A 67 year old of today was a newborn. An 18 year old boy of then was possibly engaged in a crusade for freedom.
It was a strong American economy, a strong American will, that was called 67 years ago today to fight against the forces of darkness and tyranny. And fight they did:
“According to the National World War II Museum, “The invasion force included 7,000 ships and landing craft manned by over 195,000 naval personnel from eight allied countries. Almost 133,000 troops from England, Canada and the United States landed on D-Day. Casualties from the three countries during the landing numbered 10,300.”
Kenneth Cordry of Missouri remembers:
“We were shipped to Chilton-Foliat, England, which became our home while we trained for the D-Day invasion with night jumps and maneuvers. We were restricted to our camp and not allowed to have any interaction with the townspeople for fear of leaking plans for the invasion.
“The evening of June 5, 1944, we knew it was the real thing when we put on our equipment and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower walked through the ranks and talked to the troops. As light began to fade, we walked to our places and put on the more than 100 pounds of equipment. …
“Approaching the coast of France, our plane began bucking and lurching as anti-aircraft fire started, mixed with machine gun tracer fire. The pilots were supposed to stay in formation and drop us in planned drop zones, but many broke formation and dropped troopers all over the peninsula. Our pilot dropped us relatively close to our drop zone, but much too low to the ground and at a speed that tore much of the equipment off our bodies when the parachute’s opening shock hit.
“The landing was very hard, but I was unhurt. The first person I encountered was a man in my squad who said he’d been hit and couldn’t get out of his chute. I cut him out and after checking him over we decided he landed so hard with all the equipment on top of him that he thought he’d been hit. There was machine gunfire over our heads, so we headed in the opposite direction and by sheer luck walked onto a lane where we soon bumped into four or five other members of our company. We then headed for the beach, where we were to secure the causeway.
“Just as it began to get light, we had our first casualty. A sniper in a farmhouse killed one of our men as he approached the house. We were sobered by the sight of many collapsed parachutes with boots protruding.”
On the 40th Anniversary, President Ronald Reagan spoke about The Boys Of Pointe Du Hoc:
“We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.”
They were young 67 years ago. They fought for values worth fighting for, worth dying for:
“You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”
“… pray God we have not lost it” is a prayer worth repeating these days:
“It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation.”
There are lessons to be learned about overreach too and military adventures. There are lessons to be learned as well that it is American economic power and the power of American values which give firepower to America’s armed forces.
The future secured 67 years ago is a future still worth fighting for today. The battlefields of yesterday are not the battlefields of today. However, the values of 67 years ago are still the values worth fighting for today.