US 7th Armored Division
There is no doubt that certain landing sights on D-Day were obscenely more terrifying and horrific than other landing sights. The typically dramatic American movies depict Omaha beach since that was the pinnacle of Axis resistance and Allied (American) retort. However, the Allied invasion created a new dynamic to the war, one that became fully realized as Europe opened again and the Nazis retreated into smaller and smaller pockets. To slow the Allied invasion, it was a typical tactic of the Wehrmacht to blow bridges after their retreat, thus impeding the inevitable Allied onslaught.
This diorama depicts a setback in the advance of the US 7th Armored division. The setting is a small French town with the backdrop of a ruined church. There are a few soldiers trying to figure out the best continued advancement, the rest are relaxing, brooding or responding to civilians. Orders come from the top, so as an infantryman, it shouldn’t be difficult to keep steady and be patient- survival depends on it. I wanted to depict a lot of tobacco smoking as all American soldiers during WWII were supplied cigarettes as a standard part of their kit. I tried to show a few different conversations and interactions: soldiers giving/taking information, exchanging pleasantries or giving/taking orders. A rifleman generously hands a priest (presumably the destroyed church’s) a canteen; the French civilian who is obviously on clean-up duty looks on with folded arms as if grumbling: “And what about me? I’m doing all the work.” The front left corner is occupied by two elderly civilians in front of a German propaganda poster which depicts German infantry on the move. It reads: Infanterie Königen aller Waffen (Infantry, kings of all weapons). Propaganda always seems to end up biting the propagandist in the ass. The lady is struggling with a bucket of canal water, and the man offers his assistance; even in times of war, civility is not forsaken. At the end of the bridge, two engineers are sizing up the damage. One engineer is using German 10 x 50 Service Binoculars which were more powerful than the standard US 6 x 30 optics. Who knows where he found them. Two other soldiers on the bridge are looking down at the destroyed Willys in the canal, a stark reminder of war’s deadly nature.
The bridge was destroyed with TNT, and whoever detonated the charge obviously timed it to coincide with the Willy’s bridge crossing. As the blood attests, there were likely no survivors. The rope and chain were used so that “no man is left behind” otherwise known as Nemo Resideo. The body or bodies were taken away before this group came on the scene.
The Willys on the road is a reconnaissance vehicle fitted with a wire cutter on the front bumper. This ingenious device cut razor wire that the German’s would span across the roadway in hopes of decapitating Allied soldiers speeding by. There is also a Teddy Bear riding along with the gear that I imagine was given to the soldiers by a grateful civilian child. Obviously, there is an exchange between the reconnaissance soldiers and the two infantrymen; perhaps they are discussing what is happening down the road, or maybe they have a job for the BAR gunner.
The M8 “Greyhound” crew seems to be the only soldiers “chillin’”. I put a lot of work into the interior of this “light armored car”, but unfortunately I couldn’t get any decent photos. Alas, some diorama details can only be appreciated “in-person”. I placed an anachronism on their gear pile: the book “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne. These erudite soldiers seek the truth via one of the best books written on evolution, though it won’t be published for another 65 years.
The M4A3 Sherman is the iconic US tank of WW2. Reliable, mobile and cheap to produce; their sheer numbers eventually overpowered Germany’s superior, but limited armor. This Sherman and its crew aren’t going anywhere for the moment. The co-driver/hull gunner is saying something to the driver who seems to be ignoring him. Meanwhile, the commander is on the radio, reporting the situation and awaiting further orders. I’m sure he’s asking HQ where he can find some Engineers.