Today is the 72nd anniversary of the allied invasion of Europe to stem the advances of Hitler’s forces as those forces drove deep into France.
150,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen comprised the attacking force. Many, if not most of those were less than 20 years old on that day. They faced extremely well-entrenched Nazi forces and the sheer cliffs that awaited them as they left the landing boats. At the same time, paratroopers were being dropped behind the enemy lines to disrupt the forces they encountered and to serve as the advance force for those landing on Normandy’s beaches.
More than 11,000 aircraft were involved. More than 5,000 ships were involved.
Most of the people who were there have gone on to their just reward. Those still alive are in their nineties, at least. Memories have probably dimmed for many of those who continue to live, but I suspect the horrible images are burned into their minds. Those are the images one tries to forget but never quite succeeds in doing. Many veterans of later conflicts are burdened with those ever-present visions in their minds’ eye. All war brings those memories. Some memories are uglier than others but they’re all still memories.
The Supreme Allied Commander was General Dwight D. Eisenhower. His masterful planning and unique skill set made this invasion as successful as it was by deceiving the Nazi machine. He brought Gen. Charles de Gaulle into the fold when many thought the two would clash to the detriment of the effort. The secret of this invasion was kept in spite of the magnitude of the operation. France recognized that there would obviously be a loss of French lives, and De Gaulle saw that and made the plans in spite of that, knowing this would be the last and final opportunity to repel the Nazi machine and maintain an independent France. Both these leaders recognized the enormous responsibilities that each carried, and were able to discharge those responsibilities to minimize the loss of life while maximizing the opportunities for success.
Had the D-Day operations failed, Europe would be a much different place today. The world would be a much different world today. Fighting a war in the Pacific and in Europe simultaneously was probably never thought to be possible until the need presented itself. Our country was mobilized to support the efforts. Those who stayed home were engaged in supplying those needs of those overseas. Rationing of essential goods and materials was the order of the day. For the most part, petty politics were set aside.
One wonders, unfortunately, if such an effort could ever be undertaken successfully in today’s highly political world. We, as a people, might still have the stomach for such an undertaking if absolutely forced by external threats, but would we have the political leadership that was present in that era?
Our leaders today seem, at least in part, to believe we need to apologize for the use of the atomic bomb to end the war in the Pacific. I have my doubts, unfortunately, they’d have been up to the task we confronted some 72 years ago. I am not certain that we the people would coalesce behind such leadership. I pray that we never have the need to learn if that is true.
And I am continually thankful for those brave souls that went to defend our way of life.