Written by Robert Venditti & Kevin Maurer
Art by Andrea Mutti
Color by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by R.M. Guéra
June 6th, 1944
In what has been recorded as the worst mis-drop of U.S. Airborne troops in Operation Neptune, 182 paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, landed scattered through the marshes south of Carentan, France. They were supposed to have dropped 18 miles northwest near Amfreville but instead found themselves nearest the village of Graignes. They were deep in German-occupied territory and it was determined that they should stay put and hold the village. For six days the soldiers and the villagers worked side by side to prepare Graignes for the inevitable attack by the Germans. This is the story of those six days.
The Battle of Graignes, June 10-12, 1944, and the four days preceding, have been brought to life in DC/Vertigo’s Six Days. Robert Venditti and Kevin Maurer have recreated a moment of history which is often overlooked. They have done it with accuracy and, more importantly, sensitivity—and for good reason. Venditti’s great uncle, Thomas J. Travers*, fought and died at Graignes. This was an opportunity for Venditti to not only shine a light on what was a monumentally courageous occasion for both the Allies and the French, but also a piece of his family’s history. Travers is a major character in Six Days, showing us what it might have been like leading up to the German attack from a soldier’s point of view. He and his pal Charles “Charlie” Hamner** provide a haunting honesty mixed with banter and the occasional moment of comic relief like this one, as they make their way out of the marsh with some other Battalion mates:
The beauty of Six Days is its humanity—there is none of the bravado and one-upmanship you might expect from a war story. It revolves around a group of people brought together by horrific circumstances and celebrates their decision to work with each other rather than against each other to take the strongest stand they are able. We watch the men of Graignes weigh the consequences of assisting the Americans against the possibility of a German victory and decide overwhelmingly in favor of the Americans. (We also watch the women of Graignes anticipate their decision and get to work before the meeting adjourns.) The men help retrieve vital equipment from the marshes and help the soldiers create a defensive perimeter, while the women find a way to keep everyone well fed. Instead of suspicion between the French and the Americans, there is constant communication.
We also see the preparations on a more personal level. Boudreau, the American soldier who speaks French and acts as an interpreter, takes a shine to a local young lady, Claudette. We are privy to glimpses of the lives of the villagers. Travers and Hamner reminisce about home, moan about digging ditches, and, after a brief altercation with a German patrol, give us an idea of what it must have been like to actually be in that sort of situation—the overall discomfort, and how it might have manifested differently from soldier to soldier. We watch as Travers indulges in an overwhelmingly touching moment with a little girl from the village who reminds him of one of his nieces back home. He dances with the little girl, letting her stand on his boots, twirling her around as the villagers look on, smiling.
On the flip side, we see the agonies and atrocities of war. We see Travers killed and Hamner wounded. We see the horrific war crimes committed by the S.S. at Graignes illustrated and narrated in detail. We see an idyllic village razed to the ground.
Venditti, Maurer, Mutti, Loughridge, and Cowles make a formidable team and have created a masterpiece. In filling in the blanks of this historical moment, creating a relatable, honest, poignant, touching view into the past—humanity’s past—they have reminded us all that we can take a stand against anything, so long as we commit to putting aside our differences and working together.
“This is a war story. But, at its heart, it is about people from different cultures coming together for the common good.
The world will always need that.”
*There is some discrepancy regarding Travers’ rank. He is listed as ‘Corporal’ on the memorial at Graignes, and Vendetti refers to him as ‘Corporal’ in his blog post of 6/6/2015, but the military records I have found list him as ‘Private’.
**I will note here that apart from Travers, most of the rest of the characters in Six Days appear to be fictional—at least, to the best of my research. The exception is Charles Hamner, who appears to be based on Charles HAMMER, another member of the 507th and friend of Travers’. Venditti found a letter to his great-grandmother (Travers’ mother) from Hammer recounting his and Travers’ time at Graignes. The letter is included in its entirety at the end of Six Days.