Beyond Normandy: the global war

In June 1944, even as Allied troops landed in France, conflict continued 
to rage far beyond European soil. Ashley Jackson surveys the scene

Troubled waters: American soldiers rest on a decorative bridge during the crucial, bloody battle for Saipan in the Pacific Ocean. Victory put Japan in range of the US heavy bombers. (Photo by Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

As eyes around the world fixed upon the Normandy beachheads in June 1944, millions of Allied service personnel had other things on their minds. These were the men and women facing the enemy in theatres beyond Europe, or operating the mammoth logistics chains upon which a global war depended. The ‘D-Day dodgers’ of Allied Armies Italy, for example, entered Rome two days before the troops hit the French beaches. Serving with a British tank brigade, Trooper Tom Canning was among them. A Catholic, he jumped at the chance to attend the pope’s mass at St Peter’s just after the city’s liberation.

“He offered me his papal ring, and as I knelt down to kiss it he asked me: ‘Are you English or American?’” Canning later recalled. “After kissing the ring I drew myself up to my full height and replied: ‘Your Holiness, I am Scottish!’ He gave me a very wan smile as if to say, here I am teaching humility to the whole world, but Scotland is not listening.”

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