I know this sounds lazy, and it may very well be, but the post I did last year for the anniversary of D-Day still sounds right to me. So here it is again:
“… I want to tell you what the opening of the second front entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you.” Ernie Pyle, June 12, 1944
On June 6th, 1944, Operation Overlord, the start of the invasion of German-occupied France, began. In one night and a day, 175,000 fighting men traversed the one hundred nautical miles of the English Channel and landed upon the beaches of Normandy. Transported with them were 50,000 vehicles on 5,333 ships supported by 11,000 airplanes. Stephen Ambrose states that it was as if the entire cities of Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha, Wisconsin were picked up and moved, every man, woman, child and automobile, to the east side of Lake Michigan, in one night. Most were not professional soldiers, they were kids that had signed up after Pearl Harbor or were drafted. They were citizen soldiers, folks like us, personally unacquainted with violent death. That did not last. Company A of the 116th Regiment, the first ashore at Omaha, suffered over 90 percent casualties.
The beaches bristled with obstacles, mines, mortars, machine guns and artillery like the dreaded 88mm cannon that had been adapted to almost every conceivable use from shelling infantry positions to antiaircraft fire. Rommel had designed the defenses and he did his job well.
I have stood on Omaha beach. It is broad and flat and the idea of stumbling ashore weighted down with gear, bullets whizzing by like bumblebees, blood splattering the air and soaking the water, and people screaming all around is beyond me and I have a pretty good imagination. I have stood at Pointe du Hoc and wondered just how in the world the Rangers climbed that vertical cliff face under fire. I have stood in front of the monument to the missing at Omaha, seen my own name carved in the stone and wondered what happened to my namesake.
It is beyond imagining.
So as the 6th passes by, please take a moment to remember. Remember the terrible sacrifices of very brave men for the simple principle of freedom, the ability to speak your mind and go where you choose. It is good that we are reminded from time to time of just how important that is.