July 17, 2014
D-Day — 70 Years Later

Mrs Critter and I recently returned from a tour related to the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and other events of the Second World War. Two World War II veterans — one from the 82nd Airborne Division and one from the 9th Infantry Division — were with our group. Both added a lot to our experience as they had been at a number of the places we visited, though the last time they had been there before now was when they helped capture these places in World War II.

The tour was the proverbial "drink from a firehose" on Normandy as we visited a whole series of D-Day sites on June 5th & 6th before going on to other World War II sites. We had far too little time at every site we visited. But it was enough to make us remember.

70 years ago, 160,000 troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion in history. Along with 24,000 paratroopers dropped into the area a few hours earlier, they began the final invasion of the European continent.

Omaha Beach was the most restricted and most heavily defended of the invasion beaches. One of the units landing on that beach that day was the 29th Infantry Division — the Blue and Gray Division. The division included National Guardsmen from the Virginia and Maryland area, and men who were not yet assigned to the Division when it shipped out to England (including my father).

Some sense of what happened that day can be found in movies that includes the Normandy invasion. A good one that provides a good sense what the landing felt like (according to one of the men who was there) is Saving Private Ryan. (When the movie ends, consider that all its action took place in just one week.) For a broader picture, a good choice would be The Longest Day; we can now vouch for a number of the locations shown in that quite historically accurate movie. Another excellent and historically accurate choice would be Band of Brothers. The second episode is all D-Day, though it's focused more on the Airborne rather than the Infantry; the rest of the series includes a number of the places we went to on this tour including Bastogne, Dachau (the series uses the Dachau sub-camp at Landsberg) and the "Eagle's Nest".

The picture below is apparently the picture one of my father's wartime letters referred to, saying this was the beach he landed on.

With all of this, and with all these memories, this would be a good time to read the D-Day commemorations at Blackfive, specifically this and this, and to consider how terribly high the stakes were on D-Day in 1944.

Category: History

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