When I was young my father took me to see a re-release of “The Longest Day” at a movie theater in Fairfax. I forget the operating name, but it’s the one on Rte. 50 that was converted to a car dealer many years ago.
On the drive home I asked him if he landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944…
“No, I came ashore at Normandy off a troop ship and a landing craft on August 8, 1944″…and then, after a pause, he said, “But do you now what day Hitler started pulling his troops out of the Hedgerow country?
Having already seen “Patton”, I understood the importance of this action. “No, sir…when?”
“August 9, 1944. And you know why he pulled out that day?”
“Because he was told I landed at Normandy on August 8, 1944!”
The young men who boiled out of the landing crafts on D-Day and continued to crowd onto the Beaches through the summer of 1944 saved the world by waging “war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime” (as Mr. Churchill put it in 1940).
It was not an easy path. All gave some, some gave all.
It has become all too easy to refer to them as The Greatest Generation. But let’s not forget behind the title the courage, the drive, the sheer refusal to stop that caused these young men to climb Point du Hoc, sweep to and through the hedgerows, slug it out toe to toe with the Wermacht in the bitter winter of 1944, refuse to buckle to the terror of the Buzz Bombs, slash through the Siegfried Line, liberate the Death Camps, and ultimately destroy the Nazi menace and the threat “of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science.” (also Winston)
Each day we lose a few more of them-my father passed last September. So on this lovely June 6 let’s not just pause to remember a day when so many gave so much. If you get the chance, actually pause and thank one of them…because in the not so distant future the boys of Pointe du Hoc and those like them will be gone.
And when that time comes, the only way to thank them will be by following the example and keeping the memory fresh and green.