The Stacks: A D-Day Vet Shows Normandy to His Son
In 1954, war hero James Earl Rudder revisited the Normandy beaches with his 14-year-old son. W. C. Heinz tagged along and wrote this strange and moving account of their pilgrimage.
W.C. Heinz covered World War II in Europe for The New York Sun, and when he returned in 1945 he had his pick of what to do next. Maybe cover politics in Washington. But Heinz wasn't interested in that. He wanted to write about sports, which he did, first for the Sun and then, starting in the early '50s, for various magazines. Heinz's magazine work was a precursor to what would be called The New Journalism a few years later, using the elements of fiction—scene, character, and dialogue—to tell a non-fiction story. Gay Talese and David Halberstam were hugely influenced by Heinz. And in the world of fiction—where Heinz's novel The Professional is ranked as one of the finest boxing novels ever written—he had an ardent admirer in Elmore Leonard.
Heinz is most remembered for his sports stories about the likes of Bummy Davis, Pete Reiser, and Vince Lombardi. But his war reporting—collected in the fine anthology When We Were One: Stories of WWII—is some of his best work.
In 1954, ten years after D-Day, Heinz returned to France with James Earl Rudder, a highly-decorated American hero, and Rudder's fourteen-year old son, Bud. The following story, “D-Day Relived,” was originally published in Collier's and is reprinted here—including a postscript from the author—with permission. We are humbled and honored to present it to you on the 71st anniversary of one of the critical moments of the 20th century.