, at a cost of roughly 10,000 casualties. But it took another six weeks, plus some 200,000 killed and wounded, to escape the hedgerows.

D-Day's Sunken Secrets premieres at 9 p.m. EST on Indianapolis’ PBS affiliate, WFYI.

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