The D-Day landings that changed the course of war and accelerated Adolf Hitler’s slow descent to defeat were launched 75 years ago this week.
“We will accept nothing less than full Victory!” came the order from Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Yet victory was never certain. A handwritten note from Ike, written in case of defeat, concludes, “The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
Fortunately, bravery and devotion, as well as luck, planning, daring and deep sacrifice by those who launched and fought on those bloody beaches, did the trick. Attacking along 50 miles of shoreline, more than 4,000 Allied troops fell on that first day. But many more followed, beginning the drive for Berlin.
Where are they now, those intrepid paratroopers, bombardiers, pilots, medics, Army Rangers and all those others who stormed ashore on June 6, 1944?
Pretty soon, they all will be gone — and the rest of us must be the ones to carry forward their stories and remember the history they forged and their sacrifice and that of their fallen comrades.
Their powerful stories need to be remembered, along with the D-Day fight, so crucial to ultimate victory in that war.
But are our collective memories fading too fast? An Associated Press story reports that many states no longer require D-Day to be part of the history curriculum.
That doesn’t mean that teachers can’t teach it — and many probably do.
And educators might argue that, as we get farther away in time from a conflict, teaching its root causes and long-term impacts becomes more important than the specifics of any given battle.
But specifics of battle also matter. The nitty-gritty reality of war matters.
So on this 75th anniversary of the D-Day battle, we collectively should resolve to work harder to make sure this history, this sacrifice, this longest day, isn’t lost when the last veteran of that battle departs his Earthly existence.
Copyright Cleveland Plain Dealer. Distributed by the Associated Press.