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Note: This editorial appeared in the May 22 edition of The Cheshire Herald:
It happened so long ago that, for the current generation, the events of D-Day are better known as one level in a popular video game rather than a history-changing battle.
Yet this Memorial Day, which comes 12 days before the world marks D-Day’s 70th anniversary, is as good a time as any for all generations to remember the extraordinary sacrifice made on the beaches of Normandy so long ago.
Few who lived through that momentous battle remain as, unfortunately, members of what Tom Brokaw described as the “greatest generation” continue to die each year due to age and/or illness. What we are left with are the pictures and grainy video of the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944. As such, our connection to that day and that war seems to thin with the passing of time, the way it has for Bunker Hill and Gettysburg.
But seven decades removed from D-Day, the importance of that invasion has not diminished.
It seems now that victory for the Allies was assured, as well as the subsequent dissolution of Nazi Germany. However, when the offensive was launched, there was no such promise of a positive outcome.
There was no backup plan in place had the offensive failed. Defeat would have meant that one of the few areas capable of supporting the opening salvo of an invasion into occupied Europe would have been all but permanently closed, and the beaches at Normandy didn’t exactly offer an inviting landscape on which to begin a military campaign to begin with. And, considering that D-Day was the largest amphibious operation ever undertaken, the destruction of that invading force, both in terms of personnel and hardware, would have been devastating.
In other words, had D-Day failed it would have completely changed the outcome of the war and world history.
Countless books have been written about the planning of the offensive—the obstacles, the risks taken by military leaders. The real story of D-Day, however, is the one that is celebrated every Memorial Day. It is the story of those who never returned to tell it themselves. It’s the story of the young men who died bravely on those beaches or charging the hills.
Each year at this time, we are reminded to thank those who served and honor those who fell. In Cheshire, the town’s only major parade is reserved for this particular holiday, and that seems appropriate. Memorial Day should both be a time for somber reflection on the true costs of freedom and a celebration of our heroes, who made a parade possible through their sacrifice.
This year, however, we should all spend some time thinking about the events of June 6, 1944, when the world was battling against a truly evil enemy who viewed genocide as simply a means to their larger goal of world dominance. The men who boarded those transports that June morning were walking into Hell, one they knew would most likely take their lives in the most painful of ways.
They did it anyway. They buried their fear, their natural inclination toward self preservation, and landed on those beaches.
All who participated in that battle will be honored on June 6, but we can all take time to remember them on Monday as well.