D-Day – Taking the Moment

NOTE: This post was first published on June 6, 2013.

Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe at the Normandy beaches of northern France.  “To set free a suffering humanity” is how Franklin Roosevelt defined its purpose that evening. Earlier in the morning Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower broadcast to the troops this message:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade…. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies … you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one…. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle…. Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Among the young Americans who landed on Omaha Beach in the second assault wave was my uncle Eli Lines. Two days later, somewhere far from home in the French countryside, he would mark his 22nd birthday.

Eli & His Wife Mary circa 1945

But on June 6, 1944 as he fought his way ashore, fighting for his very survival — to reach dry, safer ground — left behind, he noted, were the bodies of hundreds of dead or dying Americans. The casualties at Omaha Beach alone would number in the thousands. He once told me, “the water was red with blood.” It was in fact the bloodiest battle in American history since the Civil War. The first 21-minutes of the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan vividly depicts the chaos, the suffering, the inhumanity, the bravery. In reality it was far worse, much more difficult than portrayed. No movie could ever do that fight justice.

In 1945 when Eli returned home he like many of his fellow combat soldiers was a changed man, but no doubt a better man forged by unmentionable horror, suffering and sacrifice. One thing is certain, he lived a good and honorable life. My uncle is gone now and around 1000 World War II veterans die each day. Too soon the time will come when they’ll all be gone. But what they did and what they accomplished at those beaches and across Europe and throughout the Pacific — those young men of the Greatest Generation should never be forgotten.

The Allied landing on the beaches at Normandy marked the beginning of the end of World War II — a conflict of such vast suffering as to defy comprehension. Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Atkinson wrote: “This is the greatest catastrophe in human history. There’s 60 million people who die in World War II. It’s a death every three seconds for six years.” In his new book about the liberation of Europe, The Guns at Last Light, Atkinson quotes a German general who called the battle for Normandy “a monstrous blood mill.”

Let us never forget June 6, 1944 …

Normandy Cross

14 thoughts on “D-Day – Taking the Moment

      1. Thanks Rick. My family had quite a few in WWII and at least me in the “Police Action” and my brother in Viet Nam. All with no casualties but the current mess has finally caught up with us.

        The grandson of one of those WWII vets, my first cousin, had both legs blown off while attempting to aid other wounded. He is a medic. My deepest sympathies to those who lost loved ones in all the wars. I remember many of the “Gold Star” flags in windows from WWII.

      2. Lew, thanks for your comment, especially from your perspective. I can’t even imagine seeing those gold stars in neighborhood windows, but I suspect it was a common sight in those days.

        Heartbreaking to think of the loss in American lives and what might have been had they been spared. Thanks too for your service.

  1. Good story Rick.. We owe those guys of WWII a huge debt. I never miss the opportunity to thank them when I see them for allowing me to grow up not speaking German or Japanese.

    Sorry for the troubles you speak of. Hope things get better you from now on.


    1. Lee, so good to hear from you. I know I have some ‘splaining to do. I hope this finds all well. Like you I have the highest regard for our vets and especially for those who served in World War II and always express to them my appreciation. Someday there won’t be any to thank.

      Thanks to you too! A career Marine and later one who served in law enforcement. The best to you for a well-deserved retirement.

      We’ll talk soon.

  2. Hello Rick! Nice to see you back.
    Add my father, Albert Hoak to those who fought In WWII and came back a changed man.

    After being awarded 5 Bronze Stars, how could you not be changed in some way?

    1. Mary, thank you for mentioning your father and remembering his service and sacrifice. Five Bronze Stars is quite an achievement.

      The Bronze Star — for those who may not know — is awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone.

      Like everyone who has left comments thank you for taking the time to read my writings and especially for your comment. I hope you’ll come back again. All the best to you and your family.

  3. Really a very nice, very pleasant surprise to see your post today! Been wondering where you are, what you’ve been doing over the period of your absence. I very much enjoyed reading this piece though. Maybe “enjoyed” is not really the best word to use there but you made your point, a very good, very valid one, and said it in the best way I thought possible -ergo, I enjoyed reading it as informative, interesting, educational and also, hits at the heart in a very strong way. Don’t stay away so long now.

    1. Jeni,

      Thank you for your visit and your comment. It’s good to hear from you.

      I’ve lots to write about, it’s just a matter of taking the time to do it. These posts don’t come easy but it’s all worth the effort in the long-run because of people like you.

      Thank you again.

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