Tuesday, June 6, 2006


Forty-two years ago today, on June 6, 1944, the largest military operation ever attempted unfolded on the beaches of Normany, France. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen — in tens of thousands of planes, ships, landing craft, tanks, and other vehicles — attacked the well-defended German positions. The scale of this operation, even by today’s computerized standards, was staggeringly large. Success was far from certain: Eisenhower (the commander of the Allied efforts) had a letter prepared to release, apologizing and taking the blame for failure. Commanders at every level were well aware of the unlikely combination of circumstances that would be required for success.

It was, of course, a resounding and glorious success. How different our world would be had those brave men failed!

At this remove it’s very hard to imagine what it must have felt like to be one of the men involved in that operation. You’d know, of course, that the hopes of the free world rode on your shoulders. You’d know that domination by evil would be the price of failure. Those sound like powerful motivators; absent in today’s discussions of the war on terror. But you’d also know — surely this much trickled down to even the front-line grunts — that your enemy was well-positioned, superbly armed and equipped, in fortified positions, and led by first-class officers. You’d know there was a good chance you’d be injured or killed. It’s difficult to conceive of a more frightening context.

And yet they went anyway, in their legions, charging up those beaches past the bodies of their dead comrades, and through the screams of their injured buddies. They fought over the beach, up the cliffs, and in the hedgerow country beyond to establish a secure foothold from which to launch an assault on the enemy’s homeland. Thousands died; tens of thousands were wounded. Heroic actions became almost routine; legends were born by the minute. But they persevered and they prevailed, these awesome men; the forces of evil were ravaged.

I can scarcely credit the courage and determination of those men. But I certainly can remember and honor it, on this anniversary.

I hope you will as well.

Some resources on D-Day: here, here, here, here, and here.

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