Today is 68 years after June 6th, 1944.
That was the day upon which thousands of basically kids from Canada, the US and Great Britain departed their pitching and shuddering landing craft and went ashore at what is in ordinary times a favored vacation area on the north coast of France – the beaches of Normandy.
I’ve often tried to fathom what could have been going through the minds of those young men who had to know that in terms of insurance actuarial figures there life expectancy from the moment of departure would be calibrated in minutes.
And should they die, it would not be an easy or neat-and-clean death, it would be a brutal and messy one and it’s simple to understand the poor bastards that prayed for a wound – not a big wound, but big enough to knock them out of commission for the rest of the conflict.
Those that didn’t die on that day were wounded, shot later as they wended their way through the streets of the little Norman towns, or were taken prisoner by what Churchill referred to as “Hitler and his Nazi gang.”
And why did these poor guys do what they did? They did it for the same reasons that in the years to follow they also went to Korea, and to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They did it to preserve a certain belief structure, and also to let the rest of us get our big screen TVs and mobile phones of all descriptions and to whine and fret about this or that indignity.
They also did it so that ‘democratic’ governments (the soldiers were out there fighting for ‘democracy’, after all) would have the right to ride roughshod over good folks trying to cope back home. That’s known as ‘freedom’.
They also fought so that a lot of spoiled brats of all ages could decry the fact that not everything is coming in their direction and that some people still believe a little sacrifice is in order.
I don’t want this to turn cynical because it’s designed to be a remembrance, but I think we should all try to empathize with this poor seasick sods sitting in those lurching and pitching LCPs wondering if they’d ever see the missus, or Mom, or Pop, or Rover ever again.
Could I do what they did? I have no way of knowing, but somehow I cannot imagine it. And I am very grateful I never had to find out, thanks to what those guys did.