Coming Home

I’m finally back Stateside! I returned at the end of July after having spent over six months abroad, five weeks of which were spent travelling around continental Europe doing this research. Without having been shot at or wounded and without losing friends and seeing horrific things on the battlefield I was ready enough to be home, so I sympathized with my guys – my Marines and soldiers whose desire to be home carried them through the worst parts of their wars.

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In the Trenches

A majority of the locations I’ve visited in Europe have had a museum, statue, plaque, or some component of written information from which I gather data. Embracing the interdisciplinary nature of my research, however, I have recently ventured into an abbreviated form of historical archaeology in which I got down and dirty with my marines in the trenches of France.

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Slimming Down For Summer

We’ve plunged headlong into summer now, which means everyone’s suiting up and hitting the beaches. Getting a “summer bod” has been on the minds of many since pretty much just after New Years. For humans there’s just one simple step to achieving a perfect beach body: take your body, and put it on a beach. Done and done. For my thesis, however, it wasn’t quite as easy. It was hitting the Normandy invasion beaches (specifically the American sectors, Omaha and Utah), and it definitely was not ready.

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The Simple Truth is Truth Resists Simplicity (And So Does Research)

I had already put in a good deal of legwork on my project (refresher: “On the Warpath: In the Footsteps of the American Combat Infantry in the World Wars”) before it was approved. I already had a file folder with letters from around fifty Marines from which I could pull for World War I. As you may recall from my previous post I am also fortunate enough to have gained the resources of a small British nonprofit, The Friends of the Assault Training Center, whose archives include lists of units that passed through the ATC and into Normandy. I had already mostly mapped out the locations in which I was likely to stop off to hit archives, battlefields, memorials, and museums around Europe in quest of further information and material. This is a huge project to undertake, but I was feeling reasonably confident about my chances of success when I dove into more detailed research this week.

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On the Warpath

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, as a matter of fact, it was a mostly cloudy early afternoon in February when I walked into the Tourist Information office in the small town of Combe Martin in North Devon, England. It did turn out to be pretty dramatic, though. As I looked for a map that would tell me how to access the nearby coastal cliff hiking path, I struck up a conversation with a man standing nearby. He “detected a North American accent,” which led to a discussion of my study abroad term and area of study. This in turn found us marveling at the serendipity that had brought together a (novice) U.S. military historian and a British WWII hobbyist employed by a small nonprofit that preserves the Assault Training Center, where American troops perfected their amphibious assault techniques before launching into Normandy on D-Day.

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