June 6, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the turning points of World War II: D-Day, the Allied invasion of France at Normandy. The Allied forces, American, British and Canadian, began to drive back the forces of Nazi Germany that had occupied France since 1940.
The Allies had been making preparations for this day for more than two years. It was said so much military hardware had been stockpiled in Southern England, there was fear the island might sink into the ocean.
There was no guarantee the invasion would be successful. There were literally thousands of things that could go wrong. There had been no successful invasions over the English Channel since the Normans did it in 1066. The German commander, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, said that, if the Allies weren’t driven back into the sea on the first day, there would no stopping their drive to Berlin.
The bad weather helped the Allies. The Germans believed the Allies wouldn’t invade in bad weather, and rain was predicted for several days.
There was a break in the weather June 6, and the Allies used it to make the invasion. The fighting was bloody, and it’s likely more Allied troops were killed by mistakes than anything else. By the end of the day, however, the Allies had not been driven back into the sea. This day marked the beginning of the end of Nazi rule in Western Europe.
There are some interesting scenes in the epic film about D-Day, “The Longest Day,” that involve German Gen. Erich Marcks. The Germans had war games planned for June 6, and he was to play the role of Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower. Early in the film, he told an aide the Germans had always planned on the Allies invading at the most narrow point of the channel, near Calais, France, and in good weather.
Marcks said that, if he were Eisenhower, he would invade at the widest part of the channel, Normandy, and in bad weather, like they were experiencing at the time.
Later in the film, as Marcks’ headquarters is being evacuated as the Allies advance, he briefly smiles in satisfaction as he understands Eisenhower did exactly what he thought he should do.
What would’ve happened if the invasion had failed? The Western Allies may have had to make some sort of accommodation with Nazi Germany. There’s also the possibility the Soviets (Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941) might not have stopped at Berlin. They might have kept going and extended Communist over all of Western Europe. The people there would’ve found themselves exchanging one horrible dictatorship for another.
There’s a reason the World War II generation has been called “The Greatest Generation.” They saved the world from the Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, and then held off the Communists in the Cold War. They also rebuilt America. We owe an incredible debt to those veterans of World War II.
In fact, one could say we owe a great debt to all of America’s veterans. They served for us, and they continue to serve after they get home. Some of the most civic-minded groups around are veterans’ groups. We owe them a lot.
Now, we have a chance to pay back some of that debt. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7061 burned down Sunday, May 26. The building is a total loss, and will need to be completely rebuilt. This is a chance for the community to come together to let our veterans know how much we appreciate them.
There have already been promises of donations from the community, as well as other veterans’ groups around the state and the nation. We can come together and build our veterans a facility that will be first rate, and will reflect the pride they feel in their service to the nation and to their community.
Veterans, the Pioneer salutes you for protecting America and the freedoms we enjoy. We will hope you any way we can as you rebuild, and we hope the rest of the community will do the same.