This week’s Free for All letters.


Army Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, France, on June 8, 1944. (Handout/Reuters)

The June 3 front-page article “Historian’s dig altering a famous D-Day tale” concerned the Pointe du Hoc operation in the Normandy invasion, alleging that Army Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder disobeyed his orders and deceived his subordinates in the 2nd Ranger Battalion to make the assault, compelling them to suffer unnecessary losses. The article purported that Rudder knew of a secret intelligence report claiming the enemy guns on Pointe du Hoc had been removed, negating the necessity of an assault to destroy them. The allegations are entirely false.

Rudder did not choose his mission and, as a lieutenant colonel, did not have the authority to change it. The mission was assigned by Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, the American ground commander. Rudder developed the assault plan under the supervision of Maj. Gen. Clarence Huebner, Bradley’s designee commanding all forces going to Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc. 

Huebner issued the field orders for the landings on May 11 specifying three tasks for Rudder’s Provisional Ranger Group, being the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions: neutralize the long-range 155mm artillery guns on Pointe du Hoc; block the coastal road about 1,000 yards inland to prevent the enemy from reinforcing Omaha Beach; and destroy the enemy garrison and guns on Pointe et Raz de la Percée, which literally peered down Omaha Beach. All tasks were accomplished within three hours of coming ashore, and then the challenge was to hold on until the main force arrived from Omaha. 

Rudder reviewed the operations order with Huebner for the last time on May 28, three days before loading his men onto troopships for the crossing. Records kept by Huebner’s staff reveal no indication that they questioned the presence of the fabled guns. If Huebner did not know about the report that the German guns were not on the Pointe, who did? There were unsubstantiated rumors that the German guns had been moved, but such could be verified only by going in. 

If such a report existed, someone forgot to tell the RAF Bomber Command, which sent 124 Lancaster bombers over Pointe du Hoc, dropping 1,606 bombs. Then came American B-26 Marauders with more bombs, just before the Rangers touched down.

The article stated that Rudder allegedly disobeyed his orders by not pursuing the enemy westward toward Grandcamp and Maisy on D-Day. Indeed, that was the plan, and it happened on June 8 rather than June 6. In military operations, the enemy sometimes gets in the way.

Thomas M. Hatfield, Austin

George F. Will’s June 6 column, “No George Washington, no America,” on the heroism of George Washington’s forces during the Revolutionary War, failed to mention the role of France’s King Louis XVI, who sent the Count of Rochambeau with 5,500 fighting troops in support of the Americans in 1780. The French arrived in Rhode Island and marched with Washington all the way to Yorktown for the final victory over Gen. Charles Cornwallis and the British. The National Park Service has commemorated this event with the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route covering several states and the District of Columbia. This French action nearly bankrupted King Louis’ regime, resulting in the French Revolution of 1789.

Herman J. Cohen, Washington

I read “Billionaires’ folly, or a novel escape?,” Sebastian Smee’s June 2 Critic’s Notebook on the Glenstone museum, with interest. I have gone there four times and am a huge fan. But I think Smee underestimated the role the attendants (docents?) play. I found them very helpful in explaining the background and meaning of a particularly puzzling piece of art. The ones with whom I talked had backgrounds in art and were responsive and engaging.

Nancy Berg, Alexandria


Sheep in Tomales, Calif., in 2015. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

I was delighted to see the June 1 front-page article “Fly sterilization saves Senegal’s cows.”

The trick of irradiating and releasing millions of male flies is older and more widespread than the article reported, however. As the Libya desk officer at the State Department during the Reagan administration, I was involved in a quiet effort to skirt around strict U.S. sanctions against Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s regime to combat an outbreak of the virulent New World screwworm fly among North Africa’s sheep population. Infected live sheep had come from South America to be slaughtered according to Islamic halal practice for traditional feasts during and just after the holy month of Ramadan. The ensuing outbreak threatened lamb, a staple of the North African diet. Using the technique described in the article, devised by scientists at the Agriculture Department and already used to eradicate the pernicious fly from the United States, American and U.N. officials arranged for the airdrop of millions of sterile flies on Gaddafi’s Libya. It worked! Successful diplomacy can take many forms.

John McNamara, Derwood

The June 6 front page was striking in its contrasts. A poignant, joyful photograph of a 97-year-old D-Day veteran parachuting over Normandy 75 years later illustrated genuine honor and sacrifice for something much larger than oneself. Contrast that to the articles on each side — “Trump’s July 4 speech confirmed” and “Bishop spent millions on self” — sad tales of two self-serving, power-abusing cowards. Thanks for putting that inspirational photo front and center. A rendezvous with destiny not ever to be forgotten.

Jean Falvey, Arlington

Regarding George F. Will’s June 2 query, “Is the individual obsolete?” [The Opinions Essay], I have no specific bone to pick, but I read his essay and a spark of a larger idea emerged: that these binary tropes of conservative or liberal, red or blue, and us or them trap us in a duality that doesn’t reflect how we live.

For too long, political pundits, the media and politicians have manipulated these faux schisms to their benefit and our detriment by keeping the populace distracted with endless political team-sport tailgating in the parking lots of unsolved-problem arenas. Will’s essay was a literary marvel to behold (his nearly always are), but his message was the same binary exhortation: My side does it better.

We voters, we citizens need to stop tailgating in these cramped spaces of binary thinking and transcend this either-or false choice — no matter how eruditely written on either side — and expand our thinking to a more buffet-style complexity that’s more reflective of modern, inclusive sensibilities. “So perhaps democratic life undermines the prerequisites of democracy”? No offense, Mr. Will, but democracy arrived for the rest of us only in the latter part of the 20th century. Moving from “my side is right” to “how to solve the problem” will require voters to abandon limiting, binary thinking and truly arrive in the New World.

Pamela Berg, Alexandria


Suffragists rally for the right to vote in 1915. (AP/AP)

The photo caption with Elizabeth Cobbs’s June 3 op-ed, “How race affected women’s right to vote,” was incorrect: American women and men in the women’s suffrage movement called themselves “suffragists,” not “suffragettes.” British women in the women’s rights movement were called “suffragettes.”

Carole S. Appel, Alexandria

Sally Jenkins is awesome. She’s a trailblazer among sportswriters, and I thank her for calling attention to golf commentator Hank Haney’s idiocy. But I have a quibble. In her June 4 Sports column, “Haney’s lazy, xenophobic blather is far out of bounds,” Jenkins wrote about Haney, “The consequences of saying something utterly stupid in public is that the audience can exercise its free will to conclude you know nothing about anything, including golf, and turn you off.” This is Twitter thinking. Haney’s a jerk. Let’s conclude he knows nothing about anything? Maybe dial that back. It’s a column. Jenkins is expressing her anger with good reason. I get it.

Gene Cassidy, White River Junction, Vt.

I noticed that some have been using “religious liberty” [“In a short span, opinions on gay rights have flipped,” front page, June 8] or “religious freedom” [“Trump faces new criticism as administration rolls back LGBT protections,” news, June 3] to describe a movement to change laws or regulations to support discrimination based on religion. Just as those with an agenda invented “Obamacare” to weaken support for the health-reform law, this is yet another instance of clever wordsmithing that could change mass understanding and support of the First Amendment.

Editors and reporters should think twice about using either term to describe this misguided movement. This is better described as religious discrimination, not religious liberty or religious freedom.

Scott L. Parkin, Reston


Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton gives the peace sign behind model Winnie Harlow and football player Odell Beckham Jr. on May 26 in Moncao. (Hoch Zwei/picture-alliance/dpa/Associated Press)

The June 2 Sports article “Browns get Beckham drama, too” included a photograph of the Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and model Winnie Harlow at the Monaco Formula One race. To the left rear is a figure standing next to a Formula One car. This being the Sports section and not Style, that figure should have been identified as Lewis Hamilton, race winner and five-time Formula One world champion.

James S. Noe, Gaithersburg

By naming the presidents who appointed specific federal judges, as in the June 4 news article “House suit to block billions in wall money rejected,” The Post encouraged the divisive politicizing of court decisions and fostered disrespect for the judiciary. There was no gratuitous identification for the federal judges in “Two-word expletive yelled at state trooper not grounds for arrest, court rules” [Politics & the Nation, June 4].

This amounted to subtle editorializing.

Jayson Amster, Upper Marlboro


Rowers on the Potomac River in 2012. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

On June 2, in California, Yale University’s men’s heavyweight eight won its third consecutive national rowing title, a remarkable feat that passed unnoticed in The Post. Rowing, especially the heavyweight eight, is a marquee Olympic event that gained popular fame in the best-selling book “The Boys in the Boat” about the University of Washington’s triumph at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In fact, the University of Washington eight has finished runner-up to Yale in the U.S. nationals for the past three years. This year, other Ivy League crews also did well: Cornell University won the lightweight eight title, and Harvard University finished third, behind the Elis and Washington, in the heavyweight eight. Moreover, D.C.-area boats excelled: Navy won the men’s lightweight fours, and Georgetown garnered three medals in men’s and women’s events.

Geographical proximity, however, doesn’t seem to be a criterion: The Post covered the NCAA women’s softball tournament finals pitting UCLA against Oklahoma. In this area, high school rowing is an active and growing sport. Publicizing rowing at the college level — certainly the national championships — would serve as a welcome role model. And it wouldn’t hurt, albeit a bit late, to give Yale’s outstanding crew the recognition it deserves.

Mike Haltzel, Alexandria

Was Philip Kennicott really suggesting in “Even opera lovers should watch this mediocre film,” his June 9 Arts & Style review of Ron Howard’s documentary “Pavarotti,” that many opera lovers had “mixed feelings” upon Luciano Pavarotti’s death at what Kennicott called a relatively young age from a horrible disease because he did stadium concerts and cavorted with pop singers in the 1990s? Or that his death, while sad, wasn’t totally lamentable because (gasp) he had divorced his first wife?

Unfortunately for Kennicott, the rarefied operatic air in which he chooses to dwell is getting pretty thin.

Louise Finkell, Albany, N.Y.

The June 2 Metro article “Many Md. licenses not Real ID compliant” included contradictory information. The caption said, “The star in the top-right corner, as seen on a sample driver’s license, indicates it is Real ID compliant.” But the article stated, correctly: “MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said 1 million drivers with Real ID licenses — identified by a star in the upper-right corner — don’t have the necessary documentation on file” (emphasis mine) and therefore “have failed to meet requirements to be in compliance with the Real ID act” (again, emphasis mine).

My driver’s license has the star, but when I checked on the Motor Vehicle Administration website, I learned that my required documentation was not yet on file.

Meg Spencer Dixon, Kensington