This Great And Noble Undertaking

I first wrote this piece in 2009.   I’ve updated it, bit by bit, on successive D-Day anniversaries.  I’m reprising it today:

It was sixty-seven years ago today that the Allies started taking Western Europe back from the Nazis.

The first, inevitable step was to get past the Westwall – perhaps the most immense set of fortifications ever built, with the intention of making the beaches from Denmark to the Spanish border a bloodbath for any troops trying to cross the beaches.

In places, it worked:

In some places, the troops had to overcome the near-impossible:

And yet by the end of the day, nine allied divisions were ashore, a toehold for a bridgehead that would eventually expand, ten months later, across Western Europe.

There were troops from the US, of course, on the two western beaches…

…and farther east, beaches with Brits…

…and Scots…

And in the middle, linking the two and meeting the worst resistance other than Omaha, the Canadians:

Troops from the Canadian Third Division coming ashore at Juno Beach – where the ferocity and difficulty of the fighting was exceeded only by Omaha Beach.

…along with troops-in-exile from elsewhere in occupied Europe; French commandos – some of whom had spent four years in exile, and who spent the next year belying the notion that the French were cowards…:

…and Norwegians, who’d been without a homeland for four years…

HNoMS Svenner – sunk by German gunfire off Sword Beach.

…and Poles, who’d been in exile for five years and would, in some cases, remain there for forty-five more:

The world may see nothing like it again.

So – thank a D-Day veteran.

Here’s President Reagan’s address to the survivors of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion, thirty years ago today…:

…who at this time seventy years ago, French Time, were still a day away from being relieved by the troops coming in from Omaha Beach.

9 thoughts on “This Great And Noble Undertaking

  1. If those brave men could have foreseen what’s been happening in Europe over the past 30 or so years, how many would have been willing to storm ashore? I remember my uncle, who fought in Europe, telling me a few years before he passed, that “in hindsight, we should have let the damn Germans have it”!

  2. Nothing like a Reagan speech to remind me of what politicians used to sound like when they talked.

  3. I know it wasnt Normandy but my maternal Grandfather was a green recruit right out of basic and was thrown in as cannon fodder. He got shot in the leg and had a shot bounce off his belt-buckle. My number one regret in life is that I never got to talk about it with him but to be fair he never talked about it with anyone, even his wife, ever. They truly were the greatest generation and my pathetic generation cant hold a candle to those great men and women who saved this world from the greatest evil we have ever seen

  4. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 06.06.18 : The Other McCain

  5. NW
    “U.S.’s strong relations with Germany.”
    we still have 35k troops in Germany keeping an eye on the them in case they start feeling the need for additional Lebensraum again.

  6. Anytime I see a alt-right or crazy fringe nutter post something along the lines “Hitler did nothing wrong” It makes me want to jump through the computer screen and beat them to within a inch of their lives.

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