A brief note in remembrance of D-Day, June 6, 1944–the day upon which the Allied forces landed, at enormous risk to themselves, upon the beaches of Normandy, France to begin the long-planned invasion to free Europe from the occupation and domination of Nazi Germany.
So many things went wrong that day for the Allies that the only conclusion I’ve been able to draw from the facts is they succeeded by sheer, overwhelming numbers against the soldiers and weapons arrayed against them on those murderous beaches. James Doohan, part of the Canadian forces on Juno Beach, was wounded four times in the leg and lost a finger on his left hand, but he survived, did his job, and came home to live again. We know him today, and will remember him, as Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott on Star Trek; but I myself will remember–always–the kind of man he truly was on that singular day so long ago when every warrior on those beaches was scared to death.
The wisdom or unwisdom of making war will be debated among us until the last man and woman has faded from the earth and the stars go out. We can regard going to war, I suppose, as a kind of failure–a failure of diplomacy, certainly; but more generally, a failure of the ways of peace. But, in my view, there was no choice but war for the generation coming of age in 1939. The exhausted peoples of Europe didn’t want to police each other. They didn’t want to police Hitler’s Germany or Tojo’s Japan, despite clear evidence that they needed to do so. Failure or not, however, the truly remarkable thing is that the Allies succeeded. They did so in the way that Winston Churchill said they would have to: not by doing their best, because sometimes that isn’t enough. They did so because they did what was required. Every one of us is here, and we are the people we are, because those soldiers at Normandy did what was required on that day and on all the days that followed, though it cost thousands of them their lives.