Normandy


Today, June 6, marks the 61st anniversary of D-Day, the turning point in the European phase of World War II. The invasion by American, British, and Canadian troops represented the largest such landing in history, and remains today as owner of that circumstance. The landing was made on the beaches of Normandy, where the carnage was 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.

It would be impossible to find words to express the disaster that Hitler and the Germans would have continued to wreak upon Europe directly and the world indirectly if the invasion had failed. It didn’t, however, and, though the road to victory in May of 1945 would be long and bloody, the Normandy invasion stood as the warning that Nazism was through and that fascism would not carry the day or the war.

NORMANDY

It was that day in June of forty-four
– A day I will recall forevermore –
Through deafening noise I whispered down the beach
Collecting thousands in such easy reach;
I watched them come in droves from grounded boats,
I gathered them where nothing lifeless floats
When they would fall…their bodies bullet-torn…
And others had for them no time to mourn;
I gathered them on sand so red with blood
That soon its fineness turned to gory mud,
I beckoned to them on the barriers hung –
That open slaughterhouse with bodies strung
In such contorted forms…yes, row on row…
They bowed to me, their final, fiendish foe;
I watched commanders leading in that hell,
I moved in quickly when they screamed and fell,
I watched as those beneath in rank stepped up,
To most of them I gave the bitter cup;
I erred a few times quickly moving in
And found against me some had sworn to win –
They would have lost…except for comrades strong
Who bore them up…and from the bloody throng.

I was amazed to see such courage there,
On land and sea such courage everywhere…
With proof of me assaulting eyes and ears
They came despite their human, normal fears;
I watched the ones I could not take…charge on,
And felt retreat to me was still foregone,
So, seeing well that some would make it through,
I climbed the cliffs and waited for them, too,
Yet, strangely felt apart from what I knew
Would be the day when brave men meant to do
Whatever grisly thing they had to try
To guarantee that freedom would not die,
That even if their lives they had to give
They felt their cause much greater than to live.

By then, through Europe I had made my way,
And I had taken millions by that day,
I am a winner in each bloody war,
But not the winner then in forty-four;
The freedom-fighters slain at Normandy
And comrades who went on to fight and see
The downfall of that beast in Germany
For mankind won its greatest victory –
The watershed of centuries now gone
And centuries that will be coming on
To guarantee that brave souls in the right
Will overcome the despot’s evil might.

For all the Normandies of forty-four,
Yes, all the bloody landings of its war,
I hover over graves unmarked and marked,
Which hallow souls from which their lives embarked;
I not so much from life took them away
As they to me just gave themselves away –
It was a necessary thing, they thought…
They came to Death…for freedoms dearly bought.