World War II

Meeting Elliot Richardson

 ... No day on the beach on D-Day

by Irving Smolens

In the latest edition of the VFW Magazine the editors selected a number of WW II veterans who since their discharge have made significant contributions to American life and well being. One of the selected few chosen in this issue is Elliot Richardson.

I had gone to a forum at the Kennedy Library and Richardson was one of the panelists. If I remember correctly it was a forum advocating support for the United Nations. The person who introduced him to the audience included in his brief remarks the information that the former Attorney General had been a member of my Fourth Infantry Division who had landed in Normandy on D-day. When the formal part of the forum had ended I managed to get close enough to him to tell him that I, also, am a D-day veteran of the Fourth Infantry Division.

In a self-deprecating manner he said that he really didn't do much on that day except remain on the beach.He had landed in an early enough wave so that Utah Beach which he was on was under fire from German 88 mm. guns and small arms fire. He was a medic and had remained on the beach to care for the wounded.

I wear an Ivy Leaf pin on the collar of my shirt in memory of the 37 men of my gun battery who had lost their lives on D-day.The Ivy Leaf is the insignia of the Fourth Infantry Division. Captured German prisoners very often referred to us as "The Men of the Terrible Green Cross." I took the pin off my shirt collar and handed it to Elliot Richardson and he pinned it on the lapel of his suit jacket.

Elliot Richardson had been the US Attorney General during the Watergate scandal. President Nixon had fired Archibald Cox who was the head of the group within the Justice Department who was investigating the Nixon involvement. Along with Cox, Nixon had also fired 5 or 6 members of Cox's staff.

That was too much for Richardson and he promptly resigned his position as Attorney General to protest, what became known, in newspaper parlance, as, "The Saturday Night Massacre."

One of the members of my Silver Stringers group saw a parallel between that act of resignation and the recent defection of Senator Paul Jeffords from the Republican Party. The motivation for each of those acts was different but they were both effective in changing the direction of the country; I believe, for the better.

September 7, 2001

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