force the ground attack. The only comfort available was voiced by Ernie Pyle, who observed of the Saint-Lô incident, "Anybody makes mistakes. The enemy made them just the same as we did."18 Quite so. As Hitler once declared, "The loser of this war will be the side that makes the greatest blunders."19
Someone Had Blundered
But sanguine misapprehension about the possibilities of aerial bombardment was not the only misconstruction useful to the rationalizing intellect unable to confront the messy data of actuality. And here the troops were no more exempt than non-combatants from the tendency to look on the bright, or orderly, side. Such a habit, indeed, was indispensable if soldiers were to keep their psychic stability and perform their duties at all. An imaginative infantryman might have inferred what the battle was going to be like from the presence in each 36-man platoon of a medic carrying a full load of morphine and bandages, but before experience had enforced understanding, hope rationalized the medic's presence as a precaution against sprains, cuts, insect bites, and heat-stroke. If confronted openly with the things the medic was going to be faced with, few could have gone on.
A typical soldier ill-prepared to encounter the facts was the American Louis Simpson, that is, if we can identify the soldier of the virgin 101st Airborne Division who fought near Carentan in Normandy with the speaker in Simpson's poem Carentan O Carentan. A profound surprise is what the speaker in this poem registers--surprise at the almost fairy-tale metamorphosis a few minutes have wrought in the former strength and discipline of his infantry company. As it advanced cautiously but yet undamaged, it blundered into an ambush:
The watchers in their leopard suits
Waited till it was time,