It’s doubtful that most people could ever have formed an idea of what it was like for the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy 62 years ago – 06 June 1944 – until they were made aware of the events that took place in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., on 11 September 2001. The number of people killed on those two days was about the same, though the 3,000 who died at Normandy willingly walked into the face of death, while the victims of 9/11 were overtaken unawares by death…a brutal stab in the back.
Nor would the survivors of those who died at Normandy be given much more than a second thought, while many of the survivors of those killed on 9/11 became instant millionaires, courtesy of their government, even though their loved ones had not died fighting for their freedom. In any case, the horror produced by the pictures of the collapsing buildings and the brutal deaths of the victims is reflective of what it was like for men to literally walk into a scene as horrible as that of Normandy.
In the landing made on the beaches of Normandy, there was carnage of a degree beyond comprehension. The German installations, in the high ground on French soil, were entrenched in concrete, and the fighting was fierce. Nine battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers, and 71 large landing craft of various descriptions as well as troop transports, mine-sweepers, and merchantmen—in all, nearly 5,000 ships of every type, comprised the largest armada ever assembled. More than 100,000 fighting men swept ashore and allied losses were high: 2,500 men at OMAHA alone, another 2,500 among the American airborne divisions, almost 1,100 for the Canadians, and some 3,000 for the British—more than 9,000 men in all, one-third of whom were killed in action. Bravery was defined that day, written in the sand and blood of the beaches and in the fields where paratroopers fought the enemy while enduring the mistakes made by their own people. In terms of human life, Normandy was a lot like another Pearl Harbor – 07 December 1941 – with about the same number killed (virtually all Americans that time) – and not understood by those who were not there, until September of 2001, if then.
During the 1930s-40s, the Japanese ravaged and raged their way through huge segments of both land and populations in the Far East, killing and enslaving people by the tens of thousands. The Germans and Italians did the same through Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, counting their victims – the dead alone – in terms of millions. These people proved that education does not bring civilization to a people; rather that it merely makes the killing much more methodical and gargantuan in scope.
The same bloodthirstiness is seen today, except that it is proclaimed as a religious requirement by those governments whose Islamic leaders call for death to the infidel. If anything, this disregard for human dignity and human life – based as it is on religious fanaticism/charlatanry promising eternal rewards for the homicide-by-suicide death-dealers-to-vulnerable-people nowhere near a battlefield – is more dangerous than the disregard of the 30s-40s, which was posited upon civil disregard for the sanctity of life of others, but not of selves.
In its way, 9/11 became the Pearl Harbor of the war waged today by these hate-filled religious fanatics against anyone not deemed a Muslim. Most of the world is cowed…frozen by such murderous incivility. However, the first salvo against these butchers was launched in October 2001 in Afghanistan, with the United States taking the primary responsibility. The battle continues in Iraq…and it is far from over. It may be that either the attack against the Taliban or the Iraqi invasion, or both, comprise the Normandy of this time…thankfully without the carnage of D-Day 1944.
As the president has said from the beginning, the fight will be long. It has already lasted longer than World War II, but, just as this country and its allies put the world on notice at Normandy in June 1944, this country and its current allies have put the world on notice again. Normandy was not for nothing, and neither is the war on terror, no matter where it will be waged in the coming months and years.