They were there 68 years ago today. Could I have done the same thing? Sadly I think not.

Today is June 6th.

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.

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8 responses to “They were there 68 years ago today. Could I have done the same thing? Sadly I think not.

  1. My mother was working in London when the build up to D Day took place….endless lorries filled with young men, stopping at the British Restaurant over the way for tea and rolls.
    Among the men was one she knew from a previous posting…a man from an Italian family which had settled in Britain (in Yarmouth…I wonder if you ever used his families tea rooms in your time there) in the 1890s…and he said he did not know how he was going to get through it, except that he knew he would because he wouldn’t let his mates down.
    It was a theme both my parents reiterated of their time in the Army…it wasn’t about ‘the cause’, it was about your mates.

    And so much for all the wars to end war…where are children of our poor today? Fighting someone else’s war in Afghanistan…..

    • Touching offering and I am consistently amazed at the bravery of those who were there. As for the tea rooms, perhaps we did, but it’s so long ago now I don’t fully recall. There was an Italian family that ran a fabulous little restaurant that we went to often in Yarmouth.

  2. Problem being, they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. They were drafted in to be used as cannon fodder – as you would have been. Thankfully it never came to that for our generation and those following.

    • Actually an amazing number of them were volunteers who believed they were fighting for democracy and the greater good. So, what happened to all of that. WTF are we now fighting for in a place like Afghanistan?

  3. I think I’ve told you that Dad’s uncle drove one of those boats that dropped off the men to their doom. He never got over it.

    • I bet he didn’t. I know I wouldn’t have. Vets who saw Saving Private Ryan, as good as it was, say it didn’t even come close to the actual horrors.

  4. Could anyone one of us do it?

    Let’s hope we never have to find out.

    Pearl

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