Tuesday, June 8, 2010

D-Day + 66 Years

Sunday was the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. June 6, 1944, when 24,000 American, British, Canadian and French troops stormed across the English channel to land on the sandy beaches at Normandy, France, and begin the defeat of the German army. This was one vital aspect of winning World War II.

The name D-Day has been lost in the sandy beaches of time. People now use the term to refer to a day of impending doom: report card day, the day the boss calls everyone in to discuss some changes in the corporate lineup, the arrival of a letter from the IRS. "Daniel Simpson Day...has no grade point average. All courses incomplete" was funny in Animal House, where the character played by Bruce McGill was known by the collegiate nickname "D. Day." (Later, McGill played Sheriff Farley in "My Cousin Vinny," thereby rounding out the coveted double-play award for being in two of my favorite movies.) But I heard nothing about any D-Day commemorations taking place around town. It took place 66 years ago, so a young soldier or sailor who was 20 then would be 86 now, so every year as June 6 rolls by, we will see fewer and fewer participants, and fewer and fewer memories being shared. Just for the sake of history, here is the text of the remarks that General Dwight D. Eisenhower made to the troops on the eve of the invasion:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have
striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The
hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on
other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war
machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of
Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well
equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of
1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats,
in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their
strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home
Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions
of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in
battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great
and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Now, try to picture yourself as a young person in that war, across the ocean,
knowing that the next morning, it was quite possible that you would be
wounded or killed in defense of freedom. This involved, for many of those men,
jumping out of a landing craft in the ocean surf while people ashore and overhead
shot at you. Keep this picture in mind when you think
that your day today is gonna really bite.

I try to remember that every day.

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