Seventy years ago, tens of thousands of men stood in ships and crashed ashore on the Normandy Peninsula in France. At the time it wasn’t really France. It was part of the conquered territory of Nazi Germany. The plan was simple: boat over from England and take Europe back from the Nazis. Do so well enough that the Russians would not take all of Germany and most of France and turn it Communist.
Simple, right? Except that the English Channel had been an effective barrier against invasion in either direction for nearly 1,000 years. Even English invasions of France had gone into neutral or friendly ports, rather than being opposed landings. The last time, that I can find, any large force crossed the Channel successfully was when William the Conqueror did so in 1066. And keep in mind that he faced an England that had just exhaustingly repelled the Vikings for the last time, so they were worn out, and far out of position. (Just—as in the same year!)
Tackling the invasion of Hitler’s Europe was not a simple task, then, after all. The weight of history was against it. The weight of logic was against it.
Only the weight of heroism bred of necessity was for it.
Seventy years ago we saw the strength of audacity and necessity applied against evil. It should remind us of a few things.
First, that liberty is not guaranteed unless there are those who guarantee it with their lives.
Second, that liberty lost costs a great deal to regain.
Third, that we are heirs to a strong heritage, passed on from many generations before. Yes, those generations also made mistakes, but a world dominated by Hitler and Nazis never ends segregation. It never corrects Civil Rights issues.
So before we condemn the prior generations for the blindspots they had, let us remember the things they saw clearly. They saw:
Underwater obstacles. A large seawall. Pointe du Hoc. Machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, scattered landings, tidal drifts…
And they saw the way forward into it. Not around it, not away from it. But straight into it.
May I have the courage to go straight ahead when the need requires it.
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