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What you’re about to read deserves much better than the rude ignoramuses protesting the American president in London (not representative of all Britons I suspect) and reporting here at home have enacted in recent hours. It is a story of courage the likes of which this world rarely encounters, and it engenders gratitude and sorrow every time. It is D-Day.
From a New York Times article (hopefully those like me who don’t subscribe can also view) on journalist Ernie Pyle who was embedded with the troops on D-Day:
The landing ramps slapped down into the surf, and a catastrophic hail of gunfire erupted from the bluffs. The ensuing slaughter was merciless.
Allied troops kept landing, wave after wave, and by midday they had crossed the 300 yards of sandy killing ground, scaled the bluffs and overpowered the German defenses. By the end of the day, the beaches had been secured and the heaviest fighting had moved at least a mile inland. In the biggest and most complicated amphibious operation in military history, it wasn’t bombs, artillery or tanks that overwhelmed the Germans; it was men — many of them boys, really — slogging up the beaches and crawling over the corpses of their friends that won the Allies a toehold at the western edge of Europe.
Later in the piece:
Pyle’s first column about the D-Day landings…gave his readers an honest accounting of how daunting the invasion had been — and what a miracle it was that the Allies had taken the beaches at all. “The advantages were all theirs,” Pyle said of the German defenders: concrete gun emplacements and hidden machine-gun nests “with crossfire taking in every inch of the beach,” immense V-shaped ditches, buried mines, barbed wire, “whole fields of evil devices under the water to catch our boats” and “four men on shore for every three men we had approaching the shore.” “And yet,” Pyle concluded, “we got on.”
Queen Elizabeth II speaking before President Trump and various other world leaders and service members at D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth on June 5th said the following words:
My father King George VI said, ‘What is demanded from us all is something more than courage and endurance. We need a revival of spirit, a new unconquerable resolve.’ That is exactly what those brave men brought to the battle as the fate of the world depended on their success…. It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country, indeed the whole free world that I say to you all, “Thank you”.
Her nearly two-minute address is worth the watch. Begins with some lovely British dry wit with her noting how some thought at her attending the 60th anniversary of D-Day that it would be the last, but “the war generation, my generation, is resilient….”
There’s a scene in Saving Private Ryan that brings tears and sobs more than any other in the movie for me. When the launch gates drop down…those are Americans being portrayed. This scene was so realistic in representing what happened on Omaha Beach that day that some WWII veterans who watched it suffered PTSD.
“It was men that won the Allies a toehold….. The advantages were all [the Germans]…but we got on.” NYT June 5, 2019.