D-Day and Memory

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Seventy-three years since D-Day.  In the first law firm I worked for in 1982 the Senior Partner had lost a son on Omaha Beach.  A former partner of the firm was now a Judge, and still walked with a limp from being shot up on Omaha Beach.  Another partner had been with the Eighth Air Force in England, helping to plot flight missions in support of D-Day.  This was in a five man firm, including myself.  D-Day left its mark on this nation, with its approximately 3,000 dead and 6000 wounded Americans, but with the passage of time the memories of that time grow fainter.  All three of the men connected with the firm I worked for are now deceased and their living memories of that longest day are gone with them.

About 620,000 of the sixteen million American who served in World War II are now left.  They are leaving us now at the rate of 500 a day.  The youngest of them now are in their ninth decade.  All too soon the men who fought in the Great Crusade as Eisenhower termed it, will be joining Washington’s Continentals, the Blue and the Gray, the Rough Riders and the Doughboys, as figures of history, no longer people we can talk to and meet. 

Color film of the D-Day landings reminds us of the limitations of the historical record in conveying the reality of any historical event to those who did not experience it.  Soon World War II will depart living memory and become the province only of the historians.  Inevitable, but sad to those of us who recall the men and women who lived through these years, who spoke with them and felt some fragment of the passions of those times.  Time is a river and it bears us all away, along with our memories and the passions of our life.   The best memorial to our veterans who helped save the world from monstrous tyranny is to live our lives in such a way that we can rightly say, in the words of Lincoln, that these dead shall not have died in vain.

 

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11 Comments

  1. “Uncommon courage was a common virtue.”

    “Greet them ever with grateful hearts.” And, say a prayer of thanksgiving for God has graced America with many humble heroes. For humility is a virtue. Think of Mary when the Angel Gabriel greeted her, “Hail, full of grace!”.

  2. Amen. Living in Truth and Freedom to do what is right and good.

    To say that these brave souls gave up their last breath so women may slaughter their own babies or men may sodomize their neighbors is an affront to these true heroes. Our “D” day is coming. A wave of heavenly helpers will one day reach Earth’s shores. When they do they will not loose one soldier nor will they be defeated in their quest to free those who have been battling the ultimate war. The Standard of Christ will reign.

    Too those who value what God values…God be with you.
    God bless our Veterans.

  3. Today I think of my dad Larry who as an AAF meteorologist gave the forecast for the D Day invasions and later on the Continent, my Uncle Bill who was a glider pilot that day and then was in N Africa, my uncles Dick and Howell who were infantry officers at Anzio and in the Battle of the Bulge, and Howell’s wife, Aunt Florence who signed up as a WAC when her husband joined. It also brings to mind the summer of 1960 when my dad took us to the Normandy beaches and Anzio Beach, and to sites of many First and Second World War battles. Most vivid memories are of the cemeteries for the Allies with miles and miles of white crosses and stars of David. All family of that generation are gone now and in a better place.

  4. My great uncle Mike fought on D Day and in the Battle of the Bulge. He died 36 years ago. The only stories I have are those my dad told me of Uncle Mike sending home German medals and other things like a helmet.

    It seems strange to me that when I was a boy in the 1970s most WWII vets were still around and now they are almost all gone.

  5. I had the privilege to take care of WW2 vets when I worked in assisted living in the ’90’s. The Alzheimers patients couldn’t tell you their name, but they could tell you when they were wounded. One of our Parkinson’s patients had been a nurse in the British Navy on the beach at D-Day. However, his proudest accomplishment seems to have been his ship’s action against the Graf Spee. He didn’t talk about D-Day. Later when I worked in restaurants, I met a D-Day participant and a three-war veteran who were regular customers. The D-Day participant unfortunately committed suicide when he was diagnosed with cancer. Such a shame to have survived that, only to kill himself as an elderly man. The 3-war veteran had been captured in Korea, but escaped before he could be moved to a POW camp. He later served in Vietnam, then retired and became a police officer later in life.
    Loved those people!

  6. A privilege that my wife and I shared was being the chaperones for our NW Michigan WWII Veterans visit to DC on memorial day weekend in 2010.

    We stopped by Shanksville Flight 93 crash site in route to Washington. A suggestion that our driver made. An excellent choice.

    The WWII Memorial was filled.

    At the golden star reflection pool an Marine corps sargent stood in full dress uniform giving a speech to whomever would stop to listen. Next to this man was a fallen soldier set…….boots with rifle standing upright and helmet topping the rifle. He said this was his younger brothers boots. He was KIA in the Gulf war. His talk was guided by the Holy Spirit and our small band of veterans listened while tears welled up in our eyes.

    Children were in the front of the crowd that gathered for this impromptu speech. He provided them an unforgettable experience and lesson that freedom is not free. What an honor.

    By far the best trip we have ever made.
    Outdoing Honolulu, Brisbane, Christchurch, and Alaska. That motorcoach carried the best our nation ever had to defend freedom from tyrants on both sides of U.S.

    My uncle Joe, Joseph Taylor, served under General Patton as a tank driver. He survived the war but suffered PTSD.
    Uncle Joe was my Godfather.

    God bless all of our vet’s.

  7. Around this country at many many cemeteries, and around the world, there are tombstones for vetarans, like my Dad, with one line amidst the listing of medals and rank and honors, that one word is “Normandy.” He too was in the 8th Air Force of the Army Air Corps and bombed inland from the beaches that day. He flew 35 missions in his B17-10 more than he needed to-after 25 you could go home and most did; but for 10 missions, he laid down his life for a friend, literally, since if he had not gone up, someone else would have had to. And that is the story of this entire generation of men, real men, they all laid down their lives for their friends. No greater love. Guy McClung [III]. Texas

  8. So well said, Guy. Real men. Thanks for sharing your dad’s exploits. My dad was with the 91st Bombardment Group, 8th AF at RAF-USAAF Basingbourn base. He died in 2004 though “Ragged Irregulars” newsletter continued to arrive until 2015. We never grew tired reading the wartime reminiscences. Thank you to all who shared their family stories on this post.
    .

  9. My fiery uncle, Jack T. Toups (d. Mar.16, 1976) landed with the first wave with the 1st Infantry Division (“Big Red One leads the way”) at Omaha Beach and fought on through May, 1945 and VE day.

    I regret now not asking him as a lad to tell more of his eyewitness experiences, but he was so tough, loud, gruff, profanity-laden, colorful in his language, and intimidating even in his senior years (though he tried hard to be civil), we knew the Wehrmacht had their hands full when he waded ashore that day in June, 1944..

  10. “had their hands full when he waded ashore that day in June, 1944.”

    Sounds like my great uncle Bill Barry who fought with the British Army from Normandy to the fall of Germany. He said he joined the British Army in 1939 because “someone needed to teach the Limeys how to fight!”

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