Britannica offers more on D-Day

Sunday, August 16, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

I recently returned from vacation, one of the highlights of which was seeing the World War II saga Saving Private Ryan in a state-of-the-art movie theater.

After three hours of watching Technicolor gore and hearing the digital sound of large-caliber bullets whirling around my head, I first thanked the Lord that I was born long after Nazi Germany was destroyed.

Then I wanted to find out more about D-Day, the invasion of Normandy. A quick search of the Internet led me to Encyclopaedia Britannica's excellent site about the invasion, Normandy: 1944 ( Britannica's publishers have cleverly created a separate site called Imagining D-Day: The history behind Saving Private Ryan (, which ties the Normandy site to the movie.

Many who see the movie wonder whether the story is true; the Britannica site notes that "the plot is inspired in part by the true story of Fritz Niland, one of four brothers from New York state who saw action during the war. Two Niland brothers were killed on D-Day, while another went missing in action in Burma and was presumed dead, although he actually survived. Fritz was located in Normandy ... and taken out of the combat zone."

Like Ryan, Niland was a paratrooper dropped behind German lines on D-Day, but no platoon was sent to find him. The military rule about the sole surviving son being excluded from combat is true, enacted after five Sullivan brothers were killed in 1942 when the USS Juneau sank in the Pacific.

The Britannica site is extensive, and the writing, by historian John Keegan, is concise but coolly academic (he condenses the harrowing Omaha Beach scenes of Saving Private Ryan into "The American First Division ... was roughly handled.")

The multimedia site includes film clips from documentaries, sound clips from radio broadcasts of the time, news stories and photos filed by journalists such as Ernie Pyle and Robert Capa and remembrances of veterans of the battle. Numerous maps explain the complex invasion and pinpoint the Dog Green sector of Omaha Beach, where the movie begins.

The most amazing part of the site is "Normandy in Memory," an epilogue to the invasion. The ancient towns bordering the Normandy beaches were literally flattened by the fighting but were rebuilt within a decade, more beautiful than before the war. Normandy has become a major tourist attraction, with pricey hotels and summer homes. June 6, D-Day, is celebrated as a holiday.

And then there's the 1989 snapshot of Nazi Panzer commander Hans von Luck and British Major John Howard sharing drinks after leading tours of the Orne River area where they fought so bitterly 45 years earlier.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica site is by far the best of several sites about D-Day and the subsequent battles to rid Europe of Nazi oppression.


Apple Computer is slowly returning to life thanks to a sleek product line and a clever if ungrammatical ad campaign. Apple is re-entering the home market with the $1,299 iMac, a pillow-shaped G3 Macintosh in a translucent blue-and-white box.

It's certainly the best-looking personal computer.

Now you'll finally get a chance to buy one: The iMac went on sale Saturday. Locally, CompUSA and MicroCenter are selling iMacs. AppleSiders, the local Macintosh users club, will have Apple representatives showing off the iMac at the club's meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the community room of the Forest Fair Mall.

That's the good news. The bad news is another Macintosh-only publication has passed into history. While PC magazines, fat with advertising, proliferate, Mac-only publications get thinner and thinner. MacWorld absorbed MacUser some time ago, and recently, Ziff-Davis announced that MacWeek, which had dwindled to fewer than 50 pages, would only be published on the Internet (

Send e-mail to Charles Brewer at