Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Santa Cruz Chamber Players: Black Cedar Trio

Hill Guitar Company will be sponsoring the third concert of the Santa Cruz Chamber Players Concert Series!

Evolution of a New Kind of Trio: The Black Cedar Trio performs Old Europe, the New World, and Asia
Music by Mozart, Paganini, Nathan Kolosko, and Chinery Ung 

Black Cedar Trio, main pose, square, max

Kris Palmer, artistic director and piano
Nancy Kim, cello
Steven Lin, guitar

There was a flowering of trios written for violin, cello, and guitar during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Mozart’s Grand Trio in E minor expresses his mood of heartfelt longing over his mother’s recent death. Paganini’s Terzetto shows the brilliance typical in his violin writing, and when performed on the flute instead of the violin, these works create the foundation for modern compositions written for flute, cello, and guitar. Nathan Kolosko’sHungarian Trio is a celebration of traditional Hungarian folk melodies and dances, using compositional techniques that mimic the Hungarian shepherds’ flute, ütőgardon, and cobza. “Life is so delicate,” says Chinary Ung, and his Luminous Spirals, a highly spiritual and contemplative work, reflects this sentiment. It was Ung’s first composition after he emerged from a decade-long hiatus from almost all writing in order to aid his fellow Cambodian countrymen.

Saturday, January 17th, at 8pm
Sunday, January 18th, at 3pm
Christ Lutheran Church
10707 Soquel Drive, Aptos

Tickets can be purchased online HERE.
Black Cedar Trio Website: http://blackcedar.biz/

Buy tickets now, you won't want to miss this!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Omni Guitar Series: Beijing Guitar Duo

The second concert in this years Omni Dynamite Guitar series featured the Beijing Guitar Duo. Meng Su and Yameng Wang are the duo players. This was the first time I've seen them in concert, and I was fully captivated by the grace and fluency of their playing from the first notes to the last. Their unity of playing and complete concentration blends together as if they are one player, seamless and united. This must come from their very similar background both in China studies and in their US studies, but more importantly from their own elegance and talents. The ballet of their technique and the waves of their dynamics serves the music and the audience perfectly.

I am always most curious of music that is new to me. Meng Su has made a very nice transcription of the Debussy piano 4 hands Petite Suite, which is a welcome opportunity to listen to this great impressionist composer's music in a guitar concert. Also, Sergio Assad's Jobiniana No. 1 and a composition written for them by Elizabeth Nonemaker, Old Habits, Similar Patterns. These are very contrasting recent works, and a delight to discover. I loaned them two guitars for playing the Nonemaker, and was pleased to place them in their hands for this concert. I enjoyed hearing them, they sounded good.

Both played solo sets as well, Yameng played Barrios, Meng played Tarrega, each of them very good soloist, nice music, all good.

The Beijing Duo is living in Baltimore at this time, and some concert appearances are listed on their website, beijingguitarduo.com. Go see them when you get the chance. Very beautiful, very satisfying.

With Meng Su and Yameng Wang.

Kenny Hill

November 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

China Tour with Johannes Moller

In September 2014 I was privileged to go on tour in China with Johannes Moller. This was an 8 day whirlwind tour of diverse parts of China, around 6 concerts in 8 days. That's a lot of airports, hotels, concert halls, fans
Meeting Johannes at the airport in Shanghai.
and celebration dinners. This was sponsored by my partner and dear friend Alex Wang, marking 10 years in business together with this celebration tour featuring one of my favorite guitarists of all time, Johannes Moller.  

If two months seems like a long time to getting around to blogging about events, it's because it's taken me a while to digest the impact on my outlook and priorities. I think back to around 1975 when I attended the very first Carmel Classical Guitar Festival. As far as I know this was the first classical guitar festival in the USA. Before that I had no idea that there were other like minded people attracted to the sweet sounds of the guitar, at least not so many. There was a special moment in the middle of the festival, on a Friday afternoon at Sunset Center Theater. Richard Stover was giving a lecture with slideshow and recorded examples of guitar in Latin America. He was introducing names and sounds like Barrios, Bonfa, Falu, but the one who really shook me up was Leo Brouwer. He played a recording of the Eternal Spiral as played by Brouwer, and my mind cracked open wide. I finally heard visionary music played on the instrument that I loved, and I knew that anything was possible.
Backstage before the show in Shanghai.

The next time that sort of thing happened was about 3 years ago in San Louis Obispo, when I first heard Johannes Moller play. His performances of his own works, Song to the Mother, Ananda, Star in The Sky, Universe Within, this music did the same thing to me these 40 years later, it opened my mind wide. These pieces are mystical, idiomatic, pure expression of personal passion and the power of the guitar. This music strikes me as the descendant of Brouwer's original
Post-concert celebration dinner.
Plenty of food and drinks!
compositions, at least in the way that it has touched me. Now, since Johannes has been playing many concerts on my guitars, I have heard him often and continue to be moved by the power and immediacy of his compositions, and the presence of his playing. Over the 40 years of my career in the world of classical guitar I have heard many spectacular, inspiring players and moving music. What I long more than anything is creativity, imagination, adventure and personal expression in music. I've been lucky to experience this in many ways, and Johannes is the complete package. He is a virtuoso on any terms, but his ability to reveal such a mystical and passionate musical world through his own music writing is a very personal inspiration, and I love him for it.  

A full house at Johannes' concert in Guangzhou.
I have always advocated for a whole approach to the guitar and its music, this is how I became a guitarist, a composer, and a guitar maker. I appreciate hearing anything new exploring the possibilities of the instrument. I have a special affection for idiomatic classical guitar music that rises from of the instrument, and expands in smart and creative ways. Johannes is a great interpreter and performer, but it is his ability to put himself out there as a creator is most exciting, truly unique, and I think he really is just getting started.

So to go on this tour with Johannes was the fulfillment of a certain circle of life. He is an energetic boy, both 
disciplined and wild. He's a smart observer, both patient and restless. He's a true professional who puts his all into every performance. The hard work and highs
'Selfie' at the factory.
and lows of life on the road are crazy, and we definitely shared many of those things on this whirlwind tour of China. I got to listen to his program, every night in a different city, played on my guitar, and got to know and appreciate the music more and more for all the repeat listenings. I watched the response of the Chinese audiences hearing Johannes' music for the first time, loving it and wanting more. It was a break-through tour that is bound to lead to many opportunities in the emerging Chinese audience, for Johannes and for classical guitar. And it was a powerful personal reminder of the first purpose, the reason for all of the hard work that goes into guitar study, in the workshop, in business, and on the road; it's the music, and all the transcendent moments that music is responsible for. Johannes poked me, pushed me to remember. This has always been true, and it's still true, now more than ever.

Johannes and I with our tour manager, Joshua.  A very successful tour!

Iphone video of "Night Flame"

Kenny Hill
November 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

From Venezuela to the U.S.!

Carlos Aurrecoechea is a fine guitarist from Venezuela. Last year, after a few months of correspondence he ordered a high end Signature guitar, a sight unseen. Because of very difficult political and economic policy issues in Venezuela it was very complicated for him to get "permission" to buy this guitar from the US, and an even greater challenge to manage the financial challenge from there. I was quite touched that he had the confidence to go through with this complicated and potentially risky transaction, I still don't understand all the barriers that he had to overcome. We made the guitar carefully and the best possible, and when it was done we held onto it until he was able to arrange travel to California to pick it up, he didn't want to rely on shipping, and I don't blame him.

It's an interesting phenomenon that a guitar like this actually seems to improve and mature even when it is just waiting, not even being played. Something happens, it matures, settles in, cures — I can't really explain it, but I have seen it many times. So when Carlos arrived this week to pick it up, the guitar really sounded amazing. Exceptional. It was good from the beginning, but after chilling for months it sounded even better. His playing is beautiful, I'm delighted that he will be playing it a lot in Venezuela. There seems to be a very strong and passionate guitar scene in Venezuela, and he is in the heart of it. It was really great to finally meet him and I'm grateful for the trust he had in the process.

Kenny Hill
November 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Omni Guitar Series: Kazuhito Yamashita

Last Friday night was the first concert of the Omni Guitar Series in San Francisco, Kazuhito Yamashita was the artist. Kazuhito is a friend for many years, and a few months ago he emailed to ask for a guitar to borrow for this concert. I guess he didn't want to travel with his regular guitar. He got to town on Sunday and I loaned him 3 guitars to try out, a spruce Signature, a cedar Signature, and a 630 7/8 size cedar Performance. We got together midweek for dinner and guitar stuff, and it was beautiful to listen to him try out the guitars and talk about them, but I had no idea what he would do in concert, which one he would play — if any, no idea.

Friday night was also the first World Series home game for the Giants, and there was some concern about concert attendance competition from the game, but it worked out fine. The SF Conservatory concert hall was quite full, and I still didn't know which guitar he was going to play. Then as it turned out, he played all three. I was kind of stunned. He played music by Bach, Sor, Mompou, and his wife Keiko Fujiie and by his daughter Kanahi Yamashita, plus several encores that I couldn't name. The range of style and mood and technique was expansive, so beautiful, so thoughtful.

His playing is in a class of its own, in a world of his own. He is legendary for playing arrangements and compositions and collections on a technical level that couldn't be possible, but he does it with both ease and intensity unlike anyone else. His performance is orchestral, from the most tender to the most ferocious, he commands the music and the instrument effortlessly, I soaked up every note. My wife pointed out that the way he moves with the guitar, he fans the guitar in front of him, spreading out the music before the audience like a gift. I've heard him play a few times and I never know what to expect. This was a program so beautifully expressive and inclusive, I will never forget it.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to hear him again, and for his generosity in playing these guitars and putting them through their paces. I was humbled to have the instruments in his hands and to hear how effectively they served his purposes. I learned so much listening to him control and play with the guitars, this is what they are meant to do, and they sure enough did it. He had the two Signature guitars for only a few days, and he played the little 630 for the first time during sound check just before the concert. This guy can do anything. Kazuhito is an enigmatic person, smart, quiet, confident, profound and generous. This was a lifetime experience, and I'm very honored to know him.

Kenny Hill
October 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

William Kanengiser Concert in Monterey!

Local Classical Guitar Fans!

Carmel Guitar Society, Friedman Eye Center & Hill Guitar Company
proudly present

World-renown guitar soloist and member of the L.A. Guitar Quartet, William Kanengiser, is performing a live concert right here in Monterey, and Hill Guitar wants you there!

WHEN: Saturday October 11th, 2014 @ 7:30 PM

WHERE: Maritime Museum of Monterey
(Stanton Theater) - 5 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA

Tickets are available online at CarmelGuitarSociety.org 
or at the door the evening of October 11th.

Tickets are $25 for non-CCGS members and $20 for CCGS members.

A brief bio on William Kanengiser:
William Kanengiser is a Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist. He is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ). Kanengiser holds a Bachelor of Music and Master of Music from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, where he also serves as a faculty member. Kanengiser has won Grammy Awards with the LAGQ, which received the award for best classical crossover album at the 47th Grammy Awards for Guitar Heroes; he has also won for his contribution to Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's performance of Golijov's Ainadamar: Fountain Of Tears, which won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 2007.

This will be an evening to remember, buy tickets now!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Johannes Moller & Laura Fraticelli Guitar Duo Coming to the U.S.!

Have you heard the news?  Johannes Moller and Laura Fraticelli Guitar Duo are coming to tour in the U.S.!

They are promoting the upcoming release of their new album "Mertz:  Guitar Duets" which is due out on Itunes on October 7th, 2014.  They will be performing in Texas and Alabama.  Listed below are the tour dates and where to get the tickets. 

September 27th: Blanco Performing Arts Center in Blanco, TX.
Tickets are $35: Buy Here

September 28th: Colonial Hills United Methodist Church in San Antonio, TX.
Tickets are free (donations are accepted): Buy Here

October 5th: Mount Vernon Music in Mt. Vernon, TX.
Tickets are $10 for MVM members/ $15 for non-members:  Buy tickets at venue

October 6th: Outreach Performance in Mt. Vernon, TX.

October 8th: Austin Guitar Salon at the Pfeiffer Home in Austin, TX.
Tickets are $40 member/ $50 non-member: Buy Here

October 9th: Classical Cactus in Austin, TX.
Tickets are $10: Buy Here

October 15th: Laidlaw Performing Arts Center in Mobile, AL.
Tickets are $8 General Admission:  Buy tickets at venue

October 16th: Northwest Florida State University in Niceville, FL.
Buy Tickets at venue

October 19th: Christ The King Episcopal Church in Santa Rosa Beach, FL.

Buy Tickets Now!

You will not want to miss this!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Johannes Moller Hill Guitar for Sale!

Are you a fan of Johannes Moller?  Do you love his Hill Guitar that he gets his beautiful sound from?  Then we have great news!  He is selling one of his Hill Guitars!  It is his 2012 Hill Signature Doubletop!  He has played it all over the world for about 2 years and has had great success with it.  However,  he is parting ways with it and we want you to know! 

This is a used standard 2012 Hill Fan-braced SIGNATURE model with arched case. Played by 
Johannes Möller for 2 years.
Johannes 2012 Signature Model
  • Soundboard: Doubletop European spruce/Nomex/Western red cedar fan-braced
  • Back/Sides: East Indian rosewood
  • Neck: Spanish cedar
  • Fingerboard: ebony, elevated
  • String Length: 650mm
  • Finish: French polish
  • Tuners: Sloane ebony Stippled
  • Lightweight truss rod
  • sound ports
  • Overall length: 39"
  • Body length: 19"
  • Upper bout: 11"
  • Lower bout: 14.375"
  • Body depth: 3.5 - 4"
  • Fingerboard @ nut: 51mm

Indian Rosewood Back/Sides, Sloan Ebony Stippled Tuners,
& Doubletop European Spruce and Western Red Cedar

This is a beautiful guitar and if you are a fan of the guitar itself or a fan of Johannes, this is the perfect fit for you!

Selling for $7,500.  Visit the Hill Guitar Website for more info.

But wait, there's more!
Johannes Moller and Laura Fraticelli Guitar Duo are coming to tour in the U.S.to promote their October 2014 release of their latest record "Johann-Kaspar Mertz: Guitar Duets." In just a little over a week they will be performing in Texas, Alabama, and Florida!  If you are in or near the area be sure to grab tickets! Tour dates listed below:

September 27th: Blanco Performing Arts Center in Blanco,TX.

September 28th: San Antonio, TX.

October 5th: Mount Vernon Music in Mt. Vernon, TX.

October 6th: Outreach Performance in Mt. Vernon, TX.

October 8th:  Classical Cactus in Austin, TX.

October 9th:  Austin Guitar Salon in Austin, TX.

October 15th:  Laidlaw Performing Arts Center in Mobile, AL.

October 16th:  Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, FL.

You will most likely need to purchase tickets through the venue.

Moller-Fraticelli Guitar Duo playing at Siccas Guitars, Germany.

You won't want to miss it!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Meet our new friends over at Siccas Guitars in Germany!

The location of Karlsruhe, Germany.
On my recent trip to the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium to show guitars, I had the good fortune to be set up right next to the exhibit of Siccas, a classical guitar dealing business from Karlsruhe, Germany. From the first few minutes of meeting them I had a very good feeling about the guys and about the company, and as we hung out for 4 more days it turned out really nice. The two men representing the company are Mirco Sicca and Manuel Luchena. I liked them both from first meeting, and as I got to know them I recognized good business skills, love for the guitars and the work, and great attitude. They seemed to have as good a time as I did at the festival, and I think it was eye opening for them as to the high level of accomplishment and passion of classical guitar players there.
Kenny Hill with Mirco Sicca & Manuel Luchena.

Most of the other exhibitors at the festival were individual guitar makers showing their own work. Siccas is different, they are a business selling concert level nylon string guitars from contemporary guitar makers, and also dealing in  historic and collectible guitars. In their display and inventory they have a number of contemporary European guitar makers, and they also had a 1912 Herman Hauser, a 1929 Esteso, an 1840 Lacote, and a Daniel Friedrich, maybe some other secret stash, all available for people to try out. This is of course a big draw. And all the instruments — new and old — are for sale.

Their website includes a section featuring demo videos by a lot of concert players, including my good friends Johannes Moller and Eva Beneke, so I felt as though I already knew them. They've been in business for over five
Laura Fraticelli and Johannes Moller playing at Siccas. Watch here.
years and seem to have found a good niche and are doing quite well. Siccas is now carrying my guitars, they have two Signature and one Performance model in stock. This is good for me, I have many fine artists playing my guitars in Europe, and in Germany in particular, and I've never had a reliable outlet. Now interested players can visit or contact Siccas and see what happens. I feel good about having my guitars available in Germany and the rest of Europe. Although there is a long history and deep tradition of classical guitar there and many fine builders, my guitars are different, and I would like to think fresh, nice, and a new and somewhat different option to traditional choices. I hope there is room for that.

Please check out their website and especially if you are in Europe visit them or contact them. If your experience is anything like mine, you'll be glad you did. Although I didn't have time to visit their shop this trip, I hope to do so next time i'm in Europe, probably March or April 2015. See you there?

Kenny Hill
September 2014

Take a look around at Siccas Guitars!

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Look Back at the 23rd International Guitar Symposium in Iserlohn

I just returned from 5 days at the Iserlohn Guitar Symposium in Germany. Wow! It was great! This was the 23rd
Dale Kavanagh and Thomas Kirchoff
year of this very well put together classical guitar festival hosted by Professor Thomas Kirchhoff and Dale Kavanagh, two fine guitarists, partners as the Amadeus Duo, and married couple!!  Though I've heard about the festival for years, I attended for the first time in 2013 and even sold a couple of guitars then, including one to Thomas Kirchhoff, the director. He is a great player and a very influential person in the guitar world, so it made a lot of sense for me to return this year. I'm very glad I did.

The symposium is set at an old estate or school on the bank of the Ruhr River outside of Iserlohn, and completely self sufficient. I say old, but it is so nicely kept, and the modern additions to the campus are so well done, and the grounds are so beautiful that everything is perfect. The students, teachers and performers mostly all stay on the campus doing lessons, workshops, master classes and guitar orchestra rehearsals all
Inside the beautiful Church
day. Then in the evening everyone climbs into 5 buses and goes into town to the Big Church for the quite amazing array of concerts, with talent from all over the world. After the concerts we all pile back in the buses and return to the campus to hang out and celebrate the day, the evening, and tomorrow.
 Then we do it all over again. This festival has a long history, and Thomas runs everything with such a sure hand that it seems effortless, and with the incredible level of talent and accomplishment, very distinguished artists, and mind blowing up-and-coming young players, the whole event has the feeling of being the center of the guitar universe for a week — or a year.

There is also an ongoing exhibition of guitar makers, many from Germany, but also from England, Bulgaria, China, Spain, Japan, Canada, USA (me) and others. The opportunity to see other makers work, and together mull over the joys and challenges of this special work is rare and special. The skill level is quite amazing, and watching and hearing a parade of virtuoso players trying out everyone's guitars and putting them through their paces is a wonderful opportunity. Also I met the folks from the German guitar dealing company Sicca, Manuel and Mirco, very nice guys from a very cool company. I will talk about Sicca more in a later post.

The fact that the festival is so well established offers a remarkable sense of history. In addition to the artists booked for concerts and masterclass teaching, there is a core of established teachers who have been coming every year for decades, and have helped the students grow from very young into mature players who end up performing in the series, and going on to have distinguished careers of their own. World renown teachers like Bruce Holzman, Tom Johnson, Dale Kavanagh, Frank Gerstmeier — and many others who I haven't had the pleasure of meeting — return every year and give the students such professional and inspiring guidance that there seems to be emerging a whole new level of skill, a new generation of players eclipsing what we have thought of as virtuosity and musicianship. 

Bruce Holzman, Tom Johnson and Frank Gerstmeier

Concert artists this year are too many to list, (you can check it out on the website) and every single one deserves  an article and recognition on their own. And because the campus is on the outskirts of town everyone is kind of trapped together, so in work and in play, all of this talent — teachers, students, artists, aficionados and visitors — all are mingled in the most stimulating and sometimes raucous ways. In our field of music it is actually impossible and unnecessary to distinguish between work and play, and there is no better place than the Iserlohn festival to experience the power and benefits and inspiration of both work and play!!

While I was there there my phone/camera  was giving me nothing but trouble and I was a hopeless journalist, in that I didn't take any photos at all. I'm not naturally aggressive with a camera, as many people are, I hate to break the moment, so I just have to visualize all of the wonderful moments in my memory. I have a pretty good memory, and these memory pictures are great! I'm sure that a few searches in social media would conjure up infinite photos and smiles, but in the tradition of a gossip columnist I just want to shout out to some of the wonderful people who's friendships and interactions made my week such a memorable and moving experience:

So here's to you all, in no particular order — Eva Beneke, Dale Kavinaugh, Manuel and Mirco from Sicca, Wolfgang Bargel, Wolfgang Jellinghaus, thank you Wolfgang, Scott, Matt, John and Bill from LAGQ, Bruce Holzman, Denis Azabajik, Tom Johnson, Ella Chekan, Rene Izquierdo, Yuichi Imai, Frank Gerstmeier, Michael Newman, Johannes Moller, Laura Fraticelli, and Dario, Xu Bao, Giampaulo Bandini, Gerald Garcia, The Baltic
Gillian Omalyev
Quartet, Pavel Steidl, Shingo Fuji, Chris McGuire, Joshia De Jonge, Hansen Yao and Jennifer Song, Adrian Azuelo, Jeremy Clark, Vicente Carrillo, Kuang Junhong, Hans Werner Huppertz, Serge DeJonge. And to all the people whose names or acquaintance I didn't get, what an interesting group of people!! Even without photos I can picture you all. I want to give a special shout to Gillian Omalyev, who did so much to make things work day-in and day-out, and then played such a super fine performance in the concert in the church on the last night. Of course I payed especially close attention because she was playing on my guitar, but more important she played herself, beautifully and strong. I was very proud. 

And Thomas Kirchhoff. I've gotta give him credit. He's a force of nature. And he puts on a great guitar festival. Great culture, great party.

And again to you all. May we remember and get together again!

Kenny Hill

August 2014

Thomas playing in the beautiful courtyard of Haus Villigst.

Take a look at our new friends over at Siccas Guitars.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Remembering D-Day: Memories from Bob Hill

     My dad Bob Hill is 91 years old, living with his wife Shirley in Fresno CA. As with so many of his generation he was profoundly shaped by World War Two, and he was part of the D Day invasion on Omaha Beach in Normandy 70 years ago. Years ago he wrote an autobiography, (well actually it was framed a a biography of his first car, a 1917 model T Ford which he still has and drive. With the anniversary of the D Day invasion a fan of his excerpted this chapter from dad's book Full Circle, which I'm pleased to share here. It's good writing, an interesting snap shot of one soldier's memories 70 years later. When I talked with him on Father's day about it he added a couple of asides. He went into Normandy on day three, in relative safety, after bobbing around in the sea while so many others went in ahead, and he said that the only reason he wasn't facing machine gun fire and land mines with the first wave of soldiers was that while the other guys in his Iowa home town were studying agriculture and animal husbandry in high school, he was taking typing and shorthand, the only guy in a class full of girls. Then when he joined the army he was trained as a code man because of those skills, and thereby avoided the horror of direct combat. He also reminisced that it was so dark out there at sea with thousands of ships coming and going he couldn't figure why everybody wasn't bumping into each other. But he said that in the course of the inconceivable build up to the invasion he never heard one person complain.
Anyway, I just wanted to share these memories from my dad.

            It was June 4, 1944. Every last one of us was taken to a hush-hush meeting in a large, brick warehouse type of a structure. Soldiers were there by the thousands, and we were all standing since there was no place to sit.
A high-ranking officer quieted us down, after which he identified himself as an emissary of General Eisenhower. He laid out before us in the most top-secret of terms as to what was ahead in the next few days. He unveiled a large tabletop model which was big enough for all to see, a mock-up of what he said was Normandy Beach on the coast of France. He went on to reveal that all of us in the room would be landing at a place they had named "Omaha Beach", more specifically in an area called "Dog Redbeach." We all studied the mock-up, making mental notes of the landmarks to the extent that we would feel as if we had been there before when our time came to go ashore. Further, the officer went on to say, tomorrow morning we would be loading up in Army trucks with all of our gear and then proceed to the port of Southampton, about 40 miles to the south. There, we and our equipment would be embarking on the ships which were already awaiting our arrival. From there we would sail for the coast of France under the cover of darkness.
As for the success or failure of the entire operation, there was no "plan B." What we were about to undertake had to succeed, do or die. He assured us that we would not be alone in our venture— there would be quite a gathering, all of us with a single purpose in mind. And again, it was to be a surprise party for the Germans who were well dug in and bunkered there, so we were not to talk about it — the walls might have ears.
We went back to our barracks, thoughtful and quiet, each of us harboring thoughts of how we were going to come out in this thing, how many of us would be missing the chow line in the next day or two, and if I would be one of those. By and large, we were all happy that something was about to happen that could play a major part in bringing the war to a close. Some of us were gong to die... we knew that. But let's get on with it.
We had our last breakfast on English soil the next morning and then loaded up and moved out to Southampton. Arriving at dockside, thousands and thousands of soldiers stood aside while the equipment was being swung into the ship's holds. Our particular vessel was a liberty ship named the "Robert S. Tombs". I looked at the moniker and hoped that the last name was in no way prophetic.

I hunkered down to watch our ship being loaded as performed by the English longshoremen.  trucks would drive on top a big rope sling, something on the order of an outsized hammock. The winch cables would tighten, and away went the fullyloaded truck to be slung neatly in the cargo hold. Up went our code truck with its dog house on the back—also C Company's trucks, loaded down with field wire and their wire dispensing and recovery gear. Our battalion had lots of trucks and other rigs of all sizes.
The loading process was sailing along smoothly and efficiently well into the afternoon when suddenly, the whistles blew all over the waterfront. Immediately, everything stopped. Some trucks were left dangling 30 feet in the air, others only a few feet from being set in their hold space. I wondered with no small amount of instant alarm as to what was going on. i thought that maybe word had come down from the air raid spotters that we were under an imminent air attack.
I was wrong. It was tea-time, and no war was going to interfere with that English tradition. When the tea cups were all drained, work resumed and it was on again with the war.
We shipped out that night after dark. It was a spooky feeling. There were no lights on anything. As far as we could tell, we were completely alone. There wasn't the usual horseplay or crap games below deck. Everyone was in a pensive mood, nobody saying much. As for me, I was clinging to a Bible verse which said: A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalm 91:7) That verse put me to sleep as we later anchored in the darkness off the coast of France.
Morning came, and with it came the greatest military invasion in the history of the world. The activity that brought us out of our sacks and onto the deck was the sound of a heavy bombardment. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were laying down a carpet of artillery on the beach. As the day was breaking and the land was becoming visible in the early light, it was my guess that we were anchored about a mile off shore. To look around was awesome from the sheer number of fighting ships and cargo carriers in the vicinity. We couldn't even begin to count them, but later news reports claimed there to be 4,000 ships present.
It was not our particular job to storm the beaches — for that I was extremely grateful. But I had a deep feeling for the soldiers who had inherited that task. We were far enough away to not be able to see how they were making out, we could only guess and pray for them the very best.What was immediately apparent from our vantage point was that the skies were ours. Our Air Force was up there in overwhelming abundance, not a single German plane showed up. Also, none of our ships were showing any signs of turning tail; both comforting observations. We gathered around a radio someone had managed to bring along and listened to BBC in its account of what was going on.
All day long there was the din of the battle in the distance with occasional salvos from our warships nearby. Then there would be big explosions on land sending up ominous clouds of black smoke. We couldn't tell from our ship whether those explosions were good news or bad news.
We, of our ship, spent D-Day in relative security, much as a bleacher's spectator at a bull fight. As things began to make sense out of an operation of this magnitude, it became apparent that it would be some time before we, ourselves would be going ashore. Reason being, the landing barges were acting as ferry boats plying the waters between ship and shore. They would come alongside an anchored ship, pick up a load of men and material, and then scurry to the beach to disgorge their burden. Then, if the landing craft survived that trip, it would return to the ship for another such load and repeat the process. And on and on. It was going to take some real doing to unload all of the cargo vessels in this manner.
As D-Day's dusk began to assert itself, it was evident that we were on the beach to stay. We could believe that many of our young men who set out on this venture on this very morning did not see the dusk, for they had already given D-Day all they possessed. For we who remained, our work was cut out for us. At least we were able to rise to meet it.
D-Day's nightfall did not bring with it solace from the terrors of the day. Instead, a new game began. With the darkness, the word was passed around that if there were any planes overhead, give them all you've got, for our planes were all on the ground.
After having witnessed the devastating strength of our own air armada overhead, it was reasonable to believe that the Germans would respond in like manner when they had their chance. We expected the worst. However, a single plane came droning over just after dark. With its arrival, every gun the invasion fleet owned opened up. With 4,000 ships in our so-called harbor, and each ship having at least several guns, arithmetic deductions quickly pointed out that there was immediately a lot of hot lead in the air. Our Liberty ship though strictly a cargo carrier, had half dozen or so 50 caliber machine guns which were adding their part to the unbelievable cacophony of gun racket.

All American machine guns were loaded, with every fifth round being a tracer bullet. As a result, from all of those ships firing at the plane above, the sky was literally filled with red hot sparks moving skyward. With every gunner zeroing in on the intruder, those sparks took on the appearance of an inverted funnel making the most incredible light show I had ever seen, then or since. It was impossible to believe that anything could fly through such a barrage.
Evidently, the Luftwaffe pilot got the message that he was not welcome at our beach party. He got out of there as quickly as possible without leaving a single calling card.
A little later, another plane, same scene, again and again all night long. But I never heard of a German plane that ventured over us as being shot down. They had to fly so high to save their necks that their raids were nothing more than a nuisance.
The bigger risk was all of the junk hoisted aloft from our guns falling back on the decks. All personnel except the gunners were ordered below for safety's sake and we could hear the fall-out like so much hail rattling down on the hold covers overhead.
With that spectacular light show which rivaled any in history anywhere, so ended D-Day, the longest day in the lives of those who stormed the beaches and lived to tell their grandchildren about it. .... and the shortest day for those who tried, but gave their lives in trying.
D-plus-one and two were more of the same, though not nearly as hectic. Visible activities on the beach were slowing down. There would be an occasional blast when something or someone tripped a land mine; there were plenty of those. The big guns of our battleships and heavy cruisers had only an occasional job to do, but for the most part were being quiet. All day long, our own fighter planes ranged overhead looking for trouble over the beach and not finding it. Then after dark, the occasional lone enemy raiders overhead came searching for a hole in our defenses and, finding none, left us along.
D-plus three came, and it was our turn to go ashore. The landing barges were still shuttling men and material as fast as they could make the round trip. The landing craft pulled up alongside our ship, and the loading booms began handing our jeeps, weapons carriers, and trucks over the side and onto the barge. As soon as the last vehicle was fitted in, we went over the side too and down the webbed rope just as we had rehearsed it in basic training and may times thereafter.

It had been a whole day since any landing craft had drawn fire, so we settled down to enjoy the trip to shore. Nearing land, our landing craft drug bottom as was expected, then stopped and dropped the front ramp. We loaded into our jeeps or trucks, all of which had been
waterproofed so the could run under water as deep as the top of the windshield. I was in a jeep with two others.
The first jeep down the ramp and into the water carried the Captain, our ranking officer, who was exhibiting his fearless leadership by blazing the way for others to follow. The Captain, not wanting to get unnecessarily soaked, was sitting on the back of the jeep seat with his feet firmly planted on the cushion. The jeep went into the water only floorboard deep and was proceeding as if it was a Sunday outing, at which point the Captain kissed the prospects of getting wet goodbye. He then settled down comfortably in the seat, at the same time looking back at his men on the barge, smiling broadly and waving triumphantly. Just at that point, the jeep disappeared. All we could see were two helmets skimming the water like a pair of seagoing turtles out for a leisurely swim. Presently, the jeep came up, pouring water from its every opening with Captain and driver sputtering and spitting. Our Captain, for sure, had had his dapper dampened!
The barge pilot, reacting to the Captain's wet ride, lifted the barge gate, backed off, went to the right about 50 yards, and sent out another jeep. Bingo! The jeep made it, barely getting its hubs wet; and the rest of us, using the same trail, hit the beach safe and dry.
The carnage of the fierce battle of D-Day's assault was all around us. There were sunken landing barges, blown-up tanks, and shot-up trucks. No such terror was our lot and as we pulled up the first hill off the beach, we were greeted by the most incongruous sight imaginable. There on the left side of the road and atop a stone fence adorning the front yard of a French beach home sat a little girl about five years old. She was clean, and pretty with a bow in her hair and dressed up like Easter Sunday waving at all of us as we passed by. Not another civilian or another house still standing was in sight.
I wonder to this day how that little girl and her apparent home made it unscathed to D-plus-three....
Bob Hill from his book Full Circle 1991