I was 12 years old when the movie “The Longest Day” was released. It left me horrified, curious and fascinated. I was also profoundly impressed by the valor, honor and heroism of so many young men who were only a few years older than I was. June 6, 1944 is a day that is enshrined in the memories of all freedom-loving people. The greatest amphibious assault in human history is simply remembered by most as “D Day.”
After reading a few books in the school library on D Day, I had my reticent mother drive me to the “tombs” of Times Mirror Square so that I could read the newspaper accounts on the days following the great liberation. I later acquired the histories of World War II written by Winston Churchill. I have always preferred original source accounts over opinion-riddled books by reinterpreting writers steeped in modern context.
The exact number of Americans who were killed on June 6 and the days following are unclear. I have read the numbers to be as high as 20,000. Many say lower. From “history extra,” “Overall, however, the Normandy campaign was brutal and spectacularly violent. Including both sides as well as civilians – and some 15,000 French civilians were killed – the average daily casualty rate of each of the 77 days of the battle was 6,675: higher than the Somme, Passchendaele and Verdun in the First World War.”
About 10 years ago, I visited the American Cemetery in Normandy. I placed a flower on a grave of one of our fallen and thanked him. I close with one of the greatest speeches in American History.
The Gettysburg Address
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that our nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
November 19, 1863
God save our country.