D-day plus 72 years…
This week, which begins with the 6th of June, was a momentous one 72 years ago. Those of us of a certain age remember crowding around the radio, listening to the overseas reporters telling about the landings in Normandy and other places on the French coast. It was the beginning of the end for the Third Reich…but they didn’t know that, or if any of them did, they didn’t acknowledge it.
The Third Reich was coined in 1923 by Arthur Moeller Van Den Bruck. The author used the term to bridge the Holy Roman Empire and the later German Empire to the revitalized Germany he envisioned (or advocated for) as emerging from the ruins brought on by the Weimar Republic, WWI and the Treaty of Versailles. Under Adolph Hitler it became something entirely different and was supposed to last a thousand years. It lasted less than a decade.
The troops that landed ashore on D-Day had trained for this for weeks, maybe even months, but even so they were not prepared for the withering fire raining down on them from the cliffs above. The troops were expected to scale cliffs that were practically straight up and down, using ladders, hooks thrown up and over, which they hoped would secure themselves and allow a soldier to climb up. The Germans not only fired straight down, they would push the ladders off the cliffside and undo the hooks that had gotten hold of something. From all that I’ve read and seen of actual coverage, it was a soldier’s worst nightmare.
Nightmare or not, they came ashore, many being dropped off in water that was deeper than expected, and many drowned because of the weight of the equipment they were carrying. There were land mines, barbed wire and many other impediments for the soldiers to get past, only to begin that perilous climb to the top. The first 20 minutes or so of the film Saving Private Ryan are so true-to-life that many veterans got up and walked out because they couldn’t stand the carnage portrayed on the screen…and they knew it was true.
Literally thousands of troops poured ashore, carried to France by the largest armada the world has ever seen. Ships as far as the eye could see, in the bays, out into the Mediterranean Sea, brought the Allied armies to Fortress Europe with the ultimate goal of crushing the German power…a power that had almost ruled the world. Many brave members of all the services, men and women, even civilians who risked their own lives as the underground resistance in the various countries, aided in this massive effort.
Now, here we are again…a few days past Memorial Day. We remembered all those who served and who are still serving…and how are we paying honor and tribute to these men and women who rushed to the sound of the guns…many knowing for certain they would never return to their loved ones. We celebrate, and that’s really the wrong word, but we celebrate this day and other patriotic events with a sale on linens, groceries, automobiles and televisions.
That irks me, it really does. If you have the ability to visit a National Cemetery, go. Read the headstones. A large majority of the honored dead lying at rest will be in their 20’s…some will still be in their late teens. Now and then you’ll find one of us old codgers there…and we were the lucky ones…we made it back, but we’re not the heroes.
No, the heroes are resting now, having made the supreme sacrifice at some distant location, for men and women that they may have hardly known, if at all.
This week, and every week for that matter, take a moment and thank whoever you want to thank, for the freedoms that you have, and remember the price paid for those freedoms.
Wake up, America, your country needs you…desperately.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/2560389365; CC by 2.0