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From Foxhole to Foxhole: A D-Day Experience through Poetry

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From Foxhole to Foxhole: A D-Day Experience through Poetry

The following is a guest post by Matt Blakley, programs support assistant at the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center.

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. If you are around Capitol Hill, please take a moment to stop by the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building and view the three agile display cases in the North Gallery (first floor) that exhibit materials commemorating the lives of WWII veterans. Among the many striking materials on display there, you’ll see a poem titled “D-DAY,” which Pfc. Edward “Duncan” Cameron (1921-2012) wrote only days after the invasion of Normandy, France.

"D-Day" + Duncan

In fact, Cameron’s nephew R. Bruce MacDougall explained that his uncle “wrote the poem each night in his journal from foxhole to foxhole after surviving the second wave of the landing [in Normandy].” MacDougall said he once had the honor of reading “D-DAY” to a group of WWII veterans, and he “became choked up” when reaching its conclusion. “I was proud to read the poem,” he said, “the group of war vets really enjoyed it.”

I was a sucker for the twenty well-crafted quatrains of “D-DAY”—the lightness of its rhythm and rhyme, which stands in start contrast to it’s subject matter. In that the poem reminded me of the way Emily Dickinson contends with mortality, with a form that soothes the reader. I also loved the intense, epic dedication that followed “D-Day.” It brings in all the sentiment the poem holds back through its formal limits and first-person focus. Instead, the dedication enlarges the poem to include not only the speaker, but his fellow D-Day soldiers and future soldiers as well. To download the entire poem, please click here.

I’d like to thank Cameron for capturing his experience through verse. Materials such as these—and the Library’s Veteran’s History Project, which curated the display—showcase the Library’s essential work to “further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”