Thursday, June 6, 2019

D Day Addendum | The New Yorker

American soldiers, including New Yorker editor Gardner Botsford

D Day Addendum | The New Yorker: Footnotes to A. J. Liebling’s account of action off Normandy Beach that ran in The New Yorker in July, 1944.

by Roger Angell

Angell in March 2015
Roger Angell (by Karen Green)

I have a few footnotes to hang onto the bottom lip of A. J. Liebling’s “Cross-Channel Trip,” the remarkable first-hand account of action off Normandy Beach that ran in The New Yorker on July 8, 1944, a month and a bit after D Day. The first of these might as well be an urgent memo to all the directors of all the graduate writing programs in the land commanding them to tack up this piece in their “Must Read, Then Reread” curricula for this year and every year. As an assignment they should require each student to count up the quotes and names and sights and details and passing thoughts and rushes of burning interest that stuff each paragraph to the gunwales and over.

I know one detail that Liebling leaves out, however: the fact and apparent wild coincidence that Lieutenant Henry Rigg, the commander of the Navy LCIL (Landing Craft Infantry: Large) from which Liebling gets his closeup look at the D Day action, had been known in boaty circles of civilian life as the fabled yachtsman H. K. (Bunny) Rigg, and in New Yorker circles as our Yachts and Yachtsmen columnist. Belay those snickers, all hands. The magazine’s columnists covered almost everything back in the easeful issues of the nineteen-thirties—fashions, tennis, Ivy League football, horseracing, dog shows—and Rigg’s suave writing made you feel at ease during each tack and luff, whatever the hell they meant. 
He lived in Annapolis and sailed its waters and just about everywhere, becoming a three-time winner of the coveted Bermuda Cup and, while cruising, the cause for extra rounds of gin fizzes in yacht clubs up and down the Atlantic Coast and pretty much around the Caribbean. His actions under fire on D Day brought him subsequent Silver Star and Legion of Honor awards, but, as he would say, never mind that now.