Friday, June 6, 2014

Seventy Years Ago Today: D-Day

Kind of hard to believe it's been 70 years, isn't it?

I don't have a recipe to share today - I wasn't sure that would be appropriate, honestly, considering what event I'm calling attention to - but I wanted to take a minute to give a shout out to D-Day, which happened seventy years ago today. Now, it's my experience that most historians - professional and amateur - like to argue a lot about when the actual turning point in a military conflict was (Civil War battlefields take this to the next level by holding a competition for the bloodiest spot of the war, from street to field to lane to square foot), and I've always thought this was a little silly because of course something as complicated as a war would have multiple turning points. Let's stop wasting time debating whether or not Stalingrad or D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge was "the" turning point, and focus on the important things, shall we?
But that being said, Operation Overlord was certainly one of if not the most important movements of the war (and I would say it does deserve to be called the most important), and anyone who tries to downplay its significance has no idea what they're talking about. Learning from mistakes that had been made during landings in Operation Torch (North Africa), Husky (Sicily) and in Salerno and Anzio in Italy, the Allies were able to launch a successful, mobile amphibious invasion of France, which also happens to be the largest seaborne invasion in history. For a motley group of multinational armies that often fought each other worse than some teenagers argue about boys, this was no small feat, and it did really put the writing on the wall that Germany's sun was setting and setting for good.

D-Day is actually what got me into learning about World War II exactly ten years ago. My French teacher in seventh grade devoted the entire week leading up to the 60th anniversary to showing us videos and giving lectures on each beach, different technological advancements used in the assault, and personal stories from the men who were there. Up until that point, my interest in history was a lot more premodern in its focus and honestly, I partially blame Molly's books for not hooking my attention. They really don't do a great job of bringing the war into the story the same way Felicity or Addy's do, and thus this was the first real exposure I had to World War II outside of watching Stalag 17 as a kid.

I've been kind of disappointed to see how little attention it's gotten in the media and in general, considering how important this day really was not only to America, or France or Germany, but honestly to the free world in general. I feel like it's just another example of how people don't really care that much anymore, and that depresses me more than I can say. The men who fought and died on those beaches deserve more than that, and those that lived through it certainly deserve more than a two minute segment on the TODAY Show that focuses more on Edward Snowden than on what they fought for. We're officially reaching a point in history where World War II is almost as far away from us as the Civil War was for them. Veterans are passing away every day, and we owe it to them to remember and to listen so that this chapter of world history doesn't fade away into obscurity.

So I hope you'll take a moment today to think about what it must have been like to wait on a tiny landing craft for the moment when you hit the beach, or to parachute out of a plane in the dark over a town you'd probably never heard of before shipping out, or waiting at home to hear what was happening and wonder if your son, father, brother or husband was involved, because Abraham Lincoln really did say it best in November of 1863: It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.


  1. This is a great post. Thank you. :)

  2. Well said! Thank you for taking the time to honor those who served!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it!