One of the most admired journalists of the 20th century, A.J. Liebling covered World War II extensively and was with the Allies when they stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day. A recent critic called Liebling’s harrowing and definitive account for the New Yorker a “finished masterpiece of reportage.”
The New Yorker – July 1944
“A Reporter At Large: Cross-Channel Trip”
By A.J. Liebling
Three days after the first Allied landing in France, I was in the wardroom of an LCIL (Landing Craft, Infantry, Large) that was bobbing in the lee of the French cruiser Montcalm off the Normandy coast. The word “large” in landing-craft designation is purely relative; the wardroom of the one I was on is seven by seven feet and contains two officers’ bunks and a table with four places at it. She carries a complement of four officers, but since one of them must always be on watch there is room for a guest at the wardroom table, which is how I fitted in. The Montcalm was loosing salvos, each of which rocked our ship; she was firing at a German pocket of resistance a couple of miles from the shoreline. The suave voice of a B.B.C. announcer came over the wardroom radio: “Next in our series of impressions from the front will be a recording of an artillery barrage.” The French ship loosed off again, drowning out the recording. It was this same announcer, I think — I’m not sure, because all B.B.C. announcers sound alike — who said, a little while later, “We are now in a position to say the landings came off with surprising ease. The Air Force and the big guns of the Navy smashed coastal defenses, and the Army occupied them.” Lieutenant Henry Rigg, United States Coast Guard Reserve, the skipper of our landing craft, looked at Long, her engineering officer, and they both began to laugh. Kavanaugh, the ship’s communications officer, said, “Now what do you think of that?” I called briefly upon God. Aboard the LCIL, D Day hadn’t seemed like that to us. There is nothing like a broadcasting studio in London to give a chap perspective.