When I moved to New York City in 1993, my first job in publishing was at American Heritage magazine. I lucked out and stayed for nearly five years: The friends I made have stuck for 17 and counting, and I learned a lot (at least some) about history. One of the facts that stuck is that June 6 is D-Day. To be at American Heritage during the fiftieth anniversary of World War II was logistically interesting, in my job as editorial assistant, because I got to open up all of the reader mail. Much of this was awful pitches from amateur writers who would have, say, a picture of themselves holding up a big fish they'd caught in their retirement on the top of their stationary. Much of the rest of the letters were from veterans.
Of the letters that we spoke about most and passed around, were the handful from the veterans who each believed their face was the one captured in the most famous Robert Capa photograph of the bloodbath. The photo looks like a pencil drawing; smudges of smoke rises from the ocean and weaves between the sinking U-boats. Linear objects could be oars, or guns.
I always thought he looked like my maternal Granddad, a WWII vet who lied about his age so that he could become a Marine at 17. While he didn't wash up on the beaches of Normandy, I still think of him today, because he landed in the South Pacific and was one of only two surviving members of his regiment at Guadalcanal (I learned this just last week from my mom). He died in 1994, but I still think of him and miss him all of the time. In fact, there's a black and white photograph of him and my Grandmother hanging framed on my living room wall, taken during happier times. She's wearing dark red lipstick and her nails are perfectly manicured. He's wearing his uniform. They're sitting in a booth with wacky-retro wallpaper behind their heads, but you can tell that it's a swanky joint. It's the time of their lives.