Exactly seventy years ago today the largest amphibious assault in human history delivered a star-powered Little Mac Mike Tyson’s Punch Out uppercut directly into the soft, tender, possibly-one-testicled nutsack of Adolf Hitler, opening a second front in a war that was already going very badly for der Führer and marking the beginning of the end of the brutally-monstrous insanity known as the Third Reich.
Let’s pause for a second here and consider the fact that, as of the time of this writing, there exists a Wikipedia entry solely devoted to the study and understanding of Adolf Hitler’s scrotum. You can give our species limitless resources and unfettered access to the entirety of human knowledge, and we’re still just going to use it to talk about balls all day.
Look, we all know the story of D-Day. It’s one of the most famous military engagements of all time, and literally every goddamn multimedia presentation from political ads to war documentaries to Chevy commercials features some variety of sentimental-sounding piano music played behind some iconic image of steel landing craft carrying American soldiers towards the ominous shores of that imposing French beach. It was a massive, heroic undertaking that turned the tides of war against a man who is almost universally-accepted (even by his own countrymen) as the single most evil person in history.
This isn’t the story of the first battle of the Normandy Campaign. It’s a story about the last one.
It’s the tale of how 50,000 battle-hardened Nazi stormtroopers from the German Seventh Army were completely surrounded and captured thanks in no small part to the actions of one 32 year-old Canadian auto mechanic named Dave.
This is Dave.
David Vivian Currie was born in Saskatchewan, which is somewhere in Canada, and he went to Moose Jaw Technical School, because of course he did. Trained as an automobile mechanic and welder, Currie joined the local Moose Jaw Militia in 1939 when it looked like things were possibly getting a little World War Two-ey in Europe, and once the shootin’ got started he immediately enlisted and became a Lieutenant in the Canadian Army. His skills at repairing broken vehicles and overcharging for automotive parts perfectly suited him to the tank service, and by June of 1944 he had been promoted to Major and given command of a squadron in the Canadian Armored Corps’ South Alberta Regiment. Despite two years of intensive training and three years of service during World War II, Currie had yet to see combat, and was still itching for the opportunity to squirt a water bottle in the face of some SS-Gruppenfuhrer and then rack that idiot in the ballsack with a hockey stick when he wasn’t looking.
He’d get his opportunity in June 1944.
Canadian troops landing on Juno Beach,
June 6, 1944
Deploying on bullet-riddled beaches with badass nicknames like Sword, Juno, and Omaha, soldiers from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom slogged through the wet, blood-soaked sand and heroically smashed through the outer wall of Germany’s European defenses and began pushing their way slowly towards Berlin.
With the Americans advancing off the beach from the west and south, busting heads in places like St. Lo and Carentan, the British and Canadian armies moved down from the north, clawing their way off the beaches, scraping through the panzer-obstructed hedgerows of France, and ultimately trapping the German defenders of Normandy in the Falaise Pocket -- a delightful little hellhole that in keeping with the overarching theme of this article kind of looks like a nutsack full of Nazis.
Do you see that little spot called St. Lambert with the big fucking dotted arrow running through it? That’s the quiet, peaceful, not-yet-demoished little French village of Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives. Named for St. Lambert, the Patron Saint of THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE, this place was a charming little town in the middle of the countryside that, oh yeah, just so happens to be home to one of the only roads big enough to carry all those little Nazi flags out of the holy-shit-we’re-fucked trap and back to a position where they aren’t completely surrounded on three sides.
Capturing and cutting off the only escape route for the entire German Seventh Army fell to, you guessed it, our friend David Vivian Currie. A guy with just ten days of combat experience, all of them just now in Normandy, Currie was commanding C Squadron of the South Alberta Regiment. Together with two infantry companies of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, this guy was now being ordered to single-handedly capture St. Lambert and close off the Falaise Pocket, then hold his position against the entire fucking German Army until reinforcements could arrive.
Currie had about two hundred men and maybe a dozen M4 Sherman tanks at his disposal. He didn’t have access to artillery, couldn’t call in air strikes, and, if he’d had any actual reconnaissance of the area, he’d have known that the town was defended by a detachment of the 2nd Panzer Division that outnumbered the Canadians by a factor of three.
Major David Vivian Currie unflinchingly told his men to line up and attack.
Charging across the Normandy countryside in the hull of a 30-ton armor-plated death tank, Currie and the Sherman tanks of the South Alberta Regiment charged full-throttle head-on into German 88mm artillery cannons and concrete-fortified positions. In addition to the shitloads of infantry and artillery, the town was also defended by some hardcore, massive, heavily-armored 60-ton Tiger I tanks that were literally twice the size of the Canadian Armored Corps’ 30-ton Shermans and shot an armor-piercing round so fucking over-the-top that it would occasionally shoot through the hull of a Sherman and come out the other side. The first attack by the Canadians, while determined, was beaten back, with two of Currie’s precious tanks knocked out of action by direct hits from German artillery.
As soon as dusk began to fall on the battlefield, David Vivian Currie dismounted his command tank, ran across the fucking battlefield on foot, surveyed the German defenses personally, then, before heading back, the Canadian commander stopped by the old battle field to pull wounded men out of the two fucked-up tanks while German mortars and machine guns blasted everything around him.
Currie somehow made it back from the front lines, saving the lives of quite a few of his fellow men in the process. Then, armed with the basic idea of where the mortars and machine guns and tanks were situated, Currie hopped into his fucking tank and ordered his men to attack again. Blasting with his 75mm cannon and spraying gunfire from two .30 caliber machine guns, Currie not only gave orders to the crew of his command tank, but also barked out commands to his entire squadron via radio, coordinating a 10-tank attack on the hardened German positions in St. Lambert. At one point, his own tank encountered a Tiger I, but this only succeeded in pissing him off – Currie ordered his gunner to put an anti-tank shell through the side of the turret and into the German tank commander’s brain, and within seconds the Nazi war machine had been blasted into a smoke-filled coffin.
Despite all odds, the Canadian Armored troops entered St. Lambert and pushed the Germans out. The fun, of course, was just getting started, because now Currie had to hold his ground.
From heavy artillery to unrelenting profanity, the Germans threw every goddamn thing they had at David Vivian Currie and his motley band of 200 pissed-off Canucks. Currie and his men held strong in the face of thousands of bullets and hundreds of tons of artillery and armor. During lulls in the fighting Major Currie ran up and down the line to personally pump up his men, then ran back to his tank at the first sign of trouble so he could fight off the next counter-attack. At one point the enemy got so close to Currie’s tank that he had to pop the hatch on top of his Sherman, grab a rifle, and stand half-out of his tank with a fucking Enfield taking pot shots at German infantrymen who were less than 50 yards away from him. Another time a German convoy ended up taking a wrong turn, and this stone-cold massively-balled tank commander pulled a goddamned pistol on the truck driver and took the entire detachment prisoner. Another time Currie was forced to call down artillery strikes on positions less than 20 meters from his own tank, basically raining explosives down on his own head and threatening to blow himself to shit rather than give the town to the goddamn Jerries.
For 36 long hours – a full day and a half – David Vivian Currie held St. Lambert against everything the Wehrmacht could throw at him.
During that agonizing day and a half of constant fighting, the only reinforcements to make it through to help him were a small platoon of 40 Canadian infantrymen who somehow snuck through German positions to get to Currie and his defenders. Currie, despite being the only surviving officer in his detachment, still took the time to show these men exactly where he needed them, then to calmly explain specifically what was at stake with this battle. With bullets and artillery exploding everywhere, Currie calmly told his men to hold the line at all costs, somehow staying totally chill even with Nazi mortar shells falling on the roof above him.
At dusk on August 20th, 1944, the Germans organized their troops for their final assault on St. Lambert. As they moved into position, they were surprised as fuck to find artillery strikes and Canadian tanks rolling right up into their positions, blasting them at almost point-blank range. The entire planned counter-attack was crushed before it had even lined up for battle. The 2,100 surviving German defenders of the town surrendered to David Vivian Currie and his 200 Canadians.
Currie is the guy with the pistol,
second one in from the left.
In four days of sleepless, constant battle, Major David Vivian Currie and the men of the South Alberta Regiment destroyed seven tanks, twelve 88mm artillery guns, 40 armored cars, killed 800 Germans and took 2,100 prisoners. They drove back repeated counter-attacks, held the road, and sealed the only escape route from the Falaise Pocket. The entire German Seventh Army would surrender shortly after, with over 50,000 Prisoners of War falling into Allied hands. St. Lambert was the last battle of the Normandy Campaign.
But David Vivian Currie still wasn’t done. He’d participate in another amphibious attack just a month later, moving into the Netherlands as part of the Battle of the Scheldt. He’d spend his November liberating the Dutch from Nazi rule, firing cannons at Nazi tanks, and getting lots of chocolate and cute girl smiles for his efforts.
In December 1944, David Vivian Currie personally received the Victoria Cross from King George VI. He would be the only Canadian to receive the Victoria Cross for actions during the Normandy Campaign, and to this day he remains the only Canadian Armored Corps soldier to ever receive the honor. After World War II he was appointed Sergeant-at-Arms for the Canadian House of Commons, meaning that he spent over 17 years of his post-war career as the guy who was single-handedly in charge of keeping the entire government of Canada alive.
I can’t think of a better man for the job.