June 6: Where From Here?

It’s June 6, 2020. Peaceful protests, intense rioting, political bickering, Civil War topics suddenly trending on Twitter, looming COVID-19, personal solitude. That pretty much sums up the last week. Hardly a good time to be back-publishing my semi-frivolous “plague journal” from the last twelve weeks, I thought. So it sits a little longer. Best-laid plans are getting altered on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, as I try to navigate for three different organizations in the history field. In this time when listening and sincere attempts to understand others’ views and positions are desperately needed, should I be “soapboxing” about history?

I started praying about it when I work up this morning. This had been the week to re-launch the blog and celebrate Gazette665’s Sixth Birthday! Did that even matter now? I thought, feeling discouraged.

And then, I remembered, this image from 76 years ago:

Continue reading

Photographs: More Than 1,000 Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps it’s a little cliché, but it is true. These last few weeks I’ve introduced some of my favorite primary sources from the European Theater of World War II. Today, I’d like to talk about a picture book.

There are lots of photo books featuring pictures from World War II. I have several that are favorites, but the one I’m recommending today is all about D-Day. You can read the accounts, the primary sources, but sometimes you just have to see the photos. The grim determination in a soldier’s eyes is sometimes more informative than a whole diary of words. Continue reading

“We understand…Continue to Stand for the Ideals”

I can’t believe this is the fourth and final post for the month of June – our last post to commemorate the Normandy Invasion of 1944.  Earlier this month, world leaders met on the Normandy shores to remember the events that took place there and speeches were made to honor the sacrifices.

Today, we’re going to look at some quotes from United States’ President Ronald Reagan’s address at the 40th commemoration of D-day.  Without further commentary, here are some excerpts from his speech:

“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next.  It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.  You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause.  And you were right not to doubt.”

“You all know that some things are worth dying for.  One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.  All of you loved liberty…”

“The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home.  They…felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.”

US troops during the Normandy Invasion, June 1944

US troops during the Normandy Invasion, June 1944

“Something else helped the men of D-day: their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause.  And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them, ‘Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.’  Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.'”

“These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies…”

“…let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for.  Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.’  Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”

I believe that President Reagan’s speech is one of the most inspirational ever delivered at the Normandy commemorations.

I hope that the history we’ve discussed in the last few weeks and these inspiring words of honor will challenge you “to continue to stand for the ideals” of American patriotism.

Your historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. We’ll have a new topic for the month of July.  Watch for the first July post on Thursday the 3rd.  (Yeah, it’ll be one day early since Friday is a holiday: 4th of July!)  I’ll give you one hint for next month’s topic: He’s one of the best known heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Please leave a comment if you’ve enjoyed the Normandy Invasion posts or want to guess who will be featured in July!

June 6 – What Happened Today?

What happened today? Um…hmm – you’re most likely thinking. Is it someone’s birthday or anniversary? You’re getting closer. It’s an anniversary of a costly fight to preserve liberty and freedom of thought around the world.

June 6, 1944, was D-Day of the Allied Invasion of Nazi occupied Europe.  Seventy years ago American and British troops set foot on the shores of Normandy and battled to secure the beaches.

Attack troops go ashore in the Normandy Invasion

Allied troops go ashore in the Normandy Invasion

Sadly, this day will pass with comparatively few people – young people especially – remembering the sacrifices that were made.

If you’re wondering: what was D-Day exactly? Here are some fast facts to get started. (In my next three posts for June, we’ll explore some more in-depth stories, so “stay tuned.”)

  • The term “D-Day” is actually a military name for the day a combat attack will start; “The Normandy Invasions” is technically the correct term to use when referring to the June 6, 1944, operations
  • There had been no major land operations by the Allies in mainland Europe since the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940
  • The campaigns in North Africa (1940-1943) and invasion of Italy (1943) were preparation and cover for the invasion of mainland Europe
  • United States’ General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the supreme commander of all Allied Forces in the invasion while General Erwin Rommel commanded the German divisions stationed in Normandy
  • The code name for the invasion was Operation Overlord
  • There were five beach landings in Normandy; the code names for the beaches were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword

Map of Allied Invasion of Normandy Beaches Left to Right are Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword

Map of Allied Invasion of Normandy
Beaches Left to Right are Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword

  • In the months prior to the landings, the Allies executed bombing raids and a fight to secure air superiority
  • French Resistance Forces played an underground role assisting the Allies in the preparation and attack
  • Paratroopers and Gilders were the first wave of the June 6th attack
  • A naval bombardment of the German “sea wall” defenses preceded troop landings

A British ship during the Normandy Invasion

A British ship during the Normandy Invasion

  • Over 5,500 sea vessels were part of the Normandy landings, making it the largest seaborne invasion in history
  • Approximately 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day
  • Utah and Omaha Beaches were attacked by American troops; Gold, Juno, and Sword were captured by English and Canadian soldiers
  • Allied casualties were approximately 12,000 (dead, wounded, missing) and German casualties were between 4,000 and 9,000
  • The objective was achieved and in the following months Allied forces broke out of Normandy and began a rapid, fighting advance through Europe which culminated less than a year later with the capture of Berlin, Germany and VE (Victory in Europe) Day

Freedom isn’t free and many soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice because they wanted liberties they enjoyed to remain for the next generation. Do we – those next generations – value our freedom and do we honor their sacrifices?

Start today – remember. Ask your friends, acquaintances, co-workers, or strangers if they know what happened 70 years ago and gently remind them of their patriotic duties. Fly the flag that waved victoriously over the beaches. Thank veterans of all wars for their service. And always REMEMBER.

Your historian,

Miss Sarah