Wednesday, June 6, 2012


June 6, 1944 Allied Invasion of Normandy


 Today is June 6, 2012 the 68th anniversary of the amphibious assault by Allied forces upon the German forces dug into the coast line of Normandy. Despite the frequent claims of some of the book store elves here at American Admiralty Books of being "two days older than water and one day older than dirt" the truth is that none of us were there sixty eight years ago. But several of us had a horse in that race in the form of fathers and grand fathers who, luckily for them, and us, made it back in one piece so that the earth could eventually be littered with gnarled and grizzled old seamen turned nautical arts and science teachers and book critics. 

 While I wasn't there 68 years ago, I was there forty years ago when many who were adults in 1946 were simply middle aged with vivid memories. I walked the beach at Normandy where our fathers and grandfathers stormed it. I brought to that walk the eye of a young sailor trained in the amphibious assault doctrine of the 1960s, "vertical envelopment". Had I been there I would have been one of the "Beach Masters" helping to guide in the landing craft and organize the immediate landing zone assuming that I survived my first few attempts at visual signaling. One look told me that the Germans had the high ground that day. No matter how much the ships off shore attempted to "soften" the German defenses the defenders were dug in deep enough to survive in large numbers with their fire power intact. 

 Freedom carried the "longest day" but the price was high. Fortunately for all of us alive to read this where ever our ancestors were on the "longest day" they survived and we are here. But thousands of young men died without ever becoming fathers. With them also went tens of thousands more never to be born. Some would have become doctors, lawyers, engineers, moms, dads, or something really lucrative like plummers. Some no doubt' would have become another generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen who would eventually defend freedom in other places and morph into old gnarled and grizzled sailors hacking out a living reviewing nautical books. 

 The world is richer by the sacrifice of that long ago generation in terms of freedom, but the real loss is beyond counting. We should always pause to remember D day, the "longest day" that switched back on the light of freedom in Europe. If you can't get to Bedford, Virginia today take a moment and visit the D day memorial in cyberspace via the hyperlink below. The D Day memorial is located in Bedford because Bedford lost more men on D Day  in proportion to its size than any other American community. In 1944 the population of Bedford, Virginia was about 3,200. On D day they lost 19 men. Most of the families of Bedford lost a father, brother, or cousin that day for our future freedom. Bedford wasn't alone, only emblematic of the sacrifice of many American communities. 

 Freedom isn't free, pause and remember and take a little cyber journey with us to the D Day memorial. Click on the hyperlink below and remember, or if like us, you are too young to remember,  stop and appreciate.

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