D-Day 75th Anniversary
June 6, 2019 9:37 AM   Subscribe

D-Day 75th Anniversary. On this day 75 years ago, Allied forces were storming the beaches in Normandy. The Associated Press is documenting stories of the surviving D-Day soldiers, their fallen comrades and those working to keep the memories alive today. You can follow all of the AP’s coverage at the link.

Some examples of the coverage you can find at the main link:
Thibault Camus' photos showing D-Day's landscape in 1944 - and today.
D-Day highlights in photos.
Passing D-Day memories to children a priority 75 years later.

Finally, one bonus non AP link: The phase of the Moon was critical if D-Day was going to be a success.

I kind of suspect this may be the last D-Day post on metafilter, as the veterans of World War II, and their children, pass on. My father was not part of the D-Day invasion, but served honorably in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater. (Miss you Dad.)
posted by gudrun (41 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking as someone who cares a lot about history and has been fascinated by World War II for decades, I have really complicated feelings about the way D-Day is being commemorated in American media. I mean, of course it was an epochal event, and of course it was a hellish experience for the kids in the LCs and transport planes, and of course it's great that people are acknowledging that.

But.

I'm really uncomfortable with the US triumphalism of "our US boys sure kicked their asses" that sits juuuust between the lines of the vast majority of the public response--especially network news coverage--that I've seen. I always want to point people to this site to drive home the relative casualty rates between American and Soviet forces in Europe, for instance.

The war wasn't an American triumph. It was a human disaster. There were moments of American triumph, I guess, although even then they're more easily declared so in hindsight; I think people on the beach were probably too busy worrying about getting blown apart to feel triumphal.

Anyway, thanks for the post- the photo links in particular are great.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:45 AM on June 6 [26 favorites]


America has not won a war since the Korean and Gulf.

We have been to the Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan/Iraq.

America is the most powerful country on Earth. We are a flawed nation like many, but we need to understand that America's military should not be used as a policeman of the world, but to defend our nation and borders.

We will never have another situation like Nazism again in the world and let's make sure it doesn't happen again.

We must respect those who sacrificed to serve America; they DID not have to do this, but they did. We have to respect that.

D-Day will always go down in history. WWII produced Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton. We don't have generals like that today.
posted by YankeeKing6700 at 9:51 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


While I agree with you that the American celebration doesn't usually pay enough attention to the sacrifices of the other nations involved, there is an indelicate counterpoint: if nothing else, having our boys meet the Soviets in Berlin rather than Paris certainly did a lot for the cause of human freedom.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:56 AM on June 6 [8 favorites]


War comment by jenkinsEar? Eponhysterical!
posted by doctornemo at 10:06 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]


The war wasn't an American triumph. It was a human disaster.

The New York Times has an interesting article about how experiencing D-Day impacted Ernie Pyle's view of the war.

During his four years as a war correspondent, Pyle was embraced by enlisted men, officers and a huge civilian public as a voice who spoke for the common infantryman. With his trauma in France, he had become one of them. After sharing so much of their experience, he understood how gravely war can alter the people who have to see it and fight it and live it. He knew that the survivors can come home with damage that is profound, painful and long-lasting. It was a truth that he found hard or even impossible to communicate to the readers back home — and it is a truth that is still difficult and troubling now, 75 years after D-Day.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 10:11 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]




Archive of Ernie Pyle’s WWII columns, including his first, second, and third dispatches from Normandy. Powerful reading.
posted by TedW at 10:29 AM on June 6 [5 favorites]




Coming back to add a better link for the photos comparing D-Day's landscape in 1944 and today.
posted by gudrun at 10:43 AM on June 6 [3 favorites]




In middle school I read a bunch of Ernie Pyle compilations and asked a local columnist to help me find some of the men from my hometown who were listed. I met two men who'd been in the second wave of D-Day. For a twelve year old girl, talking to these men in their late 70s (it was 2000) about their experience was an incredibly formative moment. They've both since passed, but their willingness to talk to me and their answers are still very immediate.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:13 AM on June 6 [4 favorites]


America has not won a war since the Korean...


Oh, no. Technically, the war is in cessation. And we didn't win a thing there.

D-Day will always go down in history. WWII produced Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton. We don't have generals like that today.


For the latter two, thank God. All these generals had made their name before the war. Patton and MAC basically were done after the war, esp. Patton since he never made it home alive.

Thanks fellas'. Godspeed.
posted by clavdivs at 11:34 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


If you've got time, it's worth watching the 1964 CBS News documentary "D-Day Plus 20 Years" where Eisenhower returned to Normandy with Walter Cronkite.
posted by briank at 11:57 AM on June 6 [1 favorite]


Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Monotone.


N'oubliez pas, vous n'étiez pas les seuls là-bas
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 12:06 PM on June 6 [7 favorites]


Postcards from Juno Beach dispatched 75 years later in memory of fallen soldiers:
Donald [Barnard] was one of 359 Canadians killed on the first day of the invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day — a military campaign that has gone down in history as the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

Another 544 Canadians were killed over the next four days of intense fighting in France.

To commemorate their sacrifice, the Juno Beach Centre Association (JBCA), a charity based in Burlington. Ont., that operates a museum and cultural centre in Normandy devoted to Canada's Second World War history, has sent postcards to the last known Canadian addresses of the fallen soldiers.

The postcards were mailed from Toronto at the beginning of May. The front of each postcard shows a collage of images from the landing. On the back is information about the soldier who used to live at the address, including age, regiment, rank and a few details about the soldier's death on the battlefield in France.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:09 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


I hate the exploitative jingoism that goes on with war remembrances, especially after the era of Stephen Harper, when he spent so much on war memorials that even the veterans started to say, "uh... howsabout spending some of that money on veterans' services, eh?"

But as I've gotten older, my attitude towards WWII has changed. One thing that I worry about, with the last of the WWII veterans dying, is that there's no more living memory of the fact that once fascism takes hold, it can only be eradicated by slaughter. There's no more living consciousness of the fact that playing games with the "market place of ideas" can ultimately lead to a precipice from which there's no peaceful means of retreat.

I don't know if people treated political discourse as a game before WWII, the way they seem to do now, as if it's all talk and there are no real consequences, but I feel like we need to remember more than anything that there's no such thing as a hollow word.

Interesting that Pyle was the same age on D-Day that I am now. I have a mix of feelings of gratitude and unworthiness.
posted by klanawa at 12:18 PM on June 6 [12 favorites]


The war wasn't an American triumph. It was a human disaster.

your points on tamping down american jingoism and the much higher casualties on the eastern front are well-taken, but i disagree with you on the point about triumph-- the defeat of nazi germany, perhaps the most unequivocally evil regime in human history, was a triump for all the forces that were involved in it, including america. the war was a disaster because of the nazis and their allies, and there should be no shame in celebrating the battles that led to their end.
posted by wibari at 12:19 PM on June 6 [12 favorites]


Oh, no. Technically, the war is in cessation. And we didn't win a thing there.

What? Without the American-led UN effort the entire Korean peninsula would be under the Kim regime, one of the most brutal and repressive totalitarian states in history.

I get the urge to counter American jingoism, but "America literally never did anything ever" is just as stupid.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:33 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


The Korean War Hasn't Officially Ended.

get the urge to counter American jingoism, but "America literally never did anything ever" is just as stupid.
posted by Sangermaine


Well, yeah.
posted by clavdivs at 1:09 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


What? Without the American-led UN effort the entire Korean peninsula would be under the Kim regime, one of the most brutal and repressive totalitarian states in history.

Still, think of the American, UN, and South Korean soldiers who died after MacArthur, instead of stopping at the 38th parallel, marched to the Yalu River, drawing in China and prolonging the war. MacArthur had the blood of thousands of the troops he commanded for that colossal unnecessary folly.
posted by y2karl at 2:46 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


The Soviet contribution and sacrifices in the defeat of Germany can hardly be overstated. But remember the war started with the USSR joining Germany in invading Poland at the beginning of September 1939, and then invading Finland at the end of November. In addition to the 20 million killed by the Germans, perhaps another 10 million were killed by the Soviet government during the war. During the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Stalin refused to help the Poles, because by that time the war had turned in the Soviets’ favor, and he saw victory by Poles as a threat to post-war Soviet domination. The widespread and systematic rape of German women by Red Army troops in the aftermath of the defeat of Germany is another blot on the record of the USSR in World War II.

Without the success of D-Day and subsequent victories by the US and Britain and its Allies on the Western Front much of more Europe would have exchanged one brutal regime for another.
posted by haiku warrior at 4:04 PM on June 6 [4 favorites]


once fascism takes hold, it can only be eradicated by slaughter.

No regime lasts forever, and even the most brutalitarian will eventually collapse of its own accord.
Soviet Union comes to mind. East Germany. Fascist Spain shifted away from Franco without slaughter. Greece under the colonels deflated with relatively little bloodshed. Pinochet was ousted democratically.
posted by BWA at 5:22 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


It is the doom of men that they forget.
posted by lon_star at 6:22 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


More Americans were shot to death by March 6 this year than died on D-Day

They died to protect our freedoms. Including the freedom to murder the fuck out of one another. Thank God for the Second Amendment.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:38 PM on June 6 [6 favorites]


On June 6, 1944, American, British, Canadian, and Free French troops landed on five beaches in Normandy—Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword—in the largest amphibious invasion in military history to open a Western Front in World War II.

Most of the soldiers that landed on D-Day were British and Canadian, as were most of the ships in the invasion fleet. Americans fighting with their British, Canadian, and Free French allies took the beaches at Normandy.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:39 PM on June 6 [2 favorites]


This map is a nice overview of the landings and shows the (overly optimistic) objectives.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:40 PM on June 6


Point well taken about the numbers of troops from various nations. The Americans had the bad luck of assaulting the most heavily defended beach (Omaha) and suffered the highest casualties. That is why the American contribution to D-Day is specially noted.
posted by haiku warrior at 7:48 PM on June 6 [3 favorites]


No regime lasts forever, and even the most brutalitarian will eventually collapse of its own accord.
Uh, the Nazis were systematically exterminating millions of people. I don't think "wait it out" would have been an acceptable solution, the allies' refusal to accept Jewish refugees notwithstanding.
posted by klanawa at 8:20 PM on June 6 [5 favorites]


That is why the American contribution to D-Day is specially noted.

I don't think it should be, nor is, granted more note than the other beaches, but for the usual effects of national pride.
posted by dazed_one at 9:18 PM on June 6 [1 favorite]


they DID not have to do this

Well, there was a draft on. And desertion carried the risk of capital punishment. I'm not saying that nobody volunteered - both my grandfathers joined up without being drafted* - or that the people who fought lacked enthusiasm for the cause, but I don't believe "nobody had to do it" is quite accurate either.

*To the end of her days, Grandma referred to WWII as "the time your grandfather ran out on me."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:11 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I promise to get to D-Day.

It was foggy here at sunup and I needed to be in Durham by noon so I set the destination filters on both apps to maybe get gas paid for and something pops. Head to the hotel and get a call from pax. "I'm going to Durham. Is that alright?" Well I don't know. Not like I'm going to get anything coming back. When I get a golden goose I want not the eggs but it's liver on toast points with marinated onions and a martini so we negotiate. She sounds Russian.

She is Russian. Read the comments on my profile after canceling on a couple drivers. She was on a plane that crashed in fog and wants none of this flying thing today. Her friend is Chinese. They size me up and get in. Small talk, probing. It dies down. Can I turn on the news? Whatever I need. We can stop whenever they need to but I'd like to stop in Hickory because the pipeline from the gulf ends there and gas is cheap.

NPR is doing D-Day and I can sense some eye rolling. They already asked me where I was born. Them? Volgograd and Nanjing. Stalingrad and Nanking. USians have no idea what casualties are and now we are allied with Germany and Japan is what I say and wow they feel freer. Traffic is bad and and family is asking if they are ok cause we haven't moved in 10 minutes.

We each have problems with our governments and they've both read Orwell and here we three reps of the blocs that would rule are, dissenters stuck in a construction interzone while google is asking if the speed trap is still there.

We stop at a Sheetz in Hickory. I have not been in a Sheetz since 1985 and such a calculation of desire went into this place. It's a road trip palace. We're all talking about how clean the bathrooms are. Walking around all lost in the supermarket. China says it makes her want things. Russia says it's ok to want things you just can't have them. The security guard is concerned about pax looking lost and generates two copies.

I'm driving an old Jaguar and dressed up because of what I must do in Durham and the pax are in the back and look like money but they are just wearing their best and somebody in traffic asks me if I have any Grey Poupon and that, even after they watch the commercials, is the one thing I can't really give them a perspective on. Was there a mustard shortage here in the eighties?

They think I should have a nap at their hotel and lunch with them and I confess to extortion and that I was coming here anyway and was expecting unbearable passengers and really enjoyed the ride and I'm good with the 200 I'm getting from the platform.

It was a good D-Day. They met in an airport, bonded, and I feel lucky to have met them.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:14 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


I thought I had tried to be pretty careful in my framing of this post to talk about the Allied invasion of Normandy, and not focus just on the U.S. part in it. CNN has a decent summary of the events that day (scroll down a bit in the article), showing the landings of the various Allied forces. Juno Beach was no walk in the park for the Canadians, but they achieved their goals, and they and all the forces were critical to the success of the day.

Also, as the child of an immigrant to the U.S., I never forget that a number of the soldiers serving in the U.S. forces were immigrants themselves, or the children of recent immigrants. Here is one story.
posted by gudrun at 6:38 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


>they DID not have to do this
>Well, there was a draft on.


More that that, there was enormous peer pressure. Over 16 million served in WWII out of a population of 140 million. about 6 million were volunteers and the rest were draftees. Almost every able bodied male between the ages of 18 and 35 served. They didn't give deferments for bone spurs or flat feet or bad eyesight or heart murmurs. Any young man seen walking the streets at home was viewed as a curiosity, object of derision behind their backs, a slacker.
posted by JackFlash at 8:06 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


My father served on D-Day. Nationalism upended his youth.
Why am I telling the story my dad had buried so deeply? Because relaying his experience is a way to illustrate the personal ramifications of anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, racist sentiment. Nationalist fervor, economic crisis and other factors resulted in the Nazis’ ascendance, their anti-Jewish laws and eventually the war that upended my dad’s youth and took the lives of many of his compatriots, friends and family, both on the battlefields and in the concentration camps.

He experienced what can happen when leaders spawn hatred rather than condemn it. He also experienced having a great leader when it really matters. In 2002, 58 years after my dad landed on Utah Beach, we persuaded him to return to Normandy for a memorial ceremony at the American cemetery there. He walked by himself among the gravestones of his compatriots from the 4th Infantry Division, and eventually stopped and stood for a long time at the marker of one of his commanders, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Later we asked my dad why he spent the most time at Roosevelt’s grave, rather than at the resting places of his fellow infantrymen. He said Roosevelt was a great leader who lived by the regiment’s motto of “Deeds, not words.” In one of the few times my dad ever talked about combat, he showed us where he had landed on Utah Beach and described seeing the general standing calmly amid the indescribable chaos of battle and firmly directing the troops ashore. He said Roosevelt’s selfless, honorable leadership heartened him and, he presumed, thousands of other terrified young soldiers on that day.

They all were war heroes — the captured, the killed, the wounded, the mentally maimed, the lucky survivors such as my dad — because of circumstance, not desire. They went to war because of what happened when xenophobia and demagoguery supplanted real leadership.
Via Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo: Our allies' last-ditch effort
posted by homunculus at 8:28 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


On a lighter note: WWWWD?
posted by homunculus at 8:30 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Deutsche Welle English: Memories of D-Day (42½min video, .mp4 link), a documentary about the British military photographers and film cameramen who accompanied the forces which landed on Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.
posted by XMLicious at 11:48 AM on June 7


Uh, the Nazis were systematically exterminating millions of people. I don't think "wait it out" would have been an acceptable solution, the allies' refusal to accept Jewish refugees notwithstanding

You miss my point. I was responding to the blanket statement that "once fascism takes hold, it can only be eradicated by slaughter" and showing it was inaccurate.

I was not prescribing how or if America should have dealt with fascist Germany. Worth noting that there have been plenty of systematic exterminations of people since the second war that the US government and its people have found it quite acceptable to wait out.
posted by BWA at 4:28 PM on June 7


And given that some 85 million died in that conflict, waiting it out or other alternatives cannot be completely dismissed out of hand. Was it all worth 85 million dead? Not to mention the avoidable mistakes in the aftermath of WWI that were the direct cause of WWII.
posted by JackFlash at 5:14 PM on June 7


waiting it out or other alternatives cannot be completely dismissed out of hand
If your house ever catches fire, I hope for your sake that the fire brigade doesn't get bogged down with this sort of moral calculus.
posted by klanawa at 6:12 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


You miss my point.
Uh, no, I didn't miss anything. You're making an argument from hindsight.

(And Pinochet is a particularly egregious example, since he murdered tens of thousands of his own citizens while enjoying the support of the US government.)

Everyone covered all of the possible arguments before they joined the war (at least, those that had the choice) without the benefit of hindsight, and made the decision to do something rather than nothing. They didn't know what the cost would be, but they knew it would be enormous. Whether it would have been preferable to let Hitler finish off the Jews, gays, Bolsheviks, Roma, etc. and annex and loot whatever territory he chose before the Third Reich died its own timely death is a matter for you to resolve with your conscience, and I with mine.

That's about all I have to say on the matter.
posted by klanawa at 7:16 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Uh, no, I didn't miss anything. You're making an argument from hindsight.

I think you did. I was not making an argument at all, I was pointing out a fact. You seem to have inferred from that fact an argument that we should have stayed out of the war - which, again, is not something I said and which does not follow.

I would also note that America did not get involved until the Axis powers declared war, once by deed (Pearl Harbor) and word (Hitler). Before then, there were plenty in America (including a young JFK, by the way) who wanted nothing to do with it. War was not a platform FDR ran on.

As to moral calculus and conscience - since World War Two, we have seen and done nothing as China killed millions of their own, the Soviet Union killed millions of their own, Cambodia, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan - the list goes on. The world's a messy dangerous place. Where an America chooses to spend life and treasure in the hopes of making it safer, never knowing for sure what the actual consequences are going to be - well, that's always a question.
posted by BWA at 5:53 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


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