D-Day, like other anniversaries of great historical import, can at times feel too familiar. Like a poem or a passage of Scripture that one has read or heard many times, the day’s enormous significance marking the beginning of the end of the Nazi terror is easily obscured by our feeling that we know all there is to know about it. After all, the figures don’t change from year to year: 160,000 Allied troops, supported by more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft, landed along a 50-mile stretch of French coastline. While the Allies sustained major casualties–9,000 killed or wounded–more than 100,000 troops would go on to march across the Continent to defeat Hitler.
But even though the narrative doesn’t change and the figures stay the same, there’s indeed a living component to history — a way in which the lessons of the past can apply to present circumstances. In the case of D-Day, our own Victor Davis Hanson wrote that
[T]he Normandy campaign reminds us that war is by nature horrific, fraught with foolish error – and only won by the side that commits the least number of mistakes. Our grandfathers knew that. So they pressed on as best they could, convinced that they needn’t be perfect, only good enough, to win.
The American lesson of D-Day and its aftermath was how to overcome occasional abject stupidity while never giving up in the face of an utterly savage enemy. We need to remember that now more than ever.
Lastly, to see D-Day in a truly new light, look no further than this magnificent Life Magazine gallery of color photographs documenting the days surrounding the invasion. As Life puts it, these “pictures feel at-once profoundly familiar and somehow utterly, vividly new.”