Sunday, June 06, 2004

D-Day Plus 60 Years

The 6th of June, 1944 has forever become known to history as D-Day. A simple military term that was used many times in World War II for many operations which simply means what day of the week a military operation begins. It has become forever linked to the largest armada ever assembled, thrown at Hitler’s Fortress Europe to break the Nazi hold, the opening of the Western Front to relieve the pressure placed on the Soviet Union by the Nazi’s. The landing beaches became forever known by names such as Juno, Sword, Gold, Utah and Omaha. It was not just the boys from the United States and Britain who landed at dawn, but also troops from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Poland. Total Allie casualties on D-Day are estimated at 10,000 men, this number was no doubt greater. The United States alone reported 1465 dead, 3184 wounded, 1928 missing and 26 captured. The official German casualty number has been placed between 4,000 and 9,000 men.
While I can not begin to imagine the horror and the sacrifice which the events of that day brought forth into the world no matter how many times I watch Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, or The Longest Day, I can safely say that every paratrooper who jumped in behind the German lines, every transport driver, every soldier who waded ashore is a hero to the world. My generation can’t understand fully, we can’t know what it was like to be there, to see friends and comrades just shot to pieces next to us, to scale the cliffs under fire, and to wade ashore as one of the lucky ones who were not taken by the weight of their equipment to a watery grave.
These were men who did not ask why, did not ask for a reason for they already understood. Nazi Germany had conquered Europe, was obsessed with England, and once England was theirs, their sites would shift across the Atlantic. Hitler was not a man of small vision; he wished to see the Third Reich rule the world, with all nations bowing before them in obedience and surrender. The men, who came ashore and dropped from the air, did not seek recognition when they came home, they did not want a fuss made over their deeds, and most importantly they shunned the notion that they were heroes. Almost to a man, they will agree that the true heroes were the boys who never made it home, those who were cut down young in life and never saw their families again, never had the chance to have a family, to take their son or daughter to a ballgame, to just wake up on Saturday and mow the lawn, the men who died were the true heroes to those who returned.
Today we remember that day 60 Years Ago in which the world held its breath and the course of history hung in the balance. A day upon which the fate of millions hung on the actions of a few thousand brave souls crossing the English Channel for a dawn assault upon the coast of France to oppose an evil the likes of which the world had never seen. Failure was not an option. In the end, it marked the turning point in the war in Europe and the beginning of the end for Hitler and the Nazi regime.
Today we remember those brave men who risked and sacrificed so much in the name of liberty and freedom. They did not seek to conquer or gain land; they came to liberate the oppressed peoples of Europe from the clutches of an evil dictator. They eventually ended the death squads, the torture camps, the death camps, and returned the countries they liberated back to the people who lived in them. History has a way of teaching us lessons, which many forget. Let us not forget what transpired 60 years ago today, let us remember the lessons we were taught, let us remember the why and the who equally, and let us never forget.

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