D-Day: 75 Years Later

Posted on: June 5, 2019, by :

By Jeff Turner and J. M. Whitt

This Thursday is the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, the Allied Invasion of Normandy during World War II. On this day in 1944, tens of thousands of Allied soldiers from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Australia risked their lives storming the beaches of Normandy in an attempt to gain a foothold in Nazi-occupied France. The plan for the operation, led by General and future President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was for Allied forces to establish five beachheads on the shores of Northwest France, and from there fight their way South to eventually establish a presence on the European mainland, according to multiple sources detailing the invasion. The Battle of Normandy marked the turning point in the war, and laid the groundwork for the liberation of Europe from the Nazis and an Allied victory. It was the largest seabourne invasion in history, according to the BBC and other sources. An estimated 4,400 soldiers lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy, and almost ten thousand wereinjured.

So what do people say about it today?

“I think that a lot of guys went into a situation that was really scary (for them) and a lot of people today don’t know how scary that that had to have been,” said Jim, an older gentleman who was with his grandson on the Butler campus on the Northwest side of Indianapolis. He went on to say, “My Uncle had been on the beaches in Normandy that day. I remember him saying how scared he was when the boat door dropped down and bullets were flying by.” According to him, his Uncle “was never the same again” after D-Day.

He raised an excellent point however in his first statement, for there does appear to be a drought of knowledge of the events of June 6, 1944.

“I don’t know much about it” said one woman who works at Butler and asked not to be identified. “I know that most war isn’t as peaceful as we would like it to be but when our allies are attacked, it escalates from there.” She went onto say that many wars seem to usually be about money or religion. And that “history is not my forte.”

Alex, a Butler Student, had heard of D-Day. “It’s important that we recognize it,” she said. She learned about it in Social Studies classes in Middle School and from traveling in Europe.

But most people, if you were to ask them about D-Day, would have no idea what you were talking about, at least younger millennials. Why is it that people tend to not have a good grasp of history nowadays? It is said that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. And it’s important to have an understanding of the past.

For example, what would have happened if the D-Day invasion never transpired? There are a great many possibilities. Most likely the Nazis would have continued their persecution of European Jews and other “undesirables.” Whether or not the Nazis and Axis Powers would have conquered the rest of Europe or the world is uncertain. But the atrocities that were being committed by the Nazis are beyond words. The Holocaust, the genocide of over six million European Jews, and others, all because of the warped philosophy of racial superiority championed by Hitler, what would have happened had the Allies not managed to turn the war around and ultimately prevail? Would we even know of the extent of the Nazi regime’s pure, unbridled cruelty and pure evil, for lack of a better term?

People being herded into train cars like cattle, housed in ghettoes, then corralled into concentration camps for wholesale slaughter, morality and basic human dignity forgotten.

And the defense of those who helped carry out the brutality of the Nazis, the ones caught up in that nationalistic fervor that allowed Hitler to rise to power? They were only following orders. This is what was at stake seventy-five years ago, the Nazis continuing to maintain control of Europe, possibly even expanding farther, unless stopped. Knowing the significance of this historical event is vital in ensuring that it never happens again.

What do we do with this knowledge? We show respect. We honor and remember. And, most importantly, we learn.

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