Saturday, June 06, 2015

Anniversary: Longest Day, Aftermath

Just to note, the size and scope of the Normandy landings on June 6 1944 was the largest amphibious landing of troops to that time.  We committed 156,000 troops to the beach, going against 50,000 German troops in hardened fortifications.  Allies - American, British, Canadian, Free French forces, others - gained a fragile foothold by day's end at the cost of 4,000-plus dead and thousands more wounded.

After all that, the Allies left memorials in the form of statues, maps (the beaches were un-named before the war: now every location is based on the operation's code names), and cemeteries... some of the most haunting cemeteries you would ever see.

The rows of crosses, and Stars of David, at the Normandy American Cemetery... there are no words.  When people visit to pay respects to the fallen, there is hushed reverence at the loudest and stunned silence often.

The graves sit within view of the Channel, of the very beaches those men stormed to save the world.

I'm really not joking about the "save the world" line.  When you look back at how evil the Nazis were, how dark a place our whole world was falling into, World War II comes across as a high fantasy epic struggle between GOOD and EVIL.  To quote the Encyclopedia of Fantasy:

...WWII, on the other hand, has been remembered as a melodrama, full of strange and uncanny ups and downs, with terrifying new weapons galore, feats of derring-do on a daily basis, and (an)tagonists who were not only Monsters in real life but also, in fictional terms, highly effective Icons of villainy. Despite the attempts of propagandists on both sides, no wholly evil figure emerges from WWI to occupy the world's imagination, no one of a viciousness so unmitigated that it seems almost supernatural: Hitler, on the other hand, has all the lineaments of a Dark Lord, and the Reich he hoped to found was a Parody of the true Land...

George R.R. Martin referred to how that war warped our perceptions of how unjust wars can be, as WWII was proven one of the few "just" wars Western civilization can accept.  Today, we have politicians who keep railing against their opposition in terms of how much like Hitler their enemies are, because of the moral clarity of opposing Hitler then still carries meaning now.

And still, as in all wars, men died.  Remember this.


dinthebeast said...

I remember last year, when they were having huge celebrations for the 60th anniversary, there was one story that I really enjoyed. An old veteran in England, who lived at a retirement community, went missing the day before, and they were frantically searching for him. They received a phone call from France, from one of the massive celebrations honoring veterans like him who had participated in the landing saying "Yes we have him, and no he's not coming home until the party is over, and he hopes he's not going to be in a lot of trouble when he gets there."

-Doug in Oakland

dinthebeast said...

I'm sorry, I said 60th, but meant 70th.

-Doug in Oakland