I have always been fascinated by the invasion of Normandy. What form of courage did it take to run into what must have seemed like certain death ? On certain beaches, it almost was. What made thousands of men press on into a charnel house ? Was it the lack of an alternative? A sense of duty? A commitment to their fellows?
I have always wondered if I could have done it. To be honest, I have a hard time imagining so. Perhaps it's one of those things that you can't do unless you have to.
Thankfully, I'll never know.
What type of national resolve was required to undertake an operation that was sure to result in thousands of deaths? We still read the names of the victims of 9-11. But we lost that many in one day on the beaches of Normandy. And it was only the beginning of only one part of unbelievably bloody crusade.
Could we do it today? The American military has performed bravely in the Persian Gulf and in Afghanistan, but this was a challenge of a different order. Perhaps it is enough to express gratitude that a new Operation Overlord has not been necessary.
Even as we marvel at what happened seventy years ago, we enjoy the knowledge that it worked; that the sacrifices it required were not in vain. But that was every much in doubt on June 6, 1944 and, had the Germans responded in different ways, we may very well have been pushed back into the sea. Indeed, Eisenhower wrote a note taking responsibility for the failure of the invasion. Just in case. Perhaps he thought he'd be unable to do it had the invasion actually failed.
I doubt that the greatest generation - now almost all gone - was really made of sterner stuff. But, from this distant vantage point, it certainly seems that way.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.