Saturday, June 6, was the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the mass invasion of France that spelled the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign of terror in Europe in World War II. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft joined in support against entrenched Nazi positions on the coastal cliffs. More than 160,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy. 9,000 were killed or wounded that day, but their courage and sacrifice enabled over 100,000 more troops to start the long, bloody pushback of the Nazis and liberate Europe. It was the biggest military operation in history, and amazingly, it was all pulled together in secret without anyone leaking the plans and warning the enemy, something it’s virtually impossible to imagine these days.
As the architect of D-Day, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, said, "I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!" And that they achieved, no matter the cost.
I held off writing about D-Day until today because I wanted to see whether the commemorations would be able to go forward, with France ravaged and shut down by the pandemic and so few surviving elderly veterans able to leave their homes. I’m glad to be able to say that while there couldn’t be the huge memorials that marked last year’s 75th anniversary, the grateful people of France made it clear that they have not forgotten that sacrifice for their freedom.
95-year-old US Army veteran Charles Shay, who stormed Omaha Beach as a 19-year-old medic, now lives near the beach and was the only veteran able to be standing there at dawn. But he wasn’t alone. A few dozen locals and tourists, some in period attire, gathered to honor and remember those heroes. The theme from “Saving Private Ryan” was played. Later in the day, French fighter jets staged a flyover. And even before dawn, local fisherman Ivan Thierry was standing on the beach, holding up an American flag.
He said, “There is not nobody here. Even if we are only a dozen, we are here to commemorate.”
But even if the elderly heroes of D-Day couldn’t make it back to France, they were not forgotten at home. Around America, they were honored by their neighbors. For instance, in Niles, Michigan, the local VFW presented them with certificates of honor and Michigan challenge coins, and the Western Michigan Gold Star Mothers gave them American flag quilts.
And in Billerica, Massachusetts, the family of John DiClemente, a veteran of both D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, told him they were taking him to a veterans’ event. It was actually a vehicle parade in his honor by local police and firefighters.
There were many such commemorations around the nation, small but heartfelt. Whether we hold giant commemorations or just local observances, the important thing is that we never lose our gratitude for the sacrifice of these true American heroes, and that as that Greatest Generation passes into history, that we teach future generations what they did and to be thankful for them. We’re currently getting a very harsh lesson in what happens when we entrust that important job to people who hate and blame America for all the world’s ills, and who refuse to teach its real history. It’s time for parents to take that job back.
Sadly, this D-Day anniversary weekend was also marred by continuing violent protests, including protesters who scrawled profane graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in England and on the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the Lincoln Memorial (a strange way to protest racism, to desecrate the memorial to the man who led a war to free the slaves.)
I wonder how many of these protesters who hide behind the First Amendment to justify their vandalism and disrespect for these heroes realize that if it weren’t for them and their comrades, they would have no First Amendment rights? I wonder if the protesters in England think they’d be better off today if there had been no Winston Churchill to rally the nation and help plan D-Day and destroy Nazism? Do they even understand what fascism is?
I seriously doubt it. Possibly the most disrespectful desecration, far beyond that of any spray paint can, came from Bernie Sanders’ “foreign policy adviser” Matt Duss, who declared D-Day to be the “largest Antifa operation in history.”
No, it was the largest genuine anti-fascist operation in history. The soldiers of D-Day were real warriors facing heavy, deadly fire; not make-believe “social justice warriors” who expect to be allowed to attack anyone they please with no consequences. The soldiers of D-Day were fighting real fascism, not using fascist tactics to terrorize anyone who disagrees with them (Antifa's definition of “fascists.”) The soldiers of D-Day were greeted with cheers because they were there to bring freedom and liberation, and drive out the people who burned, threatened and looted the neighborhoods. They weren't there to burn, threaten and loot them.
And the soldiers of D-Day, as John DiClemente recalled, were greeted by “good people” in “France, Belgium, Germany and Russia. They didn’t want to fight us. Every time we went into a city, they fed us wine, (gave us) flowers, hugs, kisses and what have you. They were glad to see us.”
Is anyone glad when Antifa shows up? I think many of us will be glad when they finally start showing up in federal prisons.